With a new album, Gore, released in April, Getintothis’ Joe Viney takes a look back at the Deftones top ten ire-filled tracks
As sure as eggs is eggs (whatever that *actually* means), Deftones releasing another great album is one of the surest bets you can make. Racing to #1 in Australia and #2 in the USA, it is actual proof that the wisdom of crowds is a thing and most people aren’t just stupid.
Gore also presents a benchmark in the long career of the Sacramento noise kings, it being the first full-length release since the death of Chi Cheng in April 2013, the group’s former bassist who had been in a coma since a car accident over four and a half years prior.
The group ably forged on without Cheng, releasing the inimitable and powerful Diamond Eyes in 2010 and the enigmatic and heartfelt Koi No Yokan in 2012. Such was the influence of Cheng’s condition to the group, they scrapped an entire album – Eros – that had been close to completion prior to the accident that ultimately took his life.
Gore will hold more value to Deftones – as a collective and as individuals – than it will do to their legions of devoted fans. Whether or not the record stands as an offering to their erstwhile friend and colleague is neither here nor there for mere observers such as we, but on its own merits, the band has once again pushed themselves even further.
Gore’s three lead singles are primary evidence of a band with – as the saying goes – plenty left in the tank. Prayers/Triangles (although he does pronounce “prayers” like “players” so, you know, take half a mark off the final score), Doomed User and Hearts/Wires all provide a different perspective on the sleek, shiny, wildly combustible Deftones model.
Sometimes it’s actually non-quantifiable but Deftones progression has seen them evolve yet stay the same, move on but entrench the roots further.
Gore is an ethereal, visceral and just plain mysterious piece of art. Still remaining are the riffs and noise that make you want to pull out your own insides and leave you looking like Bishop at the end of Aliens. Back in place are Chino Moreno’s lyrics; angular, confusing and begging to be investigated further.
Yet swirling around that – indicative of their growth – are the changes that have kept them fresh and relevant to this day. Bassist Sergio Vega introduced a six-string bass into his arsenal, giving the band new depths. Moreno has taken the experience of working with his side-projects, Palms, and latterly Crosses, and brought a more expansive twist to his work as a lyricist and frontman. There is no Golden Age for Deftones because their entire career seems to have been one so far.
…and indeed, what a perfect way to take you into this top ten of their best to date. Well, okay…first, a couple of caveats. One: it is, of course, personal opinion so leave us alone. Two: let’s try and stay off the well-beaten track, hey? OF COURSE, My Own Summer is a good song but do we really need to go over it again? No is the answer.
So with that – fittingly – confrontational clause in mind, get your eyes and ears around some of this…
1: Headup (Around The Fur)
By time Around The Fur – Deftones’ second record – rolled around, they’d already escaped the cumbersome and most likely unwelcome ‘nu-metal’ tag and created something far better. On Headup they teamed with ex-Sepultura and Soulfly leader Max Cavalera; he of the throatiest roar in the southern hemisphere.
You might need a lyrics sheet for this one such is the noise created but when it all kicks in…it’s game over, man.
2: Digital Bath (White Pony)
Music can, of course, evoke strong mental images and Digital Bath is the sound of isolation and desolation in the modern age. The sparse arrangements in the verse evoke the disconnect we can feel, no doubt aided by the tech-referencing title.
Moreno’s lyrics speak of wanting to put oneself together again – “tonight I feel like more” – and despite the bleak feel, it is indeed a more triumphant lesson.
3: Back To School
American popular culture loves to put people older than school age in the education system, doesn’t it? Fonzy was about 85 even at Happy Days’ peak. Saved By The Bell was practically funereal at times, especially with Screech…erm…screeching toward middle age while hanging around hallways.
Moreno is another who was plonked back into the system for this ridiculously good non-album track. It’s a tale as old as time: fight the system, smash the structures, make your own way. Like the song says, smoke cigarettes and sip vodka.
4: Royal (Diamond Eyes)
Diamond Eyes feels like magic. Fittingly, it shines. Much like Gore it combines both strength and vulnerability. Royal is very much cut from the cloth of the former attribute and its sudden arrival is like a punch to the face.
The unrelenting power, the need to dig into it more, the outro with its shifts and squirms. It’s all here.
5: Rapture (Saturday Night Wrist)
“Go ahead…” urges Moreno, and from the get-go Deftones oblige.
“The other carves you out from me…just two different tools, different designs” he screams – practically shattering his throat as per his trademark style – and gives us another angle on how Deftones’ lyrics speak of love, connections, unbreakable bonds in a dystopian, broken style.
Depending on who you ask, the rapture is the best or worst thing we’ve got coming to us a species. This would one hell of a way to go.
6: Hexagram (Deftones)
Ah, young love and all that. First flushes of new lessons and development. I’m not talking about sex, but to a 17-year-old who hadn’t yet got his oats, getting into a great band for the first time is the closest you can get…and how.
Deftones’ self-titled 2003 release was the first great album of theirs this writer plugged into, and this, the opener, set a ridiculously high bar. “Worship, play…worship, play” intones Moreno, somehow predicting the future of my own Deftones fandom. Amen, brother.
7: Mein (Saturday Night Wrist)
Another quality collaboration, this time with (former?) System Of A Down main man, Mein is as smooth as silk and potentially one of the more underrated songs in their canon.
8: Diamond Eyes (Diamond Eyes)
“Time will see us realign…diamonds rain across the sky…shower me into the same realm…”
What more could you actually want or need to say?
9: Rocket Skates (Diamond Eyes)
The Germans probably have a word for that feeling you get, you know, when you’re listening to a great song and you feel transported; as if you could take on the world in that instance. When those ideas come together and everything seems right. When you hear Rocket Skates – when you hear that riff, Moreno’s “WOO!” like a maniacal Ric Flair, the insane breakdown that sounds like somebody quite literally murdering a keyboard – THAT is the moment it all makes sense.
10: When Girls Telephone Boys (Deftones)
Probably the most brutal song to include a reference to geological time periods on Mars (“a great new wave Hesperian death horse”), …Girls is vile, vicious, volatile and yet – as the trend dictates – offers some semblance of hope among the wreckage.
Moreno wails like a wounded animal, music like a building collapsing around you but ultimately, he, they and us, have won: “Something’s wrong with you…I hope we never do meet again”.
…and yet, we have met them again and again. Thankfully it’s not us on the receiving end of his ire.