Deftones Discography Part 6: Diamond Eyes

Today, for the final installment of my foray into the Deftones back catalog, I am reviewing their latest disc, Diamond Eyes, released on May 4.

Diamond Eyes by Deftones (2010, Reprise)

Tragedy can do two things to a band – break them up internally and destroy their creative knack, ultimately leading to their implosion, or what Deftones have done through Diamond Eyes – channel their distraught into one of their tightest, most focused, and most brilliant albums ever.

Most know by now what has happened to Deftones – bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a car accident after the recording of their unreleased album Eros, and to this day remains in a minimally conscious state.  The band, rather than pack it up, scrapped the album, to be released on an indefinite date, got a new bass player, and began work on a new album, which became Diamond Eyes.   The left turn seemingly was out of respect for Chi – the band obviously couldn’t release music they made with him without him – and the music itself probably doesn’t accurately reflect the band’s current state of mind after such a traumatic event.

It was a good idea, but would it work?  When something like this happens, some bands understandably call it quits, go on hiatus, or just disappear without announcement.  Other times, when the band decides to trudge on, they release unfocused music, samey and without merit, and always received with sympathy from the music community.

In short, Diamond Eyes delivers, and more.  Expectations might be low, but they shouldn’t be.  The band clearly has refocused their energy and delivery, and recorded what could arguably be described as their best album yet.  It certainly is their best since 2000’s White Pony.  The album packs a punch from the start – it feels like good ol’ fashioned Deftones with an extra punch to the gut. The title-track opener, “Royal,” and “CMD/CTRL” kickstart the disc off with a thunderous boom of flawless riffs, howls, and anthemic choruses.

Vocalist Chino Moreno delivers his pitch-perfect croons and ear-busting screeches with a gusto not found on previous works in the past decade.  Lead single “Rocket Skates” is a prime example of the power Moreno has been hiding in his lungs.  The vibes are positive throughout, and not just through Moreno’s uncanny, yet undeniably strong, lyrics, but also through the ensemble behind him.  The entire album is highlighted by an unbreakable structure of songwriting and near-flawless delivery, especially from Moreno and drummer Cunningham’s backbone cadence.

One can only imagine what the band has gone through the past couple of years after Cheng’s accident, but we can get a glimpse of their psyche through Diamond Eyes – and it is one of positive, resurfaced energy and power.  What tragedy has done to this band can be compared to no other – they sound like a new band.  Deftones are seasoned veterans of metal at this point, and, for the first time in a while, they completely sound like it.

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