31
Mar
10

Album Review: Deftones – Diamond Eyes

Something about cars always unnerved me, from as far back as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I wrote my first car off that I truly understood why.

Blink, just once, let your concentration lapse for the briefest moment at the wrong time and the resulting bang you hear on collision will be etched into your mind so deep that thinking back on it will give you the shivers.

If you’re lucky.

Chi Cheng was driving back home from his brother’s memorial service on November 4th 2008 when he was involved in a car accident that would have killed him if it weren’t for the three off-duty paramedics that happened to stop at the scene of the crash moments after it happened.

 

 

They saved his life that day, but many would argue it was in vain. Chi slipped into a coma shortly after they found him that he has yet to wake from, a fact that some feared would spell the end of one of the most innovative bands to emerge from the Nu Metal scene of the late 90s and early 2000s.

But the good news is that Deftones are back with a new bassist (Sergio Vega, formerly of Quicksand) and a new studio album, Diamond Eyes, which is their sixth album to date.

Anyone familiar with Deftones’ previous albums would be justified in maintaining a healthy level of scepticism as to whether or not Vega could ever match Cheng’s natural flair as a bassist. Cheng’s thick and mean basslines played a huge roll in defining Deftones’ sledgehammer-heavy sound and he sure as hell wasn’t afraid to step into the spotlight and let his bass lead when a song called for it.

That single fact is probably the only point I can fault on Diamond Eyes. It’s a great album and one that I honestly believe fans will enjoy and critics will give an approving nod to, but there is definitely a Chi-shaped hole where the formidable bassist used to fit and you can hear it.

 

 

The new material is heavy as ever – guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s riffs grind fast and heavy for the most part and drummer Abe Cunningham pulls no punches on his kit, but with the exception of three or four tracks on the album, the rhythm section feels a lot looser than it was with Cheng at the helm.

The opening tracks “Diamond Eyes”, “Royal” and “CMND/CTRL” are pretty standard Deftones fair and didn’t make much of an impression on the first listen, though the soaring chorous of “Diamond Eyes” starts to grow on you fast and the syncopated rhythm of “CMND/CTRL”, coupled with frontman Chino Morino’s screeching vocals (which, by the way, have never sounded better) will definitely get you sitting up and listening.

From there on in the album just gets better and better.

The softer and slower “Beauty School” is a great example of what Vega is capable of when given some space to work with and is reminiscent of the killer track, “The Passenger” which the band did with Tool singer Maynard James Keenan on arguably their best album to date, 2000’s White Pony.

The lyrics “You’re shooting stars / From the barrels of your eyes / It drives me crazy / Just drives me wild” are poetic in their simplicity and come across as being sincere without sounding gag-inducingly cheesy.

There are two other tracks recorded in a similar style on the album, ‘Sextape’ and ‘976-EVIL’ and to be honest these are my three favourite tracks on the album.

The simple fact is that the new lineup just seems to handle the quieter tracks better. The heavier tracks like ‘Rocket Skates’ (the first single), ‘Risk’ and ‘This Place Is Death’ do have their strong points, but without Cheng’s signature basslines, they lack the punch that made albums like Around The Fur (1997) and White Pony (2000) truly great.

The song ‘Prince’ is perhaps the closest the band gets to capturing that old, badass Deftones sound. It builds to a powerful chorous and makes no apologies as it tears through you like a bone saw.

 

 

In my opinion, there are three possible futures for a band like Deftones after Diamond Eyes. The first is to stay in safe territory and record a follow-up to Diamond Eyes that sounds much the same, but the formula will get old fast and chances are the band will slowly start to drop off the radar.

The second would be for the band to explore the sound they’ve perfected on the quieter tracks on the album and take their material in a direction that is slightly more chilled out (by Deftones’ standards) and more widely accessible.

The third future, sadly, is probably the least likely because it would only happen if Cheng woke up from his coma. He would become a rock legend instantly and, if he was still able to record and tour with the band, could finish working on the album they were recording prior to his accident, Eros, which according to Morino was their most experimental, unorthodox and edgy project to date.

Sure, it’s idealistic, but for the sake of his fans and family I hope he recovers. In the meantime though, hats off to the guys for sticking to their guns and recording an album which, while it might not be their best, still kicks a whole lot of ass and proves without a doubt that no matter what happens, you can’t keep a good band down.

Final verdict: 7/10

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5 Responses to “Album Review: Deftones – Diamond Eyes”


  1. March 31, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Hey ST

    Although this album leaked almost two months before its intended release date, as an avid Deftones fan, I could not help but download the ‘illegal’ version, for fear I might explode in anticipation. And seriously, I couldn’t have all the other douchebags hear the album 2 months before I ‘legally’ would… Not fair and not cricket. So, whilst the mp3 version of the album has been doing its rounds continuously in my headphones for the past week, I will no doubt support the band by buying the album, its singles, watching them live and being suckered into buying their t-shirts and caps, which the girlfriend will undoubtedly disapprove of. The completist in me says I need everything, my bank balance, however, tends to disagree.

    Anyway, I’m off on an unsolicited tangent here…

    It was great reading your review. It’s interesting to see our differing opinions. For me, this album is the best album since White Pony, and may even be better than its predecessor, Around the Fur. It is the culmination of everything that makes Deftones, for me, the most understatedly progressive and uninhibited band around and for the past 12 years. The confidence and restraint in Steph Carpenter’s guitar work, delivering his most catchy and addictive riffs since Around the Fur, aided by a new 8-string (which is directly inspired by Meshuggah). The calculated crisp drumming of Abe working effortlessly with Sergio Vega’s basslines deliver, for me, probably the best rhythm section since White Pony. And the underrated contributions of Frank Delgado, elevates this album beyond nu metal (god I hate that label), beyond ‘heavy music’ and to the heights of great cross-genre song-writing. I have to say, Chino has never sounded better than on this album. Perhaps it’s his seductive throaty delivery or the haunting and permeating lyrics, but his honesty and vulnerability on this record is unparalleled, perhaps since Nirvana’s, ‘In Utero’ showing Kurt Cobain giving his all, and expecting nothing in return.

    What this album demonstrates is taught, concise and brilliant song-writing, coupled with top-notch production values and an album cover which is as eminently striking as the opening notes of the title track. Deftones continue to steamroll ahead with a new-found optimism and grace, even after being a band for over 20 years. I think most people expected something different, but no one could have expected something so positive and uplifting.

    Like the Phoenix, Deftones have risen from the ashes to deliver, what I believe a classic album to sit alongside White Pony. I believe, in retrospect, fans and critics alike will look back on these two albums as the seminal works of Deftones. Whilst Diamond Eyes may not have the impact and immediacy of White Pony as an influence on other bands, it is no less powerful. It’s dynamic whilst still being able to stand completely independent in an already legendary back-catalogue.

    9.8/10 (-0.2 because the album hasn’t been officially release yet)

  2. March 31, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    you like deftones too? we can definitely be friends.

    now. we still haven’t set a price for that shotgun you want to buy off my Kid.

  3. 3 Raymond Osbourne
    May 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    I originally posted my response on Moral Fibre, so here it is again:

    I truly hope that you are joking with the “random midget white guy” comment, as that is drummer Abe.

    Then, with your website being called Moral Fibre, it’s rather ironic that you review an album on 31 March, and the official release date is only 4 May. Damn…piracy is awesome. Not.

    In the piece there are just too many points to argue you on, but most importantly, I got the feeling that you don’t really know Deftones that well.

    “Will slowly start to drop off the radar.” is highly unlikely, since they have been going strong since 1989.

    Your “three possible futures” for the band is way off as well. Almost every album has been some sort of experiment, and no two album have been the same. Why would they “stay in safe territory”? Or even go “slightly more chilled out”?

    I know it’s your opinion, but I think that you are very misguided when it comes to Deftones. All their albums have a mixture of hard and soft songs, and although no two albums are the same, they follow a certain formula.

    I suggest you go listen to all their albums again (including Adrenaline), spot the formula and then try to predict their future.

    It’s virtually impossible…

    • May 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      Hahha! Feels like I’m back in highschool – ‘I truly hope you are joking…’ ‘I got the feeling you don’t really know [insert subject matter] that well’, ‘I suggest you go…[to the headmaster’s office?]’

      Lighten up Ray 🙂 So I made a few predictions you don’t agree with, no biggie, like you said, they’re just my opinions.

      The important thing here is that we can both agree Deftones are a great band, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but guys like us are few and far between in a world obsessed with music that is trite, overproduced and totally meaningless.

      -ST


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