The Deftones formed in the late 1980’s, but didn’t release their first real C.D. until 1995. This album, “Adrenaline,” was very heavy, raw, and energetic. In 1997, they released “Around the Fur,” another heavy album, and one that helped the Deftones step out of Korn’s shadow. “Adrenaline” and “Around the Fur” were two of the first ever nu-metal albums, and many modern nu-metal bands have cited the Deftones as an influence, but these albums’ sales did not compare with the good reviews they got from critics.
This C.D., the group’s only to go platinum, is when the Deftones really came into their own, because with their third album, the Deftones seemed like they wanted to slay the horse they rode in on. It’s about 10 times less heavy than “Adrenaline” and “ATF,” and the hip-hop influence is all but eliminated. The Deftones despise the “nu-metal” label, and have tried hard to get rid of it. I believe “The White Pony” isn’t rap/nu-metal; I’d call it more of an alternative or progressive or melodic metal album. Some of the Deftones’ past seeps through into some of these songs (as you’ll see below), but, for the most part, this sounds like a completely new band. The new sound alienated some old-school headbangers, but, since this is the Deftones’ most accessible and easy-to-listen to album, it also attracted many new fans. I’m not sure if Chino and Co. would have made this album if their two predecessors, the heavier albums, were more popular, but “The White Pony” is very smooth, melodic, atmospheric, and often pretty.
When writing this album, there was some commotion amongst the band members (particularly guitarist Steph Carpenter and singer Chino Moreno), but the result was an album that’s probably the second best C.D. to be released since the year 2000 (second only to Tool’s “Lateralus”).
1. “Back to School”: One of the disc’s three singles. “The White Pony” was originally released without this song, but the Deftones re-released it a few months later, and “Back to School” was included. Even though there is some proper singing, this song mostly consists of “Adrenaline”-esque riffs and rapping. It’s the second heaviest song on here, but that makes it not a very good representation of the album as a whole. It’s funny that “Around the Far” had a song about summer, and this album has a song about returning to school.
2. “Feiticeira”: Even though it has a fairly fast opening riff and fast pace throughout, Chino’s clean singing makes this song not very heavy. (That is often the case with this album, actually; the music is sort of hard, but Chino makes it keeps it melodic.) This song is lyrically interesting; it’s about a kidnaping scenario.
3. “Mechanical Bath”: This song, especially the beginning, is among the most pretty, soothing, and atmospheric that the Deftones have ever written. It has very spacey sounding guitars, but this song is mainly vocals and a slow drum beat. The choruses are still hard, and the song gains momentum and ends with some guitar riffs. Lyrically, this song is about a sexual fantasy Chino has, which involves a woman taking a bath; thus, a few seconds of this song sounds like water dripping from a faucet.
4. “Elite”: The Deftones throw us a curve ball for track four, by writing their heaviest song ever. This song’s relentless guitars and energy, and raging, robotic vocals should make for a great mosh pit. “Elite” is definitely a personal favorite, even if it is a little bit out of place.
5. “RX Queen”: The verses of this song have some guitar strings that make a “ner ner” sound, but this is mainly a melodic and very spacey song. This song has more hard choruses, which create a good friction between the verses and the choruses. Pretty much just one drum beat runs throughout this song, and it ends with some whispering.
6. “Street Carp”: Another example of a song which has a few riffs and is fairly fast paced, but it is ultimately only semi-heavy.
7. “Teenager”: An absolutely breathtaking song with great singing. It was originally a song by Team Sleep (Chino’s side project), but the Deftones adopted it. There are some light, repetitive guitar strings, and what sounds like a distant drum beat, but “Teenager” is mainly music made from turntables. If I could describe this song in one word it would be “b-e-a-utiful.”
8. “Knife Party”: This song begins with light guitar strumming, but then the riffs become heavy, and briefly create a crunch. Chino sings “I could float here forever/we can’t touch the floor;” lyrics which might refer to being high off of drugs. And those lyrics are very fitting because this song makes you feel like you’re among the clouds. The verses are very leisurely, the song gains speed in the choruses (where Chino repeats the line: “Go get your knife”), and then the beat comes down a few notches, near the end, where some awesome female vocals are included.
9. “Korea”: The lyrics to this song don’t really make sense, but all is forgiven because “Korea” has a bouncy rhythm with some heavy riffs and throaty yells.
10. “Passenger”: This one opens with some swirling, sweeping noise. Some parts are hard, and the choruses are riff driven, but the drums are much slower than the guitars. Tool’s Maynard James Keenan guests on this song; he and Chino trade off singing lines in the verses. Since this song is about driving, it sort of echoes “Be Quiet and Drive,” except “Passenger” has a chorus which is more likely to get stuck in your head, and it ends with what sounds like a piano.
11. “Change”: “The White Pony”’s most popular single (and, actually, the only Deftones song I’ve ever heard on the radio). The soft strumming and “breathing” (which is made possible by DJ Frank Delgado), makes the beginning of this song sound fuzzy; like it is being played through an old radio. Add some more good singing and sci-fi lyrics, and this is another very atmospheric, and at times eerie, song. The verses are so restrained, you can almost hear Chino breathe in at one point. And Chino sings very well in the choruses; he extends the words/syllables (particularly the end of the word “fly”), and holds the same note for a while.
12. “Pink Maggot”: The most mellow song on this record. It’s almost a capella, except for a few occasional strums, until about the three minute mark, when the guitars and drums speed up and Chino sings lyrics which are from track one, “Back to School.” This song, and the album, ends with a sluggish thumping noise, which sounds like a baby’s heart beat.
–And here’s a review for “Boys Republic,” if you got the version of “The White Pony” that has an extra track at the end of the album: This track is decent, but it’s nothing spectacular. It’s fast paced and has some more OK riffs, but it ends too soon and isn’t as catchy or memorable as the rest of the album. It’s only worth spending extra money for this song if you’re a diehard ‘Tones fan.
This album’s follow up, 2003’s “Deftones,” returned the Deftones to their heavy, riff based roots. I don’t want to say heavy metal is what the Deftones are best at, since this album was so breathtaking, but it is, evidently, the type of music that comes naturally to them. That’s partially why “The White Pony” is so special–because there will probably never be another album like this by the Deftones…or any band!
In conclusion, “The White Pony” is one great ride. You don’t have to like the rest of the Deftones material to like this, because this is not only very mature, unique, and breathtaking, it is also one of the best C.D.’s of the new millennium. I recommend it to anybody who loves music.