We rank Deftones eight albums from weakest to best
It’s prime time to reacquaint yourself with Deftones’ epic back catalogue. Here are their eight albums from the 1995 debut through to this year’s Gore ordered from weakest to best.
8. Adrenaline (1995)
Every nu-metal band has fans in some corner of the internet still denying said band were ever nu-metal, and that’s as true of Deftones as any of them. Their first album, Adrenaline, is the one where the nu-metal was most blatant – it’s the album they were playing on the Vans Warped Tour and when they gigged with Korn, the one where Chino Moreno was still rapping (see ‘Engine Number 9’) and doing some of that Jonathan Davis speaking in tongues stuff and the guitar tone was pure post-grunge. They drew a few influences from further afield like Bad Brains (compare ‘Root’ to ‘Rise’), but mostly Adrenaline is an album of unvaried headbanging with lyrics about being bored and young. It’s good at what it does and better than most of its peers, but it’s still got nothing on their later stuff.
7. Saturday Night Wrist (2006)
There’s a divide in the Deftones between frontman Chino Moreno and guitarist Stephen Carpenter, Moreno pushing the band in different, often softer directions (closer to the sound of his side projects Team Sleep and Crosses) while Carpenter aims them towards riff-heavy neck-snappers. At its best that gives their albums a rise-and-fall rhythm, but on Saturday Night Wrist it made for some jarring clashes. Going from the churning ‘Rats!Rats!Rats!’ to the spoken-word mood piece ‘Pink Cellphone’ could give you whiplash, and ‘Hole In The Earth’ (as close to U2 as they’ve ever come) feels out of place preceding the screaming of ‘Rapture’.
6. Around The Fur (1997)
Second album Around The Fur found Deftones still dabbling in nu-metal – ‘Lhabia’ and ‘Headup’ in particular could almost be Korn – but it also finds them beginning to stretch their legs, as well as Moreno’s vocal chords. Ragged screams alternate with whispering and talk-singing, and in ‘Dai The Flu’ his voice is doubled so he can scream and sing sweetly simultaneously. Songs like ‘Mascara’ show their quiet side for the first time, and although it’s not quite the Deftones we know and love yet it’s a definite step towards it.
5. Diamond Eyes (2010)
The first Deftones album recorded without original bass player Chi Cheng, Diamond Eyes was put together quickly but assuredly. It’s a consolidation of everything they’d done before this point, with riff-monstering like ‘Risk’ sharing space with gently pretty stuff like ‘Prince’ and ‘Sextape’ while the likes of ‘CMND/CTRL’ split the difference. Repeating experiments they’d performed before, Diamond Eyes would still sound adventurous if any other metal band recorded it.
4. Gore (2016)
There’s a tension in the Deftones between their moody, downbeat, after-the-party comedown side and their riff-heavy monsters of metal side. And Gore is the synthesis of these two opposed poles. There are still occasional extremes like the thundering ‘Doomed User’ and the gentle ‘Hearts/Wires’, but more often Gore found a middle ground in songs that felt like comfortable combinations of both such as ‘(L)MIRL’. And from that middle ground they branched out into territory and influences they haven’t explored before – whether the Iron Maiden-esque intro to ‘Pittura Infamante’ or finding space for a Jerry Cantrell guitar solo on ‘Phantom Bride’.
3. Deftones (2003)
Their self-titled album had a lot to live up to, following on from White Pony as it did. ‘Hexagram’ suggested that maybe it was going to backpedal into metal and screaming, even with that string section, but it turned out to still be a diverse-sounding album overall, with ‘Minerva’ in particular not the kind of song the earlier incarnation of the band would ever have released. By this point Frank Delgado had stopped using turntables and started playing keys and synth, though DJ Crook filled that role in his guest spot on ‘Lucky You’. Musically it’s dynamic but there’s a definite mopiness to the songs, an after-the-party comedown sadness that unites these songs.
2. Koi No Yokan (2012)
New bass player Sergio Vega had more input on Koi No Yokan than on Diamond Eyes, and that coincides with the band expanding out into new territory again. ‘Leathers’ could almost be Henry Rollins while the Cure-loving goth side that had always been under the surface erupted on songs like ‘Rosemary’ and ‘Romantic Dreams’. Meanwhile, ‘Swerve City’ is immediately brutal in case you were at any risk of forgetting that Deftones were still a band who could bust out a head-exploder whenever they need to.
1. White Pony (2000)
Opening song ‘Feiteicira’ is far from the first of the Deftones’ creepy stalker anthems, but this time it’s inverted, sung from the point of view of the victim. It sets the tone for White Pony, an album of larger-than-life debauchery and atmospheric strangeness. Frank Delgado became a full-time member of the band with White Pony, and took the opportunity to drench songs like ‘Digital Bath’ in electronic soundscapes like nothing they’d done before.
Chino Moreno started playing second guitar, balancing Stephen Carpenter’s raw noise with simple melodies, and making songs like ‘Teenager’ possible. It’s basically acoustic guitar trip-hop but much better than that description makes it sound. Written when Moreno was 15 it still seems more mature than anything he wrote on the two albums before this, and anything their contemporaries were writing either. This is the Deftones who were covering Cocteau Twins and The Smiths, who referenced Hum on their album cover (and started to sound like them in ‘The Boy’s Republic’). They haven’t bettered it yet and maybe they never will, but one White Pony is probably enough.