After releasing what many fans and critics believe to be their best effort, White Pony, the Deftones headed back into the studio to prepare their next album. After reinventing their sound on their previous album, the band would need to come back stronger and more focused both lyrically and musically. Would the band continue to grow more melodic? Would they return to their aggressive 90's roots? The end result is a darker and much angrier record than it's predecessor which continues to push the band's sound to new limits. I consider this (tied with Around the Fur) to be the best record that the band has written.
The Deftones begin the record with "Hexagram" and show the world that they have not lost their bite. Shattering the melodic and softer expectations many predicted them to follow from their last record, the band kicks the listener in the teeth with one of the heaviest tracks they have ever recorded. "Pave the streets in whiiiiiiiiiiiiite!" Chino shrieks at a deafening volume over a heavy guitar groove. This track mainly features Chino showcasing his screams and sporadic guitar work by Stephen during the chorus. The mayhem culminates and is completely unleashed during the breakdown at the end of the song. This song is a statement that the group is back in a very big way.
The aggressive sound does not end here. "When Girls Telephone Boys" is not only THE heaviest and hardiest thing I have heard from the Deftones, but also of almost any band. A low volume recording of someone talking plays as the track begins only to have the guitars pummel the listener (it surprised the hell out of me on my first listen) with Chino screaming, but not in his usual fashion. Parts of Chino's vocal performance during this song are more reminiscent of death metal than of anything the band has previously produced. "Something's wrong with you!/ And I hope we never do meet again!" I don't know where this passion and fury came from, but it is all unleashed on this track.
The band also showcases their lighter side on a couple of songs on this album as well. The two most notable examples, in my opinion, are "Minerva" and "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event." "Minerva" was the first single released from the album and features a soft rhythmic guitar riff from Stephen to open the track. Abe's drums kick in with a soft fill before the song really takes off. Chino softly sings over the music helping craft a dream-like soundscape similar to something off of White Pony. "Anniversary" is where the band begins to expand into new territory. This track is piano driven, which is new for the band, as Chino sings about nature and some sort of end between to individuals. It is a soft piece that helps take the band's sound to new limits.
The biggest change in the band's sound on this album is the overall sadness of heavy slow songs such as "Deathblow" and "Battle-axe." Both songs begin with a melancholy guitar-picked intro done by Stephen to perfectly capture the moods of the songs. Of the two songs, "Deathblow" is more out there in terms of lyrical content and is a little softer as well. "And ropes hang/ to keep us all awake!" and "As soon as you came in/ all the beasts went away" make this song a beautiful enigma. "Battle-axe" is a bit sludgier with a longer, more shadowy guitar intro. The verses grind out in a metallic haze as Chino sings about a changed and damaged relationship (my opinion). This is a style I hope the band will later explore again in future albums, as I feel it suits them well and is addicting to listen to.
Finally, the band even has an electronic song on the album titled "Lucky You." Frank is able to shine on this song creating and a dark and beautiful atmosphere tailor-made for Chino's soft, almost whispered vocals. Once again, the band is able to prove that they are able to play more than one style of music without breaking the darkness of the album overall.
I recommend this album to anyone who is a fan of the band or a fan of alternative metal. There is a style for everyone including heavy (Heaxagram), soft (Anniversary, Minerva), Electronic (Lucky You), dark and atmospheric (Deathblow, Battle-axe), extremely heavy (When Girls Telephone Boys), and styles reminiscent to their older albums such as Around the Fur (Bloody Cape). Just by looking at the album cover, you know something dark and beautiful is waiting for listeners. The album even features some great backup vocals by bassist Chi Cheng on "Needles & Pins." Do not pass this album up.
Tracklisting: 1. Heaxagram, 2. Needles & Pins, 3. Minerva, 4. Good Morning Beautiful, 5. Deathblow, 6. When Girls Telephone Boys, 7. Battle-axe, 8. Lucky You, 9. Bloody Cape, 10. Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event, 11. Moana
Personnel: Chino Moreno - Vocals, Stephen Carpenter - Guitars, Chi Cheng - Bass, Abe Cunningham - Drums, Frank Delgado - Sampling and Keyboards