The Deftones have always been a perpetually marginal group, notable for little more than a pair of engaging singles, some scrupulous rap-rock, a prominently propulsive drummer, and a vocalist who somehow managed to attach mainstream sensibilities to dynamic emo sentiment and screeching metal caterwaul. With the advent of White Pony, the third album from the Sacramento quartet, the Deftones establish themselves as a reborn assemblage of masterful tunesmiths and sonic scientists, creating a progressively aggro bond between Helmet’s disciplined bluster, Aphex Twin’s unrestrained audio landscaping, and the Cure’s swooping, darkly textured temperaments. White Pony speaks volumes about the emotive qualities of a stellar production, allowing guitars to flail, crash, burn, and flicker in a self-contained plane of existence, comprising the washed-out wallpaper, interspersed tics, white noise, and disembodied melodies accompanying vocalist Chino Moreno’s administrative antics and drummer Abe Cunningham’s unrelenting guidance.
Moreno has evolved into one of alterna-metal’s most emotional figures, allowing the shrill outbursts and windy, distorted scat of Mike Patton or Jon Davis to fall openly between the grandiose plunges of velvet fluidity of Greg Dulli or Dave Gahan. But the parallels to synth-pop don’t end with Moreno’s Depeche freshness. The production’s combination of tinny dissonance and sheer opulence is metal machine music straight off Violator, the drum production often takes a brief detour on Kraftwerk’s autobahn, vocoder effects land Moreno and crew on Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock,” and the single “Change (In the House of Flies)” sounds deliciously like an un-ironically belligerent reinvention of INXS’ “Mystify.”
If post-new-wave “future’s-past” construction was proven to be decidedly ’00s on the new No Doubt record, the Deftones spearhead the trend while lunging forward, allowing their creative synth-throwbacks to play side-saddle to the static of the beats generation. Cunningham’s drumming often takes center stage as a brilliant reflection of today’s most advanced sounds in the Cash Money stutter-step of “Digital Bath,” the syncopated Nine Inch Nailing of “RX Queen,” or the reserved jungle techno of “Teenager.” Through an ear to the future and feet planted unrepentantly in the past, the Deftones find the sultriest, funkiest, slickest, and majestic elements in the angriest of places.
Maverick Recording Company, 9348 Civic Center Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210; http://www.maverickrc.com