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Deftones
DEFTONES

First time you hear it, it sounds like a brilliant statement of intent. As the guitars swing from an atmospheric spider's web of circular riffs to some gorgeously melodramatic power chords and singer Chino whispers a nightmare of insecurities like Robert Smith mumbling in his sleep, a stern voice intones "You are listening to the new Deftones". The point is clear: for their fourth album, Sacramento's doomiest have left nu-metal behind for rather more emotional territory.

Then the voice says it again. And again. And again. And continues to do so for every thirty seconds for the duration of the record. Which is when you realise: this voice won't be on the album that turns up in the shops. This is The Man's latest way of battling the supposed evil of bootlegging, journalists clearly being the prime perpetrators. As you can imagine, it's f*cking annoying. About as annoying as a review that reminds you what it's doing after every paragraph.

"You are reading a review of the new Deftones album."

But the voice still has a point. This is the new Deftones. One that the band have been edging towards ever since 'White Pony'. This transformation is best realised on the single 'Minerva', which ushers in the hitherto unimagined new genre of metalgazing. Someone's been listening to a lot of My Bloody Valentine during their time off. A bit of Chapterhouse too. And while on paper this combination probably sounds like hell on earth, in reality it's breathtaking: the slow, sludgy crawl of the metal guitars bleeding perfectly into Chino's blissed howl.

"You are reading a review of the new Deftones album."

The rest of the album doesn't manage to match these spectacular new heights, sadly, but there are still plenty of impressive moments. 'Hexagram' mashes a Radiohead-esque sense of grand insecurity into a System Of A Down thrash. 'Deathblow' could almost be lifted from 'Pornography', The Cure's dense study of claustrophobia and depression. Robert Smith is clearly a huge influence here, one that's probably been with Chino and so since the very start. Only now are they starting to turn it into something worthwhile.

"You are reading a review of the new Deftones album."

But something's still nagging. Metalgazing - where have you heard that concept before? And then, listening to the tortured ambience of 'Good Morning Beautiful', it strikes you. It's the Catherine Wheel. Not the Catherine Wheel of 'Black Metallic', although the Deftones nod towards that model several times. But the Catherine Wheel that went to America, blended some heavy rock into their epic melodicism, and sold a whole heap of records. F*ck were four guys from Norfolk responsible for inadvertently transforming American metal?

"You are reading a review of the new Deftones album."

Probably not. But it's a nice thought. As for the here and now, 'Deftones' isn't the band's career high. They need to write an entire album of songs as great as 'Minerva' for that to happen. But it is an important leap forward for one of the few American metal bands left who care about the form's emotional evolution. Don't call it metal's answer to 'OK Computer' or even 'The Bends'. But keep your eye on Deftones as being the one band who could get there in the future.

"You are reading a review of the new Deftones album."

Oh, for f*ck's sake!

Ian Watson


 


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