By Peter Hemminger

Here are three facts that bear some examination:

a) A self-titled album usually heralds a band with something to prove.

b) A metal band with something to prove will typically resort to a hollow shriek-fest to prove they are not "soft" nor will they ever become "soft."

c) "Deftones" is the new, self-titled album from, well, the Deftones. Most people would agree that they are, in fact, a metal band.

Before leaping to any rash conclusions, I will draw attention to the words "usually" and "typically," as they are important in this case. The Deftones are not a typical metal band. Yes, they do play distorted guitars and yes, singer Chino Moreno screams as often as he sings. Song titles like "Deathblow," "Battle-axe" and "Bloody Cape" do nothing to dispel the metal image, nor does the giant skull on the cover of the album. So maybe I should repeat, the Deftones are not a typical metal band.

The band understands that moments of sonic assault are much more dramatic than sustained periods of the same. Long periods of hushed beauty add tension to the mid-tempo and make the loud almost unbearable. More importantly, the singer understands this too. More so than almost any other vocalist in memory, Chino uses his voice as an instrument first and a voice second. It flirts with melody without succumbing to it, it carries the emotion of the words even when the words themselves are not clear, which is often, and it somehow manages to make mumbling and minor keys unbearably sensual. If nu-metal can be sexy, then this is sexy nu-metal.

What Deftones isn’t, though, is a progression from their previous album. After 2000’s excellent White Pony, the Deftones had little to prove. For some reason they felt inclined to prove it. Thus, the first few tracks are a little scream-heavy for my liking, though the single "Minerva" more than makes up for it. None of the songs on this album would have felt entirely out of place on White Pony, which is a bit of a shame. A band can’t be faulted for doing what they do best, but I can’t shake the feeling that the band should be beyond this, should be breaking even more new ground. A small complaint, considering how far ahead of their peers they already are.

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