Deftones – Diamond Eyes
For a few years after the release of the seminal White Pony in 2000, the Deftones were one of my favourite bands and could do no wrong. Then, inexplicably, they dropped off my radar and I failed to pay any attention to what they were doing – right up until 2008, when bassist Chi Cheng was left in a coma by a car accident.
Diamonds Eyes is the band’s first release since the accident, from which Cheng is still recovering – Sergio Vega (of Quicksand fame) fills bass duties in his absence. As I’ve never heard 2003′s Deftones and have only listened to 2006′s Saturday Night Wrist a few times, and White Pony was such a departure from the 90s albums Root and Around the Fur, it’s White Pony that is my chief reference point here.
The most immediate and obvious thing that strikes you is how much more proficient the entire band is. Carpenter’s edgy guitar shifts easily between understated minimalism, vast chugging power chords and dischordant shrieks. Delgado’s work on synth and keys is the glue that holds Diamond Eyes together, often subtly so but always integral. Cunningham’s drums often sound astonishingly laid back, gentle even, but when the moment calls for intensity he can deliver. But it’s Moreno that leaps out at you: his vocals have improved immensely in the past decade – the emotion that he sinks into his shrieks and roars and murmurs is what makes these songs really deliver.
Perhaps my favourite song here is ‘Beauty School’, which reminds me of two songs from White Pony: ’Digital Bath’, for a long time my favourite Deftones song, which made extensive use of delay and samples, soothing, lullaby-esque vocals and distinctive drum loops, and ‘Change (In the House of Flies)’ – primarily due to the similar intros. ‘Beauty School’ features top-led drums and octave chords laid over synth work that soars and peaks throughout the song, all accompanied by Moreno’s plaintive vocals. Another highlight is ‘Risk’, which opens with heavy chugging guitars and vocals more reminiscent of the ferocious bite of early Deftones, but segues into an atmospheric chorus with the lyrics “I will save your life / I will save your life / I will try…” It’s evidently a song about Chi Cheng, or at least heavily informed by his experience.
I’m pleased to have rediscovered Deftones, especially as they have delivered such a distinct, texturally emotive and powerful album as this. I’ll aim to pay attention to what they do over the next decade…