Sacramento’s Deftones, have had their share of momentous heartache and adversity to face since their last release, 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist. The taut bond via musical creation and endeavor between a band of “brothers” became severely slackened by a serious car accident which put bassist Chi Cheng in a coma in the fall of 2008.
The quintet had just about finished an album in progress at the time, titled Eros, when the accident occurred . The band made the difficult decision to shelve it, out of respect to Chi. These unreleased tracks would lie in wait, to be completed upon his hopeful return to the fold. With their band dynamic corrupted, they stared out into a choppy sea of unknown territory, eventually enlisting former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega to fill in as bassist and started writing. Passion and purpose kicked in, and what resulted was an intense record of introspect and inner strength called Diamond Eyes.
The title track is the album opener, and we're welcomed by blunted blasts of shockwave guitar that burrow behind Chino Moreno’s blissed-out vocals, carrying the listener overhead as he wails warmly in the chorus, “ Time will see us realign, diamonds will rain across the sky.” During the second track, “Royal”, whose fantasy laden lyrics leave messages to a sky-bound deity or an elusive woman , ethereal harmonies ride parallel in complement to Chino’s bloodcurdling phrases as the guitar/ drum thrust collides into verses like meteors gone awry. Lyrics like “ Come down, teach us the ropes, your concept, it keeps us provoked” ring out in synapse- fast turns that are propelled from a luded croon into a crushing scream.
Moreno has never sounded better. His trademark secretive hush, often interwoven with guitarist Stephen Carpenter’s reverberating crunch throughout their career, was often buried in effects and layered in electronic emotion. Here it shines clear and sermon strong, with a prowess that magnifies the message. The clarity could be decision made by the stellar work of producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Alice in Chains) and could lure in the hard rock newbie with a clout of accessibility in songs like the massive and beautiful “Beauty School” or the sensual oceanic float of “Sextape”.
“Rocket Skates”, the first single, is a massive neck- swiveling barrage of riff and thump. This is track that will wind up the willing pits and release a hundred hurricanes of release.” Guns, Razors, Knives (F**k with me!)” might be on a t-shirt next to you very soon. The weapon play/word play within the dangerous lyric serves as a precursor to an almost anthem-like call to move to the music. Move or get out of the way.
The album ends with a triad of mid tempo ,yet sublime songs including “976-Evil” which may or may not be a homage to Chi Cheng, as told by Moreno. “ For a thousand days,you’ve been staring away, are you phased or are you thinking ". There is a strange, alluring chill as the album ends, akin to a future left unwritten, frozen in a different time line.
The Deftones have not consciously made an effort to defy classification throughout their career, yet it continues to happen with every new release. These are guys who had Vulgar Display of Power and Disintegration in their cassette cases while growing up and the diversity of their sonic hues continues to show. This album may be as equally beautiful, as it is brutal, which will surely satisfy many hardcore fanboys and girls who will inevitably compare everything they do to their breakthrough album, White Pony. But Diamond Eyes shows a maturation and a renewed sense of brotherhood, highlighted by the strength of songwriting, that should bring many more open ears much closer to this collection, easily the best of their career.