Sound — 9
There's so much to be said about Deftones' latest, Diamond Eyes, which isn't about the actual music contained on the album, yet directly relates to it. The platter was written and recorded after bassist Chi Cheng suffered a tragic car accident, which rendered him comatose and eventually in a minimally conscious state. The band shelved the album that they were working on, dubbed Eros, and then started from scratch and came up with Diamond Eyes, which follows the confused, confusing, and sadly, forgettable Saturday Night Wrist. It's hard for me to make that statement, since Deftones are one of my all time favorite bands and The White Pony is my favorite album of the '00s, thanks to its perfect storm of heavy and pretty. No joke. But with Diamond Eyes, this is probably the heaviest the Sacramento band has sounded since 1997's essential Around the Fur. With former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega coming aboard to handle the strings of the rhythm section for Cheng, Deftones layer granite-heavy riffs with plenty of impassioned vocal ambience. The two opposing forces collide in a quiet-loud monster of an album, which is, well, what the 'Tones are known for. The title track opens the album and it's got requisite, low-end crunch combined with Chino Moreno's emotive vocals, which enjoy the crispest production in the band's catalogue. And so it goes for the rest of Diamond Eyes, with Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter going mano y mano with their respective styles, which are two qualities, hallmarks and signatures that have marked all Deftones efforts. Moreno croons (and girls swoon) while Carpenter's heavy artillery adds heft to the music by the tonnage. "Royal" and "You've Seen the Butcher" could have veritably been written during the Around the Fur sessions, but that's certainly not to suggest that they are like B-sides, outtakes or leftovers from a past era. Rather, the band comes across as though it were inspired by itself, circa the late '90s, with Diamond Eyes. The music is similar to the Around the Fur period, but it's not a step backwards. Carpenter's love for aggressive music wins the battle here, with loads upon loads of muscular guitars taking center stage for the whole of Diamond Eyes. "Rocket Skates" blasts with intensity and it'll have you tapping out as though you just went a few rounds with Georges St-Pierre and had to tap out from the beating he administered. Yes, it's that heavy.
Lyrics — 9
As stated previously, Carpenter is truly the technician of Diamond Eyes, making sure the album doesn't drift an inch from metallic territory. Moreno is his foil and what these two pull off is impressive. And always has been. While Moreno screams on "Rocket Skates," "CMND/CTRL" and "Prince," his dreamy, feminine vocals also serve as a crucial part (and Carpenter counterpoint) of Diamond Eyes. His singing is a direct and opposite reaction to Carpenter's low end action. His often cryptic lyrics which can offer many meanings to many people with their poetic vagueness- remain as they always are. When he barks, "Guns! Razors! Knives" throughout "Rocket Skates," we are inclined to sing along with him, for whatever reason he makes that instruments-of-violence declaration. Moreno's an adept, artful lyricist, whose words aren't obvious or easy to digest and that's the mark of a talented writer: to keep you guessing, to make you think for your own and to come up with your own meaning. His sexy singing of lines like "I like it when you take off your face" is like a gravitational pull from which you can't escape.
Overall Impression — 9
With Diamond Eyes, Deftones pull off a lot of things. Deafening, eardrum scorching music and a neo-new wave melodicism co-exist in both harmony discord. This polarism is what made the band so appealing when they first appeared on the scene with Adrenaline. They've continued to push the limits of their quiet-loud dynamics and while The White Pony was the perfect specimen, Diamond Eyes captures the best elements of Around the Fur and The White Pony without sounding too much like either. It's the product of both, not the connector of the two. Deftones are not trying to get back to the old days with new songs; they just inspire and influence themselves. Diamond Eyes really is a diamond with rough cut edges.