With their third full length release Deftones are continuing on a path to being the most important of the premiere alternative metal bands in the business. Though this Sacramento quartet has only been releasing albums for five years, White Pony finds them reaching a crest of musical maturity not normally associated with this often self indulgent, often stupid and gimmicky genre.
White Pony opens with a burst of passion unyielding throughout the record. Vocalist Chino Moreno’s squelching barks, squeals and moans are counterbalanced by an intense anthemic guitar-laden approach indicative of a genre whose heros are commercial prodigies like Korn and whose forefathers are groups like Fugazi, Soundgarden and Jane’s Addiction. The difference with the Deftones is an apparent seasoned knowledge of the limits of experimentation and a love for all that is grand about great alternative metal.
Veteran producer Terry Date puts in a signature performance favoring big production over subtle dynamics. Like his work on vintage releases by Alice In Chains and Soundgarden, Date appears to be sticking to his overly compressed mid-range approach to big sounding heavy guitar bands. But the Deftones seem comfortable in Date’s arena, accenting their performance with overarching guitar washes reminiscent of fogies like Celtic Frost and Voivod.
Track five, “Street Carp,” soars above the rest for its hook meets studio gadgetry infectiousness. Dipping into virtually every genre associated with alternative rock’s recent history there are equal parts of industrial, metal and hip-hop in the never ending stew.
The next tune, “Teenager,” is almost too precious with a navel-gazing approach that never really goes anywhere. In fact, the biggest criticism I could make about this album is its inability to really sink into any particular groove long enough to taste it. By “Korea,” the guys have again hit their stride, chugging and soaring with undeniable finesse. The thoughtfully intense “Passenger” features vocal guest Maynard James Kennan of Tool fame. Suddenly the listener will be struck by where the band wants to be with this release, but the question remains… what took them so long?
Like their last release, with White Pony the Deftones have reached a new point of departure and watching a band like this develop like this leads one to believe that their’s is a lot more than passing fancy. Unfortunately they will have to woo their muse a little harder if they expect to grab the golden ring this release appears to be reaching for.