Aggression was their middle name.
When the Deftones' third album, "White Pony", hit stores earlier this month, many fans were disappointed to find a new, gentler band on the 50-minute disc. The California-based metal band gained national acclaim for their hard sound with the melodic edge of vocalist Chino Moreno in the late 90s, a musical fare that had seemed to die with the 20th century.
While it is true that the anger found on the band's previous albums is less prevalent on "Pony," to say that the Deftones have adopted a new sound is ridiculous. The band uses the same hard, deep, rumbling guitar riffs that have always been there, and the distinctive vocals of Moreno are just as beautiful as ever.
"Pony" simply features a change in tone for the band; many songs start out slowly and quietly before building up to the Deftones' trademark aggressive sound. The first two tracks, "Feiticeira" and "Digital Bath," are perfect examples of this. The rhythm changes quite often under Moreno's singing, moving from low beats to hard and fast chord movements on Chi Cheng's bass.
This, however, is where the compliments stop.
"White Pony" is, to be blunt, an extremely boring album. Half the tracks follow the same exact formula: Sing real pretty over some low, understated music, sing louder over some very loud, very simple music, then go back to the pretty stuff. These tracks are nearly indistinguishable, unless you are somehow capable of making out Moreno's lyrics. His guitar playing is unremarkable at best, and Frank Delgado's presence on the turntables is hard to find.
What is easy to see, however, is that the Deftones are simple creatures. They do one thing well (playing obnoxiously loud heavy metal), but their talents have not reached beyond that genre yet. Tracks like "Korea" and "Street Carp" prove that the band can still produce albums like "Adrenaline" and "Around the Fur," but do fans really want more of those?
While the prospect of another round of "same old, same old" Deftones music may sound unexciting to many, the alternative is much worse. In "Teenager," the band tries to produce a ballad; the lyrics are trite and cliché while the music is nothing more than quiet twanging in the background. Some bands can pull this sound off by putting a different spin on it, but the Deftones do not prove to be one of them. It's music at its worst.
In all fairness, a couple of tracks on "Pony" do stand out as outstanding examples of what "new metal" can be. "Change (in the House of Flies)" is the album's first single and one of its better songs; it uses the old Deftones style of quick rhythm and light vocals throughout the entire song, with Moreno throwing in the occasional growling scream for a harder touch.
Another track, "Passenger," features a guest appearance by Tool/A Perfect Circle vocalist Maynard James Keenan, the most talented singer in hard rock today. The band wrote a long, heavy song for Keenan, and the vocal interplay between he and Moreno is a joy to listen to. It produces moments that are truly beautiful to the ear, something that can not be said for most of the other songs on this album.
While the Deftones are certainly not tone deaf as some have joked, their attempts at musical creativity are almost a Comedy Jam. While aggression in rock music is most certainly overrated and overused, Deftones were the masters of it and would do well to fall back on the sound that made them famous. Stick with what you know, guys.