Thursday, August 16, 2012

Album Review: Deftones - "Diamond Eyes"

While spending last Saturday and Sunday rocking out at Heavy T.O. 2012, I had the opportunity to check out some bands on the lineup that I hadn't heard before. While waiting for System of a Down to hit the stage, I was able to attend Deftones' hour long set, and I have to say I was pretty impressed by the show they put on. I thought their music was pretty decent, but it was singer Chino Moreno's charismatic command of the stage and audience that really stood out for me. Even though during the festival I wasn't too impressed musically with them, there was one riff they played that just would not get out of my head.

Ba-da-da-da dun-dun. Dun-dun.

I scoured YouTube looking for that riff, and finally found it in the music video for "You've Seen the Butcher". From there on in, I started exploring the other Deftones music videos, and I all I thought was "fuck, how did I not love this during the festival?". After going through a slew of songs, I realized I had pretty much listened to a large chunk of Diamond Eyes. The next day, I marched right down to HMV and bought myself a copy to listen to the rest of it.

This album is a tribute to Hedwig.
Deftones are a California based alternative metal band who from what I understand have moved away from a nu-metal style of sound towards a slightly more experimental, droning and ambient sound. Keep in mind, when I say droning, I don't mean they sound like Sunn O))), and when I say ambient I don't mean they sound like Earth. Deftones guitarist Stephen Carpenter handles an 8 string guitar to chug out some super low frequency riffs (8 strings literally use a bass guitar string as their lowest string), sometimes reminiscent of Nothing era Meshuggah. For anyone who knows Meshuggah's music (if you don't, have your mind blown here), you'll understand the trance-like and hypnotic feeling that repetitive, heavy, polyrhythmic riffing can give you. Carpenter and drummer Abe Cunningham don't mess around with odd time signatures as much as Meshuggah do, but there's the occasional extra half bar thrown in every once in a while. Carpenter's style also involves the use of large open chords that, when played on the massive tonal range of an 8 string guitar, ring out beautifully. Songs like "Sextape" and "Beauty School" really show off this open and airy sound well.

Deftones also feature Frank Delgado who plays keyboards and uses a turntable. Delgado's use of keys is pretty much in the background of most of Diamond Eyes, and he never really steps into the spotlight. His position as a turntabler (I'll just use the term DJ), as far as I can tell, is never called to action on this album, and even when I saw them perform live, he just stuck around the keyboards the entire set.

Probably my favorite aspect of Deftones' sound has to be Moreno's vocal prowess. For the most part he sings cleanly, but his tone of voice can vary fantastically. He's capable of going from shy, almost vulnerable whisper-singing all the way to a full on banshee wails. Occasionally he uses some high pitched screaming, but they're few and far between. I have to say that whenever he uses this technique, I find it a little cliche because  Moreno has some distortion fuzzing up his voice. It's nothing too serious, I've just never been a fan of that production technique. When it comes down to it, I've got to say I really like Moreno's vocals on Diamond Eyes, with his tone and range really adding to the atmospheric element to the album.

"I must fly. My people need me."
So I've been driving that point that Diamond Eyes is all spacey and airy, but I've got to say: This album gives off a pretty positive and uplifting vibe. There still are some songs that sit on the more aggressive side because, well, it's metal. For the most part though (at least to me), all of the happier parts seem to stick in my mind much better than the more angry ones. Most of the atmospheric stuff that I listen to tends to lean more towards the melancholic sounding side (Alcest, Earth, Agalloch, etc.), so it's a nice change of pace to hear something a bit less bleak that can still wash over you. The album doesn't really deal with bouncy, happy-go-lucky themes either. It's tough to explain. An example I can try and give would be for the song "Sextape". When [socially awkward main character played by Michael Cera] and [manic pixie dream girl love interest played by Zooey Deschanel] get together at the very end of the movie after overcoming whatever obstacles (strict family members, crazy bosses, and probably a the zany antics of an adorable monkey) stood in their way and there's the big scene where they finally declare their love for each other and get to smoochin' and bonin' (with totally artsy cinematography), just hit play on "Sextape" and voila. It's like it was meant to be.

If there's something I have to criticize Diamond Eyes with, it would be that the singles "Diamond Eyes", "You've Seen the Butcher", "Rocket Skates" and "Sextape" are the only songs that really stand out on their own. While the rest of the songs are good, they really only seem to work well if they're played in conjunction with the rest of the album. There will probably never be a time when I suddenly feel the urge to listen to "CMND/CNTRL" out of nowhere. Still, when the album is played end to end, everything fits together nicely and flows without a hitch.

Bomb-Ass Tracks

Diamond Eyes: The title track swings a bit more to the aggressive side, but it's filled with tons of catchy hooks and sweet riffs.

You've Seen the Butcher: That fucking riff.

Sextape: Probably my favorite song on the album. It's simplistic and hauntingly beautiful.

On a Playlist With: Tool, David Maxim Micic

Overall Score


Diamond Eyes is a solid effort from Deftones that dares to be a little different. I can't really find another band that sounds like them. I feel like Diamond Eyes really has something to offer everyone, no matter what kind of music you're into. The album clocks in at just over 40 minutes, but really, when you put it on and let it flow over you, it'll be over before you know it.

That's all for now, folks. Ba-da-da-da dun-dun. Dun-dun.

1 comment:

  1. I know the Deftones... the song that defined them for me was actually from the Spawn album and was Shove It (My Own Summer I loved the way he changed the microphone sound so it was so breathy and electronic at the same time. I'll have to see what they've been up to since then.