This Day In Music History: May 20th, 2003 – Deftones balance experimentation with high expectations on ‘Deftones’

Expectations, especially when it comes to art and music, are interesting things. You can either rise above the weight of expectations and let the burden fuel you, or that same burden can put a nail in your proverbial career. Even the most successful bands in history have had internal and external issues that affected their subsequent albums in both positive and negative ways.

These expectations couldn’t have been more descriptive for a band like Deftones. The alt-metal band were certainly saddled with them after the success of 2000’s White Pony, and while their 2003 self-titled album may not have been White Pony II like many fans wanted, the record is much better off not duplicating their arguable magnum opus.

For a record that supposedly disappointed many people, Deftones is actually a very good album. It contains a foreshadowing of some of the traits that would become staples on later Deftones albums. For instance, the band’s shoegaze influences are more apparent than they were on White Pony. Take a track like the gorgeous, shimmering “Minerva”, for instance. Its haunting, emotive soundscapes with Chino Moreno’s vocals combine with atmosphere to create something truly special – one of the band’s best songs of their career. It’s difficult not to feel connected to songs like this – or the trip-hop influenced “Lucky You” – because of the atmosphere and the emotion they draw out in the listener. At least that was the goal.

Of course, it’s not like this is a soft record. Deftones will indeed bludgeon you over the head with incisive and destructive riffs like the ones on “When Girls Telephone Boys” and “Bloody Cape”. Combined with Moreno’s improved screaming and the obviously on-point talent of drummer Stephen Carpenter and the late Chi Cheng, you have a diverse record that is even better upon repeated listens.

Deftones is still a pretty solid record, all things considered. Many bands, if they released this, it would likely qualify as their magnum opus. Almost 2 decades later, it still holds up pretty well – and despite a few disappointing moments like album closer “Moana”, it’s still worth plenty of listens today.