1997 was a year of many things, and nestled among such happenings as OK Computer and, um, Axl Rose meeting Moby, a certain Sacramento alt-metal outfit threw out a staggeringly jagged-edged, abrasive slab of noise that provided the right upward-thrust towards their eventual masterpiece and further achievements.
No strangers to curious titles, Deftones set about recording a follow-up to Adrenaline, their well-recieved debut. Terry Date was back in the producer’s seat and more consideration was given to the band’s sound.
Kicking off with the dread-inducing downward quicksand of My Own Summer (Shove It), the loud-quiet dynamic is immediately deployed, to great effect, setting a particular course for the album and the band’s career. Absolutely everything is dangerously arresting: the drums alone contribute their very own sense of foreboding atmosphere, and singer Chino Moreno inventively whispers and/or dreamily croons over heavy bits before instantaneously switching back to screams.
There’s a sense of and where do you think you’re going? as Ihabia immediately chugs in the opener’s wake, Moreno’s curious and convincing vocal lethargy leaning back across menacing, encircling riffage. Hooks are light on the ground, however, but the pulse quickens to the rhythms while being slowed by Moreno’s laidback wailing.
Changes in dynamics are, by now, needed, and Mascara almost betrays an Undertow-era Tool influence in the continued creation of atmosphere (guitarist Stephen Carpenter is a fan). Moreno’s shouldn’t-work-but-fuck-you style errs on the side of being charmingly stylish and different enough to retain the attention – but when a song counts the upcoming Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) among its brethren, it needs to do the slow, emotive shtick really fucking well to stand a chance. Continued Tool-esque bass riffs and instrumental passages lean more into doomish doomy doom-doom, instead.
Just in time, the insanely catchy beat to the title-track thankfully kicks in, and we’re brought back to a hit and a half: one of – if not the – best attempt at mixing the band’s strengths into one fucking pummelling song. Everything to love about them stands out indivisually while mixing fluently together: tasty and interesting drums, shitkicking downtuned riffs produced to perfection provide the overt muscle whilst not crowding out the moody bass and, as ever, Moreno’s addictive, individualistic singing style.
Segueing nicely in, like a follow-up punch to the face, cometh Rickets’ whirling riffs and self-hating whispered verses. However, while it’s plenty of fun and could easily soundtrack the smashing-up of a room, it becomes clearer that the sheer magic achieved on some tracks can’t be completely maintained: the extra sonic exploration would arrive later, on the landmark White Pony.
Indication of this, however, comes in the emotion-drenched anthem Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away), where, as you damn well know, they nuke the target entirely. Moreno is even more convincing, arresting and fascinating, without ever sounding like a melodramatic wanker: and the band’s sound is opened up just a crack to allow Carpenter’s guitar to convey its own sense of drama and emotion, through distorted chords: undeniably evidence of the ability to produce something very, very special indeed and stand headup and shoulders above the rest of the nu-metal rabble.
No sooner do they have you headbanging tears and snot into your own face, Lotion roundhouse-kicks the tissues away with pure venom, bringing a sheer surge of very particular menacing energy and perverted hooks propelling it to the top of the pile (and ensuring repeated live airings for years to come).
Dai the Flu – whatever that means – allows for pause with a mid-pace ‘un, Carpenter supplying more inventive chording and Moreno seemingly singing from another dimension, always appearing to sing outside of time and away from the band itself, but still weaving into the music very fucking well indeed.
That leaves Lotion, placed to send us off from the album with mortal wounding from the blazingly clear production that allows every space to fill with distortion and every other ingredient previously mentioned. Initiated with a devilishly simple riff that conjures up a guest spot from Max Cavalera, there is no real let-up between verse and chorus, the whole thing barreling along like a wave of fists. Or something.
On the whole, an extremely enjoyable and excellently-produced racket that manages to do punishingly heavy without ever getting stale, indicating tons of promise for what would go on to be not only one of alt-metal’s favourite acts, but metal as a whole.
Deftones have a handful of live dates left this year, with more touring subject to Chino Moreno’s broken foot. Latest album Gore is out now: they will, at some point, do something or other and we will report on it.