If it weren’t for the fact that their albums still tear up the Billboard charts, I’d call Deftones underrated. Ten years ago, the group was unfortunately lumped in with nu-metal mooks, even though they had more in common with My Bloody Valentine and The Cure than they ever did with Limp Bizkit. So to that extent, the band has never gotten the full appreciation they deserve, even though, a decade later, music has finally gotten hip to the ’tones’ sound. While they’re not exact copies, acts like Envy and Jesu have shown a similar knack for wedding metal riffs with experimental ambience and emotional lyrics while avoiding screamo melodrama.
Still, though, Diamond Eyes feels like a comeback album. That’s because it’s been four years since the group’s last album, the not-quite-awesome Saturday Night Wrist. It’s because the group is rallying around fallen bassist Chi Cheng, who’s been in a coma since a Nov. 2008 car accident. And it’s because this is Deftones’ best album since White Pony, and maybe even their best overall.
On the surface, Diamond Eyes sounds exactly like every Deftones album. Metal riffs turn to shoegaze while frontman Chino Moreno emotes with his powerful, otherworldly voice and surreal lyrics. This time out, the group sounds a little more ethereal. But even when they bring the heavy, like opener “Diamond Eyes” or single “Rocket Skates,” there are subtle differences. Deftones don’t have much use for a DJ anymore.
Deftones have always been a band of meeting points – metal, goth, shoegaze, and post-hardcore are in the mix – and Diamond Eyes may very well be the best distillation of this sound. Maybe it’s because they’ve been away for a while, but Deftones sound awfully vital in 2010.