The Great Wall of Deftones
Oh no, he’s doin’ another one.
Indeed, Milo here with another music review, after my confidence-building Songs For The Deaf review wasn’t horrifically horrid, so that’s nice.
Now, when it comes to nu-metal, which is undoubtedly what Deftones is at its core, I am EXTREMELY cautious because, for every System Of A Down, there is a Korn, for every Deftones, a Limp Bizkit, for every Rage Against The Machine (sorta), we have a Linkin *shudder* Park. There’s a lot of crap, basically.
However, as said before, Deftones are one of the gooduns with an infectiously heavy “wall” of sound being a key feature of a lot of their music. That being said, I’m not really a huge fan of Deftones themselves, but I am partial to a few of their albums, this being one of them, so don’t expect the same amount of enthusiasm or knowledge that was in my Songs For The Deaf review, I don’t expect it will be hard, I’m an idiot.
Starting off the album on an undeniable high, My Own Summer (Shove It), one of the album’s singles, immediately grabs the listener’s attention with a chunky intro riff that has since become one of the most recognisable in the nu-metal genre. This heavy (I’ll be using that word a lot), winding riff reoccurs throughout the song’s louder parts and forms the aforementioned “wall” that Deftones established as their sound, with this being one of their breakthrough tracks. Also notable is the bass, emulating the guitar riff, providing a backbone for the song, and Chino Moreno’s vocal performance, which gives the record a lil’ bit more aggression, as if it really needed it.
The next song, the suggestively named Lhabia, wastes no time on intros, which I see as one of the song’s downfalls, because it gives you no time to recover from My Own Summer, which is a distraction from the obvious highs this song has. Right away, we are greeted with a driving riff not disimilar to the majority of the album, but never fails to get me pumped. This couples not only nicely with the aforementioned bass, but also with the cymbal-heavy, marching drum beats, which go into some seriously impressive snare-work later on in the song. That being said, the main pitfall of this song is lack of any sort of notable crescendo, making the entire song feel like anticipation. I mean, there is a chorus, but it sounds so similar, in instrumentation, to the verses that you can’t really tell the difference.
Notably slowing the pace down from the first two songs, Mascara opens with a stripped down guitar riff that sounds like something straight off of Superunknown to my untrained ear. It also features, as a standout, cleaner vocals, lacking in any sort of whispery crap that Moreno usually deploys, which make for a more emotionally charged song.
Following that is the title track, Around The Fur, opening with some brilliantly groovy drumming and some Jonathan Davis-kilt-wearing level whispery beatboxy noises coming from Moreno, ooooooh damn. This groove is accentuated by the riff which, for the first time on the album, is bass-led. However, once the chorus kicks in, we’ve got the same ol’ nu-metal sounds we’ve been hearing throughout the album, with a fast guitar-based riff and a whole lot of screaming. The aforementioned top-notch drumming, though, is a constant in the song.
Then we have Rickets, which was mixed so well into Around The Fur, and was so similar, that I’ve been inadvertantly writing about that one as well, so everything I said about Around The Fur counts for Rickets as well. Adding, however, that it does also work as a seperate song, so don’t ya worry ’bout that.
The second single from the album, Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away) adds a much needed sense of variation after the extremely samey Rickets. Though just as heavy as the rest of the album so far, Be Quiet And Drive omits the aggression for a far more “out there” experience, which is felt most predominantly in my main man Chino’s vocal performance. This serves as a much welcome break from the unrelenting aggression of Around The Fur (and Rickets, I guess) while not losing any of the momentum that has built up in the album. The wailing guitar heard here and there adds to the vocals perfectly and the drumming, again, is snare-heavy and just as good as it as it has been in songs like Around The Fur and Lhabia.
Bringing back the overwhelming sense of “urrrrrrrrrrAAAAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” is Lotion, one of the heaviest, unrelenting and best songs on the album. Opening with an extremely short riff similar to Be Quiet And Drive, the song leads you to think that it may be another mellower one. However, just as that thought enters your mind, Deftones plucks it out again and punches you in the throat with this unholy bastard of a song, in a good way. Utilising what can only be described as a dirty guitar and bass combo and a whole bunch of screaming, Lotion to make me want to kill a deer.
Riding that wave punchy punchiness is Dai The Flu, which is another heavy nu-metal flavoured number with just as much screaming and similar riffs and drumming which, though perfectly fine in short doses, can get a bit deabilitating and can wear you down in bulk. It’s not all bad, however, as this song is a lot more bass-oriented, giving it some sort of variation, and has some interesting chord progressions in the bridge and chorus parts.
With aggression rivaling that of Lotion, Headup was written as a way to vent grief that Chino Moreno was feeling at the time, and it definitely shows. It has a feeling of hatred throughout and that each lyric is said with pure venom, with guest vocals from Max Cavalera of Soulfly being the source of all of the, you guessed it, screaming. Though it has an extra edge to it, Headup, to me, sounds just like the rest of the album, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does make you lose interest.
The final song, MX, is 40 minutes song. So no, I can’t be assed. It’s probably very similar to rest of the album anyway.
Overall, Deftones’ Around The Fur is one of the better nu-metal albums out there. There is an abundance of good things going on instrumentally, with some awe-inspiring drumming being a standout for me. Chino Moreno’s vocal performance follows a very definite pattern, that’s fer sure and it isn’t exactly a wide vocal range, but it goes well with instrumentation. However, that same instrumentation suffers from sameyness, as it wears you down in a block listen, that being said, they have a unique sound and a gnarly mixture of guitar and bass.
Lots of hugs, kisses and lacerations