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Deftones “Diamond Eyes” Review

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It has been roughly three and a half years since the Deftones last released an album, 2006′s Saturday Night Wrist. And while the band is known for such spans of time between recordings, the space between Wrist and Diamond Eyes wasn’t entirely by choice. In November of 2008 bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a devastating car accident where he sustained serious brain trauma which left him in a coma. At the time the band was near completion of the album Eros, a record which was later put on the back burner as the rest of the band made the decision that they would not go ahead with its release. In the meantime the remaining Deftones continued their work in the studio, calling upon Sergio Vega (Quicksand) who had briefly taken over for Cheng once in 1999. It was the resulting album created from those late-2009 sessions that would become Diamond Eyes.

Part of the band’s reasoning behind shelving Eros, in favor of recording new material, was because it no longer represented who the band was, explained vocalist Chino Moreno.

“The songs recorded for Eros are very special to us as they are the latest with Chi (and we certainly hope not the last); they have history and significant meaning to us. However, as we neared completion on Eros, we realized that this record doesn’t best encompass and represent who we are currently as people and as musicians. And although those songs will see the light of day at some point, we collectively made the decision that we needed to take a new approach, and with Chi’s condition heavy on our minds while doing so. We needed to return to the studio to do what we felt was right artistically. Our inspiration and unity as a band is stronger than it has ever been before and we needed to channel that energy into our music, and deliver to our fans what you rightly deserve: the best Deftones record that we can make.”

With those heavy thoughts in mind the band produced an album that embodies the burden or a fallen comrade and expresses the aggressiveness that has boiled below the surface for the past few years: Diamond Eyes.

Opening with the crushing density of the album’s title track, “Diamond Eyes” retains a solid balance as it trades blows between Stephen Carpenter’s heavy, crunchy guitar and Moreno’s soulful chorus, “Time will see us realign/Diamonds reign across the sky I will lead us to the same realm”. “Royal” follows, lending a sound that resonates as far more distanced, though not any less powerful.

“CMND/CTRL” continues the powerful trend on the album, though it’s Carpenter who stands out on the track. Quickly employing a thick bounce he commands immediate attention despite Moreno’s blazing vocals which rival the sharpness of the guitarist’s sound. “You’ve Seen The Butcher” offers the first aural break in the record, a 30 second introduction, which gives way to a boiling riff that is later accompanied by Moreno’s piercing howl.

“Beauty School” ventures to slow the record down, albeit just slightly, as it relies on Abe Cunningham’s beat to keep an active backdrop to Moreno’s soothing, drawn-out wail. “Prince,” while opening to a calm pace, picks up momentum as the track progresses. By the end of its three and a half minutes it becomes a showcase for Moreno’s paint-peeling bellows and the band’s snowballing rhythm, one which eventually washes the song away.

The album’s fiercest riff opens “Rocket Skates,” giving the listener zero time to recuperate from the swell of energy that has been rumbling throughout Diamond Eyes. While the album’s lead single may not be its best track, “Rocket Skates” is certainly one of the most memorable, offering a glance back into the aggressiveness that has weaved its way throughout the band’s history.

“Sextape“, the ebb to “Rocket Skates”‘s flow, harnesses a sentimental tone and wraps itself around Moreno’s equally comforting imagery, “The sun and the waves collide tonight”. “Risk”, “976-EVIL”, and “This Place Is Death” serve as the album’s final three tracks, each relatively similar in their moderate pace, which is interesting when considering both the aggressive nature of Diamond Eyes and its flair for contrast.

When Moreno explained that Diamond Eyes is the “the best Deftones record that we can make,” it makes you wonder about what Eros is and how different it may be compared to the new record. While we might not know—at least for a while—what Eros sounds like, the allure of the band’s latest material comes in both its urgency and its familiarity. Given the situation that the band was in following Cheng’s accident, the Deftones were presented with a fight or flight scenario: They could refrain from recording new material—go on a hiatus, even—or they could push forward through the trials presented to them. They chose the latter, and in returning to that fight mechanism that was dislodged in each of them, the band has created one of its best albums to date.