Friday, May 14, 2010

Album Review: Deftones - Diamond Eyes

I've been thinking about writing a review of Diamond Eyes since late last week: listening to the album once a day, sorting through my reactions, chewing over the words I would use. The Deftones and I have a bit of a complex relationship, touching on a few points: I dug the singles from Adrenaline and Around the Fur when they came out, but didn't give the band more than radio time when I was in high school. A friend in college gave me a copy of White Pony when that came out in 2000, and I enjoyed it for a few years - particularly "Change (In the House of Flies)" and the Maynard James Keynan collaboration on "Passenger" - but I remember the day on way to work a few years later when I put on White Pony and discovered most of the album bored me. That was pretty much the end of my Deftones relationship until I bought tickets for the BlackDiamondSkye tour and figured I should give the "Diamond" portion of the tour's name a listen.

At first, I wasn't particularly impressed. Chino Moreno's quavery vocals are an acquired taste at best and really grating at worst, and Stephen Carpenter's "heavy" guitar sound has become such a stereotype that it's lost most of its edge. Diamond Eyes certainly features songs that favor both of these elements: the coincidentally-named "Royal" and "Prince" are both examples. But there's stuff to like, too: "Rocket Skates" is heavy, too, but there's something about Moreno's augmented screaming in the chorus that catches the ear.

The album switches gears in the second half: "Sextape," "Risk," "976-Evil," and "This Place is Death" step back a bit and conjure up the slightly twisted dreaminess that made "Passenger" and "Change (In The House of Flies)." so appealing. Not surprisingly - although the lyrics have as much to do with night driving by the ocean as they do with sex - "Sextape" is the softest of the bunch, coming off a bit like a Smashing Pumpkins ballad, while "976-Evil" has a surprising interesting pop-punk feel that reminds me a lot of "The Academy Is..."

However, my favorite track by far - not only of the group, but of the whole ablum - is "Risk," which mixes aggressive verses with a super hook chorus that's floated back into my head hours after listening on a daily basis and combines pretty much everything good about alternative metal in one package. It's a the definite high point of a rather schizophrenic group of songs whose eclecticism and mutability is enough to generate interest rather than adoration. Diamond Eyes doesn't have enough to make it one of my albums of the year, but it's got some staying power none-the-less.

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