Deftones - Diamond Eyes
2010 Reprise Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
With a band, adversity can turn you into a vengeful pack of junkyard dogs or it can refine you into the epitome of a show-to-win pedigree. Not that the Deftones have ever been sweetness and effervescence, the reaction they've cast in answer to the near-loss of bassist Chi Cheng is a heroic outlay of controlled mayhem and a polished crunch of Cure reinventionism on their latest album Diamond Eyes.
Diamond Eyes champions the Deftones' own cause, even as as Cheng continues to recuperate from his injuries sustained in an auto accident. Cheng's coma had an adverse effect on his bandmates, who abruptly halted work on their Eros album and in the midst of stagnance tripped across the willing services of Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega.
Thus weaves the legend of Diamond Eyes, the most confident album the Deftones have ushered since White Pony. It is as much an aural stand-up against their inner trauma as it is against their critics tattooing the Deftones' self-titled 2003 album and the subsequent Saturday Night Wrist from 2006. Many people are likening Diamond Eyes to White Pony, though the only real parallels between both albums lies in the hammering riff punches of the title track and "Royal," the verses of "Beauty School" and "Prince," which is a slicked-out, metalhead's cocktail hour regroove of "Rx Queen."
If there ever was an argument for the Deftones' affinity towards The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Smiths, Diamond Eyes is the album to prove it. "Beauty School" might've sit snugly on The Cure's Wish, but all the better for its metallic snarling beneath the aquatic timbre. The jazzy tempo of "You've Seen the Butcher" is straight out of Japanese Whispers, Head On the Door and Disintegration, and Chino Moreno plays his vocal slides with a true Robert Smith shuffle-shamble.
In fact, Diamond Eyes will go down to this point in the Deftones' careers as their most textured and swirling effort to-date. Part of it has to do with Frank Delgado's otherworldly electronics, which have fully redefined this band since the proto-punk fang years of Adrenaline and Around the Fur. Delgado morphs "Diamond Eyes" from dense to beauteous, particularly on the emotive choruses and his prescence is felt all over this album.
Diamond Eyes hardly strays from the heavy despite numerous outreaches which all work to the good. "Royal" is a trad Deftones stomp-n-shout ditty, while "Rocket Skates" is one of the mightiest songs this band has ever penned. On both of these tracks, the always-trusty Abe Cunningham goes apeshit on his snare and toms and his flexible energy raises the Deftones accordingly. The harder Cunningham strikes, the louder Chino Moreno shrieks and the meaner Stephen Carpenter strums. The inflictive groove of "Cmd/Ctrl" elevates from Cunningham's mondo pounding and shimmies the cut into louder pastures beyond the primary Cure schisms guiding the melody.
The surprise track of Diamond Eyes is one of its shining, er, diamonds, "Sextape." This is frankly one of the most gorgeous songs the Deftones have recorded and the dichotomy between self-gratification and confused innocence is established by Stephen Carpenter's romantic and temporal guitar lines. His Johnny Marr-like back fills heats up "Sextape" with a barely-suppressed angst. Never has the urge to wank felt so guilt-free. Tonight, indeed...
Would Diamond Eyes have as much verve if it wasn't created in the heat of near-tragedy? Interesting there's very little flashpoint to this album, only a dialed-in set of tracks which embraces just enough of the dark side to keep it a legit metal album. If anything, Diamond Eyes is the most progressive album the Deftones have done. Chino Moreno turns in the vocal performance of his career (he's wonderfully lost in the moment on "976-Evil" and "Rocket Skates") and Sergio Vega makes a snug companion to Abe Cunningham in the band's snapcase rhythm section. What will Eros do for an encore once the Deftones revisit it?
Friday, May 21, 2010
Deftones - Diamond Eyes