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Sunday Old School: Deftones

Photo of Deftones

Band Photo: Deftones (?)

It's very easy to categorise some bands. One can listen to Obituary for instance and say beyond any shadow of a doubt that they're a death metal band, or turn on a Forbidden song and immediately know that they're listening to thrash. Some groups however, defy definition, whether you love them or hate them. Say what you like, but no one else sounded like System of a Down and there wasn't a band like Primus before or since. Today's featured artists also have a sound instantly recognisable and like the three previously mentioned bands, also hail from California, namely; Deftones.

The seeds of Deftones can be traced to McClatchy High School in Sacramento, where future members Stephen Carpenter, Chino Moreno and Abe Cunningham were students and friends, a relationship which continued into the local skateboarding scene. They began jamming together in Carpenter's garage after Moreno found out that he played guitar, while Cunningham played drums. After a while, they brought in a bassist by the name of Dominic Garcia, who eventually switched to drums after Cunningham left to join Phallucy and as a result, the group found a new bassist named Chi Cheng. By 1993 and following another change in drummer, Cunningham returned to the fold once again, solidifying the familiar lineup of the band.

Following Cunningham's return, the band began making a name for themselves in the live circuits, soon branching out beyond Sacramento and performing in Los Angeles and San Francisco, supporting such other up and coming bands like Korn in the process. While closing for another band, they caught the attention of an executive from Maverick Records and impressed label representatives enough to earn a deal with the company. They headed to Seattle and teamed up with producer Terry Date, who had previously worked with the likes of Pantera, Soundgarden and Overkill among others and recorded their debut album, "Adrenaline" in 1995, releasing it the same year.

"Adrenaline" was initially met with a quiet response, though critics praised the album by and large for its unique sound. After a while though, word of mouth and extensive touring paid off, helping the record to sell better and even grabbing the attention of Hollywood, as the band appeared in comic book movie, "The Crow: City Of Angels," performing a song they contributed to the soundtrack named, "Teething." They returned to Seattle to record their sophomore album, "Around the Fur," once again with Terry Date, following touring and released it in October 1997 and received a very strong reaction from critics and fans alike. The singles, "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" and especially, "My Own Summer (Shove It)" soon became hits among the young rock scene and broke the band into the limelight outside of the United States. The record was also notable for the song, "Headup," a collaboration with Max Cavalera, who had recently left Sepultura and took the name of his new band, Soulfly from the song's lyrics.

Once more, Deftones worked very hard promoting the album, touring thoroughly, appearing at a number of festivals including Ozzfest and releasing a live EP in 1999. After touring was over, the group reconvened and spent four months writing material, which was something of a struggle until they wrote, "Change (In the House of Flies)," which would later become a single from the subsequent album, "White Pony." The album itself was once again the recipient of a number of highly positive reviews and sold almost 180,000 copies in its first week, which saw the record debut at number 3 on the Billboard chart. They re-released the album that same year (2000) to include the popular single, "Back To School (Mini Maggit)," though fans who had bought the previous version of the album were given a free download of the song, making them one of the first bands to make use of such technology.

"White Pony" has been cited as a career highlight among critics and remains of the most popular albums with fans, who helped it achieve Platinum status by 2002 and in 2001, the group were awarded the Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance for the song, "Elite." Despite the recognition and commercial success, the group's relationship with Maverick began to strain as the label fined them repeatedly for missing deadlines while putting together a new album, which was originally named, "Lovers" but ultimately was self-titled. Spurred on by the single, "Minerva," the album debuted at number 2 on the Billboard charts, selling 167,000 copies in the process. It wasn't quite as acclaimed as "White Pony" but nonetheless earned positive reviews and sold well.

When it came time to create their fifth album, Deftones decided not to work with Date again, instead opting for producer Bob Ezrin, who had worked with such bands as Kiss, Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd. The result was the 2006 release, "Saturday Night Wrist," which sold 76,000 copies in its first week and debuted at number 10 in the United States. They once again garnered a generally positive response and embarked on a hefty touring schedule, performing in South America and Asia as well at the traveling festivals Family Values and Soundwave.

Only a year later, the band began work on a new album, which was to be named, "Eros" and the quintet began recording the album in April 2008. As was common, Deftones took their time crafting their work and by the time Christmas was approaching, they had still not finished the album. It was in November of that year that the group suffered an extremely devastating blow, as bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a serious car accident, which left him in a coma and suffering from massive head trauma. In his absence, Deftones brought in former Quicksand bass player Sergio Vega and soon they announced that "Eros" had been shelved indefinitely as it did not represent the band in their current state. A song, simply named, "A Song For Chi" was released in 2009, without any Deftones members but featuring musicians from the likes of Metallica, Korn, Slipknot and Machine Head, to raise money for Chi Cheng and his family.

Now without Cheng, the band returned to the studio to work on their first album with Vega, which surfaced in 2010 under the title, "Diamond Eyes." The release of the album was brought forward by a week to combat the illegal downloading of a leaked copy and was promoted by the single, "Rocket Skates," as well as a North American tour with Alice In Chains and Mastodon. The record received a number of comparisons to their earlier material, particularly "Around the Fur" and was praised by both fans and critics. The next year, the band took part in celebrating Record Store Day with the release of a covers LP, appropriately and simply named, "Covers," which saw Deftones put their own spin on songs by The Smiths, The Cure and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In the summer of 2012, the band announced that they had completed a new album entitled, "Koi No Yokan," with the title coming from a Japanese phrase that translates roughly to "premonition of love," and that it would be released in November through Reprise Records. It received some of their strongest reviews to date and peaked at number 11 in the United States while also entering the album charts in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Hungary. The joy of the success was soon put into perspective however as, despite showing signs of improvement and even returning home, Chi Cheng passed away on April 13, 2013, following a cardiac arrest.

Deftones began recording their next album over sporadic periods in 2014 and 2015, thanks in part to the time Moreno spent with his side project, Crosses. Eventually however, the best material was put together and the result was, "Gore," which was released in April 2016 and like its predecessor, was critically acclaimed. Since then, the band has been out on the road promoting the album, showing everyone that they're still one of the more unique bands in the metal scene and being one of the few groups worthy of actually being called, "alternative."

Deftones - "7 Words"

Deftones - "Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)"

Deftones - "Change (In The House of Flies)"

Deftones - "Minerva"

Deftones - "Hole in the Earth"

Deftones - "You've Seen the Butcher"

Deftones - "Swerve City"

Deftones - "Prayers/Triangles"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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