Deftones - White Pony
Maverick Records
Alternative Metal
11 songs (49:02)
Release year: 2000
Deftones, Maverick Records
Reviewed by Al
Archive review

Gather round children, it’s time for your sinister old uncle Al to tell you a story. A story involving metal, awakenings and large amounts of fame, money and sex with supermodels. A piece of that introduction might very well be a lie, I’ll leave it up to you to discover which.

It was the late 90’s and a pivotal time in my musical development. I was about 15 and after years of listening to what I’d now politely term as ‘absolute f*&@%$& garbage’ I’d slowly started to wake up to other musical genres and possibilities. There was never one single album that got me into metal, I got there slowly first via punk and grunge, then later by a mix of mainstream metal acts, some old and some new. It was around this time that I first heard the Deftones via their ubiquitous mainstream hit My Own Summer. While on first listen it never set my world alight, I liked the riff and after a few more inadvertent listens I decided to pick up the album the track was from, Around the Fur. As far as my own musical discovery and personal enjoyment were concerned, it turned out to be a damn good decision. Not only had I picked up an album I very quickly fell in love with I had also discovered a band that would later rank among my favourite acts and a band which planted the first seeds of my later obsession with odd song structures and general weirdness / wankery. The far more raw and slightly more nu-mettalish Adrenaline soon followed which I also enjoyed with much head banging gusto.

For those of you who don’t know, the Deftones were formed a lot earlier than most think, formed originally in 1988 by vocalist Chino Moreno, guitarist Steve Carpenter and drummer Abe Cunningham and later joined by bassist Chi Cheng. After many years (6 to be exact) of playing small shows and paying their dues the musical landscape had altered and what they were playing was suddenly in vogue. They scored a record deal and their debut Adrenaline followed a year after. While their sound seems to morph in some form with every release, the constants have always been Moreno’s vocals, which switch violently between a hushed half whispering, half singing approach and piercing screams, and Carpenters often unusual riffs which again veer from atmospheric and ethereal to crushingly heavy.

This brings me to the subject at hand, the Deftones 2000 release White Pony. It took both critics and fans (myself included) by surprise, but the surprise was a pleasant one. While retaining much of what made them interesting on their previous releases, the crushing riffs, the haunting atmosphere and the cryptic lyrics, the band really began to experiment heavily with their sound. For the most part, they slowed things down to a large degree, sacrificing much of the aggression present on their previous efforts for a palpable, haunting atmosphere. Instead of making your body bang its head, the music was now forcing it to break out in goose pimples. For many bands this jarring change could be negative as fans would leave in droves, hating the new direction. But for the Deftones it was different, they had focused in on the aspects of their sound which made them good and different to the rest of the mainstream metal crowd to begin with and amplified and honed them. The result was an album from a band at their artistic peak and it allowed them to become something that many bands strive for and never achieve, utterly unique.

Things were almost destroyed from the get go however courtesy of the band’s record label. As there was no obvious ‘single’ on the release the record company forced the band to record a separate single, one that fit in better with the nu-metal mainstream which existed at the time. This single was Back to School and it was…an utter abomination. The only relation it bore to White Pony was that it featured a beefed up (by way of down tuned riffs) and speeded up version of the chorus to Pink Maggit which is the seven and a half minute slow burner close to White Pony. The Back to School Tour soon followed, on which the band many times point blank refused to play the song. Much to the chagrin of the many 14 year old hoodie wearers in attendance.

Those that saw past this nonsense and actually heard the album were in store for a treat. Every single track is unique in some form and there are many highlights. After kicking off with the excellent Around the Fur era sounding Feticeira things rapidly slip into unusual directions. The following track, Digital Bath, slows things down and by way of haunting ambience and one of Moreno’s finest vocal performances clues the listener in to the fact that they are in for something special. From there the album goes from strength to strength and particularly shines in its second half. Knife Party captures a similar tone to Digital Bath and throws some pretty unbelievable glass shattering female opera vocals into the mix. Passenger features Maynard James Keenan from Tool on guest vocals and is possibly the finest thing the band has ever done. It is then promptly followed up by ‘true’ single Change (In the House of Flies) an absolute masterclass in brooding atmosphere and quiet / loud aesthetics. This is all finished off by Pink Maggit, which is approximately 10,000 times better (give or take) then its bastardised version, Back to School.

Many people class the Deftones as nu-metal and I’m sure there are many reasons for this. Their touring affiliations with Korn and Limp Bizkit, some of their singles (Back to School in particular), Adrenaline and the fact that their fame was at its peak during the nu-metal era. Those people are also flat out wrong. I’m sure if many of these people put their mainstream prejudices aside and took the time to listen to this album or anything the band has released since I can guarantee that some of them would change their mind pretty sharpish. This is a band that now has an 18 year career (11 if you count their first album as the start) under their belt and if rumours are true may not be around for much longer. This album is the ideal starting point for the uninitiated and a must have for even casual fans of the band. If on the other hand you hate them that’s all well and good. Just make sure you hate them for the right reasons and are not simply writing them off for the nu-metal or mainstream factors. That aside this album, in my eyes, is a future classic.

Killing Songs :
Digital Bath, Passenger, Change (In the House of Flies) and Pink Maggit
Al quoted 93 / 100
Goat quoted 95 / 100
Other albums by Deftones that we have reviewed:
Deftones - Gore reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Deftones - Koi No Yokan reviewed by Khelek and quoted 87 / 100
Deftones - Around the Fur reviewed by Tyler and quoted 80 / 100
Deftones - Diamond Eyes reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
Deftones - Deftones reviewed by Goat and quoted 83 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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