The Hardest Natural Material Known to Man
Deftones are hailed as being in a league of their own, and after a thorough runthrough of Diamond Eyes, one can hear why. Nobody else does quite what they do. In a relatively tiresome genre, with other bands fading into obscurity or just plain falling short of a quality product, the Sacramento quintet keep rising to the top.
With the massive success of Around the Fur (1997) and White Pony (2000), lead vocalist Chino Moreno has taken this band through several different versions of alternative and experimental metal. With this one, they scrapped a bunch of content from what was to be called Eros after bassist Chi Cheng suffered a serious auto accident. Subbing in for Cheng on the record is Quicksand’s bassist, Sergio Vega, but out of the mess of the accident came a concentrated effort to make a cohesive and subtly cathartic album to be reckoned with.
Diamond Eyes opens at breakneck pace and heaviness with the titular track, “Royal,” and “CMND CTRL” shaking you awake. Seriously muscular guitar riffing, pounding drums, plenty of cymbal crashes, and Moreno’s soaring vocals combined with his grisly howls and screams create a compelling atmospheric take on metal. The pace is almost always very nuanced and allows for peaceful breaks that fit in seamlessly. Then, on “You’ve Seen The Butcher,” you finally glimpse a slower, softer pace that doesn’t implicate them in making metal that’s too pop or feminine. It actually shows their grace and talent, and a willingness to make tracks that are easily digested and more accessible to first-time listeners.
They stun with two later tracks that are seriously beautiful in their ambiance and mellow complexity. “Sextape” features a dreamy buildup to a louder, more metallic chorus. Whereas on their harder tracks they call to mind future tour partners Alice in Chains and Mastadon, on these slower tracks they sound a bit like Filter, Incubus, or melodic Tool. “976-Evil” is also a moodier, calmer track that leads into “This Place Is Death,” concluding the album and reminding you that you’ve just listened to a thrashing, screaming, nu-metal masterpiece.
The slower tracks don’t distract the listener from appreciating the truly dark and headbang-friendly singles. First single “Rocket Skates,” for instance, has a chorus where Moreno screams, “Guns! Razors! Knives! Fuck with me!” Serious stuff. It’s evident they’re no longer just a band that used to open for Korn; Deftones are artistically and sonically legit.