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Friday, June 22, 2012

Deftones -- Around the Fur

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9/10

From Around the Fur's album-opening drum-fill, Deftones suddenly launch from decent band to very, very good band. Around the Fur is an alt-metal album(or hard rock, whatever you want to call it) not that far out of the box, and yet it feel light years ahead of everything else around it, like a star burning in its own private galaxy.
"My Own Summer (Shove It) is an album-opening statement of purpose.

Off the bat vocalist, Chino Moreno, shows incredible growth. There is nothing resembling rapping in his voice as he bounces from menacing whispers, to singing, to unearthly shrieks, to more orthodox shouting. The song's guitar riff is catchier and heavier than anything on Deftones' debut. It signifies the start of the band's trademark ornately-distorted, dungeon-like sound they would often feature from here on out (did that not make any sense? Sorry, tough to describe stuff that doesn't really have a landmark). Meanwhile, Chi Cheng comes up with another excellent, flowing bassline, and Abe Cunningham's drumming simply can't be topped in the genre--his rhythm is like a disease...that is easily transmitted, and enjoyable....Cunningham could make a corpse nod its head. Also, DJ Frank Delgado adds texture and atmosphere to the song.  He pops up on several tracks and does excellent work.  Plenty of heavier bands added DJ's in the late 90's to try to tap into the rap-rock market, but Deftones went the opposite route, using a DJ to add subtlety and sophistication to their sound.
Unlike Deftones' debut, Around the Fur isn't all downhill after the opening track. The album has an excellent flow, steadily rocking from song to song, every song setting itself apart. Most of the tracks feature Deftones reaching new songwriting heights, particularly the majestically soaring, "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)," a song most of the band's peers not only wish they had written, but have been ripping off for fifteen solid years.

The triumphant, endless guitar-riff, the victoriously crushing breakdown/fake-ending, the vocalist who sounds like an alien from another planet (as opposed to an illegal one, I guess?), singing mysterious lines like, "I dressed you in her clothes/to drive me far away." Fifteen years and the song hasn't aged a day. And it's sexy.  The entire album is.  Which one of their peers is sexy?  Do they even have any peers?
Lyrically, Chino continues to say things in an unorthodox manner, which is great for those who prefer to have to think a bit. Also, his ability to convey emotion is excellent. "Lotion" is particularly effective, as Chino starts off pissed and by the start of the final verse, is so vitriolic he can barely complete a sentence. It's as great an explosion of anger as has been recorded, and that the Deftones can go from the wistful longing of "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" to "Lotion" in one track, and make it feel natural, is a testament to their talent.

In just two albums, Deftones have gone from promising, to a force to be reckoned with.

FINAL NOTE: I have an affection for "Y2K is going to be the apocalypse" type stuff (RIP Y2K...12 years gone now). The dark love-song, "Mascara," is about as great a conjurer and harbinger of that brand of now extinct dread (the new dread we have now isn't nearly as fun) as one can get.

1997 Maverick
1. My Own Summer (Shove It) 3:35
2. Lhabia 4:11
3. Mascara 3:45
4. Around the Fur 3:31
5. Rickets 2:42
6. Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away) 5:08
7. Lotion 3:57
8. Dai the Flu 4:36
9. Headup (featuring Max Cavalera) 5:12
10. MX 37:18

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