Kickin' up

Since 1995, the Deftones have steadfastly established themselves as one of the new-school leaders of the hip-hop nation/aggro-rock world. Originally accused of being a poor man’s Korn, the band defied all odds by securing a huge touring base for themselves through their relentless roadwork. In the past five years, the Deftones have also released two gold-selling records, Adrenaline and Around the Fur.

That was then.

With the hugely anticipated June 20 release of White Pony, the Deftones are on the cusp of becoming one of the first truly important aggro-rock bands of the millennium. A sprawling 12-song monolith, White Pony reaches a maturity level only hinted at by their previous two releases, and one that will certainly change people’s perceptions of what this band is all about.

Blending together a vast array of influences (singer Chino Moreno is a huge Cure and Depeche Mode fan) with the huge Bad Brains/Slayer-inspired guitar riffs of Stephen Carpenter, the band kicks things off with "Feiticeira." Immediately apparent is Terry Date’s crystalline production which perfectly synthesizes the band’s sound, while at the same time separating Chino’s haunting voice from the rest of the mix. To its credit, the band takes a lot of chances here, as "Elite" kicks and swerves like a Rage Against the Machine riff gone loco and "Teenager," a bizarre, Cure-sounding, looped triggered anomaly puzzles with each repeated listen. "Knife Party" kicks off with a U2-inspired riff only to shift down into a psycho-phant bridge replete with crazed female voices. "Change" (the first single) and "Passenger" are the album’s two cornerstones. "Change" is a monster and perhaps one of the finer songs the band has ever written. Moody, eerie and buried in multilayered guitar textures, the track is guaranteed to become a fan favorite.

"Passenger," a collaboration and duet with Maynard (Tool, Perfect Circle) veers into Police territory and coincidentally rolls over into a dirge reminiscent of Tool, only to later explode into a magnificent Maynard-led chorus.

White Pony may be the best hard rock record you’ll hear all year. The road and hugeness awaits.

The Deftones rock the 89X Birthday Bash at Phoenix Plaza Amphitheater in Pontiac this Sunday, June 25, with special guests Eve 6, Elwood, Joydrop and Uncle Cracker. Doors at 3 p.m. Call 313-961-MELT.

John Franck writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].