On several occasions I have heard Deftones speak of how the speed in which Diamond Eyes came together is core to its strength – an epiphanous stream of creativity much akin to the way in which their Around the Fur album was produced, which was written and recorded in a mere four months back in 1999. The difference is that Around the Fur is an extremely strong record, carrying over all of the spontaneous, jammed-out energy of the rehearsal room and thrusting out an absolute gem of an album at the end of it all (aside from the abysmal collaboration with Max Cavalera in “Head Up”). Diamond Eyes feels rushed in comparison; immediately forgettable for the most part, with a seemingly autopilot attitude to the riffs and composition. With a couple of exceptions, these tracks would barely qualify as a bunch of White Pony B-sides.
It’s a real shame, considering that “Rocket Skates” – first premiered back in February – sounded very promising indeed, relentlessly locked into a rhythmic gallop and largely consisting of a simple two-section tag-team, flicking back and forth and riding on the formidable momentum of downtuned groove. It’s here that the compositional immediacy works an absolute treat and it’s certainly the album highlight. Deftones haven’t “rocked out” in this manner since the aforementioned Around The Fur, and considering the band are still enduring the serious injury and prolonged recovery of bassist Chi Cheng, it’s fantastic to see them powering through with such positive energy within their songwriting and performance.
So why does the rest of Diamond Eyes sound so frustratingly stagnant and distracted? For a band with so much experience and achievement littering their back catalogue, the opener and title track kicks off with a bizarrely uninspired chugging guitar, resorting to the kind of lurching riff employed by those that Deftones left in the dust back during the nu-metal takeover. Elsewhere, “Prince” utilises a melody and high-hat displacement inexcusably similar to “Rx Queen” from White Pony, whilst “Beauty School” tries to recreate the lumbering, blissed-out distortion perfected throughout their self-titled release, settling for a rather lifeless and feeble crescendo instead.
But to be fair to Chino Moreno, his vocals are extremely strong throughout. Where high notes were strained and auto-tuned on previous album Saturday Night Wrist, he effortlessly dominates his range here. Finale “This Place Is Death” is a prime example, flitting between pretty ethereal moans and the full-scale screams of a man triumphantly on vocal form, and in fact it’s only during this last track and “Rocket Skates” that Deftones demonstrate the kind of quality expected of them. Here’s hoping that Eros – an album which neared completion in 2008 and was temporarily shelved for later release – manages to set the band straight again.