Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Deftones-Diamond Eyes

In 2000, experimental metal band Deftones released White Pony, an album lauded by many to be the "greatest album ever" or something like that. While I thought it was good, great even, it took me forever to get into and even now I shy away from such a hyperbole. Their next two albums, a self-titled and Saturday Night Wrist brought a lot more to the table, I thought, and gave them an easier aesthetic. What's more, they made me understand why the band was so great. Heavy metal riffing combined with alternately soothing and maniacal vocals and thrilling ambiance made them something few bands can lay claim to: Completely and totally unique, and completely and totally unclassifiable.

With the release of Diamond Eyes, Deftones have made the journey from the dark metal of White Pony to the dreamy soundscapes of Saturday Night Wrist, undeniably growing in quality and scope with each release. So before the release of Diamond Eyes, it was reasonable to assume that there would be a natural progression, an adjustment that would refine and expand upon the melodic aesthetics of their previous release, while retaining that edgy heaviness that has defined them from the beginning.

Diamond Eyes shatters that assumption.

Where White Pony trudged in doom-y anticipation, Diamond Eyes lurches forward with a gleeful immediacy. Where Saturday Night Wrist simmers in paranoid beauty, Diamond Eyes transcends to make something truly gorgeous. In short, Diamond Eyes is all over the place in every aspect except quality. Every Deftones album has its highlights. Who can forget set pieces like "Knife Prty", "Battle Axe", or "Rats! Rats! Rats!"? Perhaps the most unexpected part about Diamond Eyes is how nearly every song is a highlight and a masterpiece. Tracks like "976-Evil" and "Diamond Eyes" throw out unbelievable melodic hooks that bleed effortlessly into ambient bridges or chugging verses. Songs like "CMD/CTRL" assault the listener with heavy verses, then somehow pull off an electronic swell when it's least expected, then capitalize on the surprise by following up with a catchy alt rock guitar riff.

With all the variety being discussed, it's easy to imagine Diamond Eyes as overbearing or too eclectic. And to me, that's the greatest part about it. The musicians have mastered the art of combining their influences into something completely seamless. Not only do Stephen Carpenter's 7-string metal chords sound completely appropriate in the ballad-y "Beauty School", they contribute heavily to the dreamy ambiance of the song. Frank Delgado's electronics and turntables have never sounded better than when placed alongside the violent heaviness in "Risk" and "Royal". The rhythm section is also ridiculously talented as always, with headbanging catchiness from both drums and bass, most notably in the otherwise sub-par "Prince".

But as always, the number one defining feature of Deftones' sound is and always will be vocalist Chino Moreno. His soothing croons in "Beauty School" are goosebump-inducing. His rabid shrieks in "Rocket Skates" are somehow brilliantly juxtaposed with a high-pitched "WHOO!" that would sound more fitting in a pop-rock song if they were coming from anyone else. His screams of "It's okay, I'm alright" in "Prince" both drive the song forward and make it readily apparent that neither statement is true. And he even experiments in new vocal territory by successfully belting in a mainstream rock-like voice in "976-Evil"s uplifting chorus.

In many ways, this is the Deftones that we've all come to know and love over the years. They're still highly experimental, wonderfully eclectic, and cohesive as a band. Yet somehow this is a new Deftones, artistically unrestrained and triumphantly, almost cockily brandishing the success of their new songwriting skills with every track. It feels like they've hit their potential after years of fine-tuning. Yet I also said that about Deftones and Saturday Night Wrist, so it would possibly be more accurate to assume that with every new release, they've used their enormous potential to reach new creative heights. Deftones have finally completely outdone themselves and created something few artists have achieved. They have crafted a perfect artistic manifesto; a perfect album.

Sample Track: Beauty School (download)

One song is sadly inadequate to get a full picture of this album. This song displays approximately one tenth of the territory covered in Diamond Eyes. Just know if you listen that it's equally as awesome as the rest of the album.

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