Record #390 – Deftones – Deftones (2003)

I’ve never shied away from admitting that my musical expertise has some blind spots. Recently, I realized that one of those blind spots was the Deftones
And for no discernible reason. I’ve known their name forever. Tons of bands I love have toured with them or cite them as an influence. I absolutely love Palms, Chino Moreno’s side project with former members of post-metal giants ISIS. I’ve even heard certain Deftones tracks and loved them (Change in the House of Flies, most notably). I listened to most of Gore upon its release to check it out, and mostly liked it.
So why had I never gotten into the Deftones?

Last week, I decided to get to the bottom of this. I opened a note on my phone and listened through the entire Deftones discography (well…White Pony on) taking notes on each individual track. And I discovered something.

I really, really like Deftones.

Sure, every once in a while they get into some numetal riffage nonsense that I don’t care for, but most of that is forgivable considering the huge soaring melodies and beautiful textures they employ so liberally.

This album wouldn’t necessarily be my choice for first purchase (probably GoreSaturday Night Wrist, or Koi no Yokan), but I found an eBay auction with no bids and a half hour to go, so here we are.

And it’s not like I care that much—this album is killer. Deftones have always been more sophisticated than the numetal groups they often get lumped in with, and this album sees them drawing from a number of decidedly non-metal influences (and all the rap rock is gone, thank God).

The opener “Hexagon” is a brilliant marriage of big shoegaze guitars and metal screams (think Deafheaven in utero). “Minerva” is an absolutely beautiful tune that somehow became a radio hit. “Deathblow” is creeping study in their mastery of soft/loud dynamics. “Lucky You” even brings some trip-hop to the table.

But that’s not to say there’s nothing dated on here. Even “Hexagram” has a weird numetal breakdown in the choruses. Some tracks (”When Girls Telephone Boys,” “Bloody Cape”) skew more aggressive, almost devoid of their harmonic brilliance that drew me to them in the first place. But the good far outweighs the bad here. White Pony often gets cited as the group’s first great record, but Deftones is where they really shed the numetal nonsense of their peers and became the iconic masters of melodic alt-metal that they are today.

One thought on “Record #390 – Deftones – Deftones (2003)

  1. Pingback: Record #447: Deftones – Diamond Eyes (2010) | A Year of Vinyl

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