Review Summary: Deftones rise like the phoenix and create one of the best albums of their career.
Everybody loves a tale of disaster. You can sit there and deny that you don’t, but the truth is people love to read a story of someone who climbs to the top of the mountain, only to come crashing down it from life dealing them a sh*t hand. The golden stories are the ones where someone is brought down by a disaster but they rise back up to challenge what brought them down.
The making of Deftones fifth studio outing, Saturday Night Wrist
, was a challenging one for the band, with tensions running high during its creation; the end result was an album met with a lukewarm reception from critics and fans as well as the band questioning if their hearts were in making music anymore as they tried to make a slightly less strenuous album in the form of the still unreleased Eros
. But the members of Deftones and their fans were left at a standstill in November 2008 when bassist Chi Cheng became seriously injured in a car accident, resulted in him being in a coma for several years and ultimately leading to his passing in April 2013. The crushing news of Chi left the band devastated and unsure on whether they should continue finishing Eros
without Chi, or to disband all together.
In 2009 the bands activities were sporadic, doing a couple of shows and festivals, but they ultimately came to the decision to put Eros
on hold and make a new album with long-time friend Sergio Vega on bass. The bands sixth album, titled Diamond Eyes
, has a lethal injection of energy, with a found sense of channelled inspiration; songs are air tight and everyone plays and sounds great. Chino is the best he’s sounded in years, evident at the end of “Royal” which has this ferocious scream at the end, or on the radio-friendly title-track that soars in its choruses. Stephen’s guitar sounds absolutely monstrous throughout, but it’s on songs like “CMND/CTRL” and “You’ve Seen the Butcher” where the fat riffs and distorted tones start to peel skin off.
It’s not all face-melting guitar chugs though; the glorious “Beauty School” and “Sextape” have some wonderfully spacey reverb guitar parts, while Abe pulls on the feeling and flow of the songs with his drum parts. But it’s ultimately Chino’s vocals that make songs go as far as they do; they create the otherworldly vibe the band is well known for at this point, as well as pushing the band further into their sonically spacey ventures. While tracks like “Prince” and “Risk” set to bring back the White Pony
feelings; aiming at the more depressing atmospheric lathing’s of previous works, but with a tone that is as equally heavy as it is atmospheric.
The album holds a couple of niggles throughout however: the first is the lack of change in some songs; once you’ve heard the fantastic opening riff to “You've Seen the Butcher” you’re left waiting for a big change up riff at the end of the song, but alas there isn’t one. It isn’t something to take away from songs, or the album, but tracks would have benefitted more from a couple of riff changes at the end of songs to make them feel completely satisfying. The last problem falls on some minor dull or awkward melodies in specific songs: “CMND/CTRL” has a cool rap-like verse, but when the chorus comes in it just sounds a little odd in comparison, and makes compositions feel a little hammered headed overall.
Overall though, this is one of Deftones finest works to date. It’s a shame to see such a tragedy bestowed on the band, but these guys rose up to all the problems and created an album that brings fresh vibrancy and enthusiasm to their sound – a sound that could have ended up stagnant if they were to continue the path they were heading. Diamond Eyes
is an album made with their brother in mind and is most definitely a record Chi would have been proud to hear.