Deftones – Diamond Eyes is Intense, Tight Return to Form
by Brian Willett
For a while, it looked like the world was never going to hear a sixth Deftones album. After the release of 2006′s Saturday Night Wrist, the band had planned a follow up, Eros, to be released in 2009. Despite having been finished, the album’s release was delayed after the band’s bassist, Chi Cheng, was in a car accident and fell into a coma. After several proposed release dates, the last being October 2009, the Deftones elected to record a new album that included the band’s new bassist, Sergio Vega. The Deftones intend to release Eros when Cheng emerges from his coma, but won’t leave fans in limbo, as they are set to release Diamond Eyes on May 18.
Though the band is without their original bassist, the Deftones haven’t lost any of their intensity. This fact is evident from the opening notes of the album’s first track, “Diamond Eyes”. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter unleashes an aggressive riff from his signature down-tuned guitar, while singer Chino Moreno offers vocals that soar over the riffing. Despite the heavy verses, the chorus floats lightly on Moreno’s optimistic lyrics: “Time will see us realign, diamonds reign across the sky, I will lead us into the same realm.”
“Royal” brings another punishing salvo of guitar, and Moreno matches the mood with some controlled screaming through the verses. Again, he drops into a less harsh style for the verses, and there is an interesting call-and-response section in the choruses, in which Moreno narrates one line by softly singing sustained notes, then answers with a piercing scream. The driving percussion and relentless riffing from Carpenter make this one not to miss.
“CMND/CNTRL” explodes with more hard-hitting guitar and aggressive singing from Moreno. Throughout the track, he bounces from screaming verses to soaring vocals with ease, and the rest of the band follows suit, alternating from punishing riffs to softer choruses and a brief interlude in which everything but the drumming drops out. This gives listeners a few seconds to catch their breath before the Deftones bring back the noise.
The next track, “You’ve Seen The Butcher,” begins with some ominous chugging from Carpenter, building suspense until the drums kick in and the riffing begins. This track is considerably slower than the first three, and Moreno explores a wide span of his range, oscillating between speaking and hitting high, sustained notes through the verses. While the guitars riffs are all very distorted, this isn’t as heavy as some of the other offerings on the disc, and it has a vaguely industrial sound, similar to 2000‘s White Pony
“Beauty School” has a distinctly different feel, with ambient studio effects flowing through the introduction and a soft, cleanly picked guitar riff opening things up. Moreno keeps his vocals under control too, and proclaims his preference for putting away one’s fake personality: “I like you when, when you take off your face. Put away all your teeth and take us way underneath.” The track showcases Moreno’s excellent vocals thanks to its more subdued feel. While Moreno can scream with the best of them, he actually has an impressive range and a great singing voice.
“Prince” follows, and has a somewhat creepy vibe at the beginning, with occasional stabs of guitar and low, distorted vocals. Vega offers a bass riff that slithers along, giving an odd-meter feel to the track. The chorus is a bit louder, and Moreno moves from talk-singing to more of a scream. This is another song that feels as though it emerged from theWhite Pony era, as it has similar textures and guitar tone.
The following song, “Rocket Skates,” opens with a short, repeating riff that continues the heavy intensity of the album’s earlier tricks. Moreno offers some of his traditional, oddly ambiguous and vaguely morbid lyrics here, with lines such as: “You arrive, soaking wet. I’m right next to you. Let’s sail in this sea of charms, let’s drown underneath the stars, let’s drink with our weapons in our hands.” Despite the lyrics, though, this is an incredibly catchy song, as the chorus features a great stuttering guitar riff and the tempo is kept up through the entire track.
“Sextape” completely switches the mood though, with a soft, echoing riff and slow tempo, which may lead some listeners to classify this as a counterpart to “Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event,” off of 2003′s self-titled Deftones disc. The lyrics mirror the vibe of the track, as Moreno sings, “Floating on the water, an ever-changing picture…the ocean takes me…” Each successive chorus gets a little edgier, with Carpenter strumming a clean electric guitar at first, then moving to a distorted one. This is a well-written song and a nice change of pace from the rest of the album.
The Deftones bring things back up to speed with “Risk,” with Carpenter’s distorted palm-muting contrasting with the light, lingering notes of the previous track. Moreno narrates the story of a a nervous night: “You can’t talk, I’m anxious, I’m off the walls, I’m right here…pack your heart, you might need it.” This is one of the album’s lighter tracks, though it chugs along at a steady tempo and balances tight, gritty verses with more open, lighter choruses.
Considering its title, “976-EVIL” is relatively subdued, with some clean electric guitar notes ping-ponging back and forth while Moreno sings in a breathy voice. This is another mid-tempo track, and it doesn’t really have any dramatically distinguishing features, so some listeners might feel as though this is a borderline filler track. However, it does put Moreno’s great vocals on display and shows that Carpenter is capable of exploring other dimensions in his guitar work aside from the killer riffs he delivers on most of the other tracks.
The album’s final track, “This Place is Death,” begins with a sea of feedback, which builds until Moreno begins singing over it. This song has a spacey, atmospheric feel, as it lacks the heavy bottom-end guitar riffs that are present on most other tracks. Apparently, Moreno isn’t alone in his morbid assessment, as he sings, “You lure me in…I hope to discover all of your ways, this is place death, I know you feel the same.” The entire track seems to be building momentum for a climax that never comes, however, and just when it appears about to hit a high point, it fades out.
While the final two tracks of Diamond Eyes are not the strongest on the album, the rest of the disc is full of intense, gritty alternative rock that will please old fans of the band and delight new ones. Moreno’s masterful range of vocals and Carpenter’s simple yet transfixing guitar riffs make this a solid, aggressive record with some catchy melodies — it’s a great addition to any collection. You can download Diamond Eyes right here.