Chino Moreno - Vocals Stephen Carpenter - Guitar Frank Delgado - Samples, Keys Abe Cunningham - Drums Chi Cheng - Bass
Textural, haunting and evocative, the long-awaited follow-up to 2003's Deftones is deceptively tuneful and alarmingly heavy, see-sawing between melancholy reflection and jaw-clenching frustration like a manic depressive refusing his meds. "We really wanted to test ourselves with this record," explains drummer Abe Cunningham. "It's an album that explores a whole spectrum of sound rather than just switching between heavy stuff and light stuff."
Indeed, Saturday Night Wrist incorporates disparate elements of hard rock, heavy metal, punk, psychedelia, classic, alternative and electronic music within its tumultuous grooves. And the band incorporates enough cohesion between the mortar blasts to keep the music cohesive and unified. "Everyone was really focused on what they wanted to achieve individually," says guitarist Stephen Carpenter. "And then collectively, it all came together."
Not only is Saturday Night Wrist experimental and innovative, it overflows with undeniable hooks, which serve as reminders that, first and foremost, Deftones will always be about strong, emotionally resonant songs. The first single, "Hole In The Earth" is an unforgettable soundtrack to a vivid dream, tumbling through a wall of shuddering feedback and into a molten sonic sea before surfacing with shimmering guitars and ethereal vocals. "Xerces," incorporates spare, descending keyboard lines and reverb-saturated guitars into a sweeping, layered soundscape of memory and regret. And "Rapture" is a tense, turbulent assault of angular chords, chaotic beats and horrific screams embellished with warbling keyboard-based textures.
"Our last album was pretty brutal, which was cool, but I think this one has a lot more dynamics," says bassist Chi Cheng, whose elastic playing helps anchor the music. "It really feels like this is a real return for us." Adding to the musical majesty is singer Chino Moreno, whose voice aches, haunts and threatens, and whose cryptic lyrics alternately spark with rage and surrender. "It's the most dynamic record we've ever made," says Moreno. "There are the softer moments along with the more brutal moments, but it's well rounded and cohesive and that makes the album sound like the boundaries are being ripped open. It was just us being more creative. We definitely didn't want to repeat what we had done or follow any formulas we had figured out over the years."
The creative duality and elliptical consistency of Saturday Night Wrist belies the reality that, on numerous occasions during its creation, it looked like the album might never get finished. Right from the moment in 2003 when Deftones starting writing in their Sacramento, California rehearsal space, the process was fraught with anxiety, disagreements, personal dilemmas and commitment issues, making the final product a stirring example of triumph through perseverance. "I think life just got in the way at times," Carpenter shrugs. "We all had to deal with our own shit, and there has been a lot of chaos, but it's all been for the better. It brought us to the point that we're at and right now we're stronger than we've ever been."
Deftones started writing new riffs for the album after finishing their tour in 2003. They bashed around in their studio for a bit, then, in an effort to ignite their creativity, they rented the house in Malibu where Incubus recorded Morning View. There, they recorded some demos then interviewed various producers before hiring Bob Ezrin, who has worked with everyone from Pink Floyd to Kiss.
"We had always worked with Terry Date before and he's become a great friend. But we wanted to go with someone else this time because we felt we needed a kick in the ass," Cunningham explains. "Terry could try, but we've known each other too long to make it happen. Bob really pushed us to get things as good as they could be."
Deftones flew to Connecticut to record with Ezrin, but while many sessions sparked with innovation, the band eventually hit a creative roadblock that was both draining and time consuming. Frustrations escalated when it was time for Moreno to do vocals. Three months into the process, the vocals weren't finished and Moreno had to leave to fulfill a touring obligation with another band. He remained on the road for four months, during which time morale in the Deftones camp reached an all-time low. Ezrin sent the band back to Sacramento to continue working on songs without him, but there was only so much they could do without their singer. By the time Moreno returned it was unclear what was next for the Deftones.
"I didn't feel like we were gonna break up, but I knew we had to make some real serious choices about what we wanted to do," Carpenter says. "I was angry and everyone was unsure what was going on."
To help clear the air, the band's management scheduled a meeting with the Deftones at a Los Angeles hotel. There, the members discussed their problems and figured out how to best navigate the obstacles that had blocked their path. "It could have been so confrontational... luckily it wasn't," Cunningham says. "There wasn't any finger pointing or anything. It was just five men talking, and you could feel the love in the room. It was a really great moment, and we decided at that point to keep moving forward."
From there, Deftones went into productive overdrive. Moreno worked with Shaun Lopez to help finish recording the vocals and the band quickly completed the final song arrangements. "The point where really came back together was when Chino really started focusing on what he was doing," says programmer/DJ/keyboardist Frank Delgado. "The thing is, you can't rush creativity, so anything we're gonna do is gonna take as long as it's gonna take."
Such self-determinism has guided Deftones from the start, and motivated the band to write strikingly original and unconventional music that has inspired numerous artists from various genres to buck the mainstream and take risks.
Each of the Deftones four albums have gone Gold or Platinum and have collectively sold four million copies. Even back in 1988, when Carpenter, Moreno and Cunningham first started playing a hybrid of metal riffs and hip-hop beats, Deftones were unlike any other group. And even though they had lots of room to grow, they were already forging a style that was both truly unique and undeniable.
The band went through several bassists before discovering Cheng. Then, they recorded a four-song demo that got them signed to Madonna's label, Maverick Records. Deftones first album, the Terry Date-produced Adrenaline, came out in 1995 and turned heads with its jawdropping blend of textural atmospheres and crushing power. Exhaustive touring around the world with Ozzy Osbourne, L7 and Korn helped spread the word and before long, Deftones were being regarded as the forerunners of a major new rock movement.
Delgado was added in time for the recording of their 1997 follow-up, the bludgeoning, haunting Around The Fur, which earned the band its first mainstream success. Songs like "My Own Summer (Shove It)" and "Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)" received regular airplay on radio and MTV, and, Deftones cemented their position as the one band that was cerebral and artistic as well as heavy - so heavy in fact, that they blew away pure metal crowds at Ozzfest 1999 with a performance that was every bit as intense as other bands on the bill, including Slayer, Rob Zombie and Black Sabbath.
When they returned from the road, the Deftones started working on the critically-revered White Pony, which was released in June 2000 and debuted at #3 on the Billboard album charts. The album included more experimentation than ever, and incorporated elements of ‘80s European pop as well as rock, metal and atmospheric shading, eventually earning a Grammy Award for Best Metal Vocal Performance in 2000.
If White Pony showed how vulnerable and eclectic they could sound, 2003's Deftones proved they still had the firepower of a small, very pissed off army. The caustic album peaked at #2 on the album charts, and sported the combustive single "Minerva." Deftones supported the disc on the Summer Sanitarium tour, which also featured Metallica and Linkin Park.
With Saturday Night Wrist, the Deftones have combined the brutality of Deftones with the diversity of White Pony and added a new element of sonic maturity and adventurism that can be heard in the cinematic soundscape of "u,u,d,d,l,r,l,r,a,b,select,start," the female stream-of-consciousness rant of "Pink Cellphone," or the caustic clamor and majestic splendor of "Rats! Rats! Rats!" Their temporary state of disrepair from the previous 12 months seems to have vanished into the ether. Today's Deftones have emerged stronger, smarter and more excited as a result of their experience. Saturday Night Wrist is that end result.
The band recently stole the show on the Family Values tour with Korn and Stone Sour, and Deftones plan to spend much of 2007 on the road. "We're all getting along great now," Cheng says. "Everyone's cleaned up his act and is flying straight and the shows have been amazing. I can't see anything getting in the way."