Review: Deftones - "Diamond Eyes"
I’m a huge Deftones fan, but it took me a while to realize the brilliance of their 2000 breakthrough release, White Pony. I wasn’t ready for the band’s development at that point. I wanted the aggressiveness of Around the Fur, not “Change (In The House of Flies).” I was kinda bummed the first time I heard it, even thinking for a second they were going soft. But once I was around the bend, man, this was a tough album to top. It took my #1 spot for this website’s Top Albums of the Decade (’00 – ’09) feature, and I have no hesitation at all putting this new record, Diamond Eyes, right under/beside White Pony as their best album to date.
With that said, it does kind of bum me out that this is such a killer record because it was done without bassist Chi Cheng, who is still recovering from a major car accident in 2008 that left him barely conscious since that time. The band had almost completed their sixth album, then titled Eros, at the time of Chi’s accident, but since it was unfinished, the band felt it was only respectful to shelve the album until a later date. Enter longtime friend Sergio Vega (Quicksand), who had toured with the band back in the late ‘90s for Chi, to help the band write Diamond Eyes. So, with a new bass player in hand, the band decided to go with a new producer as well, calling on Nick Raskulinecz (Alice In Chains, Shadows Fall), to take over the chair usually labeled Terry Date.
From the very moment I heard the churning, sawing guitars of “Rocket Skates,” I knew the record was gonna kill, but when vocalist Chino Moreno began screaming, “Guns/Razors/Knives … fuck wit me…” I was sold. The song is a reminder of how fucking badass they can be when they show their teeth! Another indicator of how good the record is…their first single is the seventh track on the album. Most bands put their best songs up front to fool the listener into hoping the rest of the cuts sound just as good.
This album is extremely tight and you can really tell the difference in the way the band recorded. They wanted the record to sound more organic, more like Adrenaline or Around the Fur. So, the band abandoned the use of Pro Tools and did things the old-school, more organic way - they began rehearsing song-after-song-after-song-after-song until they had it down, so when they went into the studio, the songs were perfect. I’ve always considered Abe Cunningham a top-notch drummer, and he lives up to that billing again on the new record … his precision and tenacity shine through on tracks like “Prince” and “CMND/CTRL.”
Stephen Carpenter’s guitar work on this record is pretty fucking awesome as well. Anyone who fancies some thick, choppy breakdowns and sawing riffs, then go buy this album, it’s chucked full of ‘em! He’s got this creepy, gradual snarl of a riff that opens “You’ve Seen the Butcher” that winds its way through the song, sometimes leading the way and other times taking a back seat to Chino’s crooning, which makes you feel like you’re being watched. Then in the title track, his guitar reminds me of choppy waves on a rough sea, slashing and smashing against the side of a ship, trying to rip everything to pieces.
Cuts like “Royal” and “CMND/CTRL” are reminiscent of songs from Adrenaline and Around the Fur while some of the more atmospheric tracks like “You’ve Seen the Butcher” and closer “This Place Is Death” remind me of the sonically-heavy Saturday Night Wrist. But the comparisons to White Pony are there, none more apparent than “Prince,” which sounds really close to “Digital Bath” on the first couple of listens. Seriously, I had to go back and forth between the two tracks to make sure they weren’t the same! “Sextape” might be this album’s “Change (In the House of Flies),” a really lush song that has a ballad feel to it. There is a bit of hope on this record, with the aptly titled, “Risk,” where Chino whispers, “I will save your life/I’ve tried for you.” I’m no psychiatrist, but I think this is a song for Chi…he may not be playing on the record, but his spirit is! All through the record, Chino’s vocals ebb and flow from the soft crooning to the ear-splitting scream displayed on earlier albums.
At the end of the day, if you consider yourself someone who respects artists that continue to push their boundaries and grow musically, then do me a favor and give the Deftones their due respect … go buy Diamond Eyes, you’ll feel better about yourself.
PS – To draw even more comparisons to White Pony, this could be a potential #1 for the next decade list … it’s that good!