The sad case of recent Deftones albums is the story around the work is more interesting than the work itself. Case in point is an unfortunate car accident that has left bassist Chi Cheng in a semi-conscious state (coincidentally, the band’s earliest riffs were born while guitarist Stephen Carpenter was in a wheelchair following a car accident in the mid-‘90s) after recording Eros, a full length the band decided to shelve before recording Diamond Eyes.
Or you could point to the label drama and rotating producer lineup of Saturday Night Wrist. Or the long period of no communication between singer Chino Moreno and Carpenter in the wake of their critical and commercial landmark White Pony, which ended up carrying over to their self-titled. The band always seemed to be on the verge of its own destruction.
As it stands, Diamond Eyes is a safe, simple record, full of riffs from the gut and with little self-reflection. Only a few surprises are sprinkled throughout the album, such as the cleverly syncopated ‘90s rap-rock-esque guitar riff in “CMND/CTRL,” and while the characteristics of the Deftones remain—drummer Abe Cunningham’s unique snare/hi-hat work, Moreno’s half-nasal phrases, screams and croaks, and Carpenter’s thick, octave-dependent guitar style—the songs are disappointingly passable. Underused turntablist Frank Delgado is only given time to shine on small sections, like “Prince,” with little room between the tree trunk sized open notes on songs such as the title track or lead single, “Rocket Skates.”
If anything, Diamond Eyes shows that the Deftones can, when they try, put out a reasonably good record to tour behind and support in short order, and keep some of their longtime fans even back from the Adrenaline days happy. But for those who are still waiting for the California rockers to push the boundaries of the alt-metal scene further in the vein of White Pony or continue to experiment will be once again let down.