The Deftones' Chino Moreno is one of those singers who can go from a whisper to a scream within a breath. Given the violent roar from Stephen Carpenter's guitar and powered by the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Chi Cheng and drummer Abe Cunningham, the Deftones are nothing if not dramatic.
Launched in Sacramento, the Deftones soon became club favorites. Basically a Hard Rock outfit, they also incorporated Hip-Hop elements (the name is a play on their influences) and became early adapters. A demo taped passed to KoRn's producer landed in front of Madonna. The Material Girl signed the group to her Maverick label.
After being together for seven years, the Deftones released their first album in '95, the heavy and sonically dense, "Adrenaline." That was followed two years later by "Around The Fur" containing "My Own Summer (Shove It)" and "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)." A self-titled album was released in '03. It failed to impress critics and was deemed "spotty."
For their '06 effort, "Saturday Night Wrist," the Deftones worked with legendary producer Bob Ezrin. They also had System Of A Down's Serj Tankian perform on "Mein." In its first week of its release, led by the single, "Hole In The Earth" (one of the set's better songs), the album sold 67,000 copies to land at #10 on the Billboard 200 chart.
On November 3rd, '08, Cheng was hospitalized following a serious car accident in Santa Clara, CA. He was listed in "serious but stable condition" and remained in a coma. As a result, the Deftones remained largely inactive. But a few months later, it was announced that the group would play the Bamboozle Left Festival in Irvine, CA. "Chi always wanted to keep working and never slow down, which is why we feel confident in returning to the stage," said a statement from the group. "We want to make sure we're keeping his legacy alive." Longtime band friend, Sergio Vega, filled in for Cheng.
In May, '09 the group updated Cheng's prognosis in an online post. "Chi was released from (the intensive care unit) and is no longer on any sort of life support," said the message. "His symptoms continue to improve so keep the prayers coming." The previous month, Cheng spoke his first words but then suffered a setback brought on by an infection.
There were benefit shows in L.A. to raise funds for Chi and the Cheng family. In addition to the Deftones, P.O.D. and Cypress Hill performed along with members from Linkin Park (Mike Shinoda) Incubus, Metallica (Rob Trujillo), Children Of Bodom (Alex Laiho) and System Of A Down (Daron Malakian, John Dolmayan and Shavo Odadjian).
The Deftones sixth studio album, "Diamond Eyes," was originally slated for a May, '10 release but the date was moved up two weeks after the entire album was leaked online. Produced by Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver, Marilyn Manson) the album had Vega again filling in for Cheng.
"Koi No Yokan" (Japanese for "Premonition Of Love"), was recorded in L.A., again with Raskulinecz. Moreno described the '12 album as "dynamic" and noted increased contributions by Vega.
Despite showing signs of improvement, Cheng passed away on April 13th, 2013.
By the time the eighth album rolls around some bands are running on fumes, while others try new directions.
Moreno described "Gore," as "a little more of a heady record." He added that it was not a "happy record," but also "not a completely angry." Originally slated for a September '15 release, the album was slowed by prolonged work on the mixes, album art and song titles.
Turned out, this course alteration was not universally accepted. Carpenter had a difficult time "getting into" the songs. Still, he contributed. But he made it clear he favored Metal over the Deftones' ethereal leanings. Interestingly, Alice In Chains Jerry Cantrell played on the '16 album.
Carpenter dismissed the idea of leaving the band he co-founded but stated that it seemed the band was leaving him during the "Gore" sessions.
Despite the unsettled situation, the album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 (kept out of the top spot by The Lumineers' "Cleopatra"). It was the band's highest-charting effort since their self-titled third album went to #2 in '03.
1997 Around The Fur
2000 White Pony
2006 Saturday Night Wrist
2010 Diamond Eyes
2012 Koi No Yokan
The Deftone's atmospheric Rock, reminiscent at times of KoRn, had a major impact on fellow musicians. Much of what the Deftones initially laid down became the standard Nu Metal template. Moreno's eerie yet acerbic vocals are the passage way to the group's dark, haunted world.
Groups can often be self-indulgent and get too wrapped up in loops, samples and other effects. It's up to the producer to rein it all in and spare the listener these numbing trips. But the producers often just let it roll.
When the Deftones focus on their strengths; songs with distraught themes and powerful performances driven by a tight, focused bombast, the rest takes care of itself.