Showing 41 posts tagged deftones
Diamond Eyes, the official follow-up to Saturday Night Wrist, was recorded by the band in two months with producer Nick Raskulinecz. The record was critically acclaimed as one of the band’s best albums, with some even offering that it was superior to their “magnum opus” White Pony. The band saw first week sales of up to 62,000 copies in the US alone; still a slighter in amount than the prior album, but considering the changed environment in regards to illegal downloads (the band pushed the release date forward after the album had leaked) not a poor amount whatsoever.
And yet, I cannot help but maintain that this record could very well be the worst in their catalog.
It’s not that these songs are poorly written. The self-titled single, shown above, shows Moreno’s voice at it’s most capable and solid. The band itself is leaner and tighter than ever before, the melodies catchy and identifiable. Though the lyrics took on a more dreamy and abstract quality, in many ways, not that much had changed. Yet for a band that was so comfortable with itself at one point, there was also a firm sense of desperation. Not the emotional desperation of Saturday Night Wrist, where the band seemed to be fighting for it’s life… Instead, the band seemed to be fighting for validity. Anthony Wilson once said that Joy Division were the greatest band in the world, because when they performed, you understood that this was what they HAD to do, or they would die. To see deftones post-Diamond Eyes, I often get the sense that the most important thing deftones want to achieve these days is to be liked.
A good part of the blame I level straight at Raskulinecz. A credible producer, having worked for the likes of Velvet Revolver, Alice in Chains, Rush, Foo Fighters and Goatsnake, one cannot say that he isn’t used to assisting capable bands playing as aggressively as possible. But at the same time, I feel he has reduced the band’s sound in many ways. Carpenter’s guitar now sounds beefier, yet also more blunted, and turgid. And the dreamy quality of many of their songs now depends on the bands instruments always fighting in the mix, as opposed to the seemless blend they’d originally maintained. deftones never used to feel like a shouting match.
Of course, it would be lazy to claim the producer is the sole culprit. Because the band is now so adept at recognizing what they’re good at, they appear to be fixated on sticking to that in the worst ways possible. On “You’ve Seen The Butcher”, Moreno coos out the words:
“Don’t want to take it slow.
Just want to take you home…”
Were this any other songwriter, I’d laugh off the cliche as a sign of stiff-knees from an aging songwriter. But this is Moreno, the man who’d once sang about being assaulted by a well-known Brazilian bandit/entertainer so abstractly, that I’d been convinced he was describing being molested by a hermaphodite. Granted, that is both far too much information, and personal conjecture at best; but the point is, while hearing Chino sing with much more ease and capability was great, what was coming out of his mouth was ghastly in comparison to his younger days.
The rest of the band is no better. On “Prince”, the band carelessly rewrote “RX Queen” from White Pony, “Beauty School” sounds more like a smoothed out version of a Limp Bizkit or a P.O.D. song, and “CMND/CNTRL” are the kind of songs that they’d left behind in the Adrenaline days, all brash aggression without the refinement and musicality that they’d spent over a decade perfecting. One reviewer admitted that there were moments the band occasionally seemed to be ‘on auto-pilot’ when critiquing the album; I’d offer that the whole record could be considered as such.
I recognize that the band themselves are proud of this record and a great deal of the fans appreciate and support this album. But for me personally, this record serves as a colossal mis-step, and not a ‘return to form’ for the band in the slightest. I eagerly await their next endeavor, despite their return to Raskulinecz (personally, I would’ve preferred the band meet with Robinson or Bayles for this last album) and their current sense of comfort with themselves. Yet regardless of any dissatisfaction I may hold as a fan with the album, I am positive the deftones shall remain a band that will continue to excite and amaze fans for many years to come.
The deftones would halt for a year, dealing with their fate as nobly as possible before eventually returning to live shows with the support of Quicksand’s Sergio Vega. Having filled in for Chi a decade prior and being a good friend to the band for just as long, it was a perfect fit, and before long they were playing again. Yet they would remain dissatisfied with Eros, and proceeded to turn their direction for a more positive album. As such, Eros remained shelved indefinitely, and with their new bassist they began recording an entirely different album with a new producer.
Our first glimpse at the deftones new condition was surprising. “Rocket Skates” was an up-tempo and aggressive number with a screaming chorus and a band eager to show it was as vicious and crafty as ever. It also remains the first time the band has debuted a single for an album since the Around The Fur-era that attempts to display brute force as upposed to reaching for grandiose. deftones seemed invigorated, and yet, something was missing. The verses seemed drawn out and the chorus would suddenly plunge into Moreno screaming out the words “GUNS! RAZORS! KNIVES!” and little more. For a band that had prided itself on its hooks years prior, this could easily be seen just as much of a step back as a return to form.
Still, there isn’t any mistaking the newfound enthusiasm the band had found. While they maintained that the decision to record a new album was entirely unshaped by Chi’s condition, one cannot help that the tragedy must have made them put their lives into perspective. After all, how many of their friends and comrades had failed to make it nearly as far as they’d come? Was it worth it to hold onto their grudges and issues and divide the band that had worked so hard to achieve so much? In that regard, considering the turmoil plaguing Saturday Night Wrist, it is refreshing to hear Chino’s estatic whoops of victory after each hook.
It should also be noted that for the first time in deftones history, Chino was… acting. Throughout the band’s career, videos would involve little more than the band performing and/or goofing off. Yes, “Back To School (Mini Maggit)” had him pretending he was in school and rising up against the school that was ‘oppressing him’… But he’d also been rapping and singing all the while, so in a way, he was still musically performing. This time, the band shots occasionally cut away to an abstract plot themed around Moreno (now looking much healthier than in the SNW period), a young lady, and secret hotel meetings involving weapons. A seemingly unimportant footnote, yet a footnote all the same. After over a decade of albums, touring and evolving as people, the deftones had changed yet again.
On the evening of November 4th, 2008, Chi Cheng was riding in a car back from a memorial service with his sister, when their vehicle lost control. The car would flip three times, and impact another vehicle at 60 MPH. During this, Chi was thrown out of the vehicle—due to not wearing a seatbelt—and ejected from the car. The resulting trauma left him in critical condition and effectively rendered him comatose for a period of time. Thankfully, he regained conciousness as of May 2009, but remains physically incapacitated up to the present day.
For the deftones, this was unmistakeably tragic; Chi had been in the band for what would’ve been roughly two decades of service and had been a dedicated musician. His positivity and wisdom had been well-noted amongst fans and fellow musicians. Despite occasional fears and repeated treatments Chi was able to endure the physical and emotional trials of his condition, and recovery has continued to this day; that he has made such progress is a blessing and will hopefully only continue as time goes on.
(Before we go on, it should be noted that many musicians besides the band themselves—not to trivialize the loyalty and care they’ve shown—and fans have extended regards of sympathy and well-wishes, as well as provided donations and organized fundraisers for the family to assist with the extensive costs of his hopsitalization & recovery. As his recovery remains incomplete as of this time, further information on contribution as well as up-to-date information on his progress can be found at www.oneloveforchi.com)
“Mein”, the secnd single from Saturday Night Wrist, seems as logical a single choice as any from the album. The song chugs forward with an endless groove, while Cunningham maintains a curious shuffle beneath the guitars’ relentless driving. Meanwhile, Serj Tankian of System Of A Down glides in majestically, his own dark baritone providing a passer-by beneath Chino’s wavering coos torwards the end. However, the single failed to gel with the average listener and ultimately symbolized the band’s failure to maintain their commercial prescence.
After the dizzying highs of White Pony, there was no mistaking that the band was now ‘on the outs’. Critically, they were doing as well as they’d ever done, but the album debuted to a staggering 76.000 albums sold on their first week. Certainly no small amount in an era of albums leaking on the internet in the blink of an eye, but not in the eyes of a label who’d invested so much in getting the deftones into the position they’d once held. As of September 2010, it hadn’t even managed to go Gold in America, the first of their albums to remain unrewarded. Tragically, their sound was now regarded as a thing of the past, and once “Mein” slipped away from the charts any plans of a follow-up single were dismissed, and Saturday Night Wrist’s commercial potential considered ‘exhausted’.
From here the band’s life continues to become grim. One album would be shelved, one album would be a failure, and one of the band’s members would be struck by tragedy. As unfortunate as it sounds, we cannot end the deftones week without delving into even more of the fallout, with the band starting to plunge down from being former arena fillers into a band blessed with a core family of devoted fans, who would continue to support the band with everything they had. It would however, ultimately help the band become unified once again, and—despite all of the pressures arriving from every direction—they persevered.