Deftones are rightly hailed as one of the most influential alternative bands of the contemporary era. Formed in Sacramento, California, in 1988, the band’s lineup changed on numerous occasions during their first five years before finally settling on the classic lineup of frontman Chino Moreno, guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bassist Chi Cheng, and drummer Abe Cunningham.
This stability allowed the band to craft their sound, which they quickly established as one of the most visceral and experimental in the alternative scene. They added keyboardist and turntablist Frank Delgado in 1999 in a decision that helped to move their sound away from what critics lazily hailed as being solely indebted to Faith No More, lumping it in with the ‘nu-metal’ scene, and into a space all of their own creation. A development that was confirmed with the release of the 2000 album White Pony.
Even though to fans it was already clear that whilst Deftones were greatly inspired by Faith No More, they also took their cues from 1980s acts such as The Cure and Depeche Mode, ’90s alternative heroes Hum, and heavier acts like Meshuggah. After the release of White Pony, the band hit their creative stride and created a more complex sound, that tied their wide breadth of influences together in a way that was unprecedented for metal.
Across the 2000s, the band would go from strength to strength, building on each release by adding different textures and production techniques into the mix. By the turn of the 2010s, they had established themselves as one of the most important alternative acts of all time, continuing to release stellar albums. In truth, they’ve never released a dud, so there’s no surprise that they have remained so influential, managing to have a transformative impact on the realms of pop, indie, and metal, a testament to their mastery.
So without further ado, we’re ranking Deftones’ albums from worst to best.
Deftones’ albums from worst to best:
9. Adrenaline (1995)
This will probably irk some Deftones fans, as the band’s debut is a classic in its own right, but musically and production-wise, it is dwarfed by its successors. One of the more groove-metal and post-hardcore leaning titles in the band’s back catalogue, the album packs a real punch and features cuts such as ‘7 Words’ and ‘Bored’.
When asked about what caused the album’s breakthrough success, the late Chi Cheng displayed the self-belief that would carry the band through to the present day: “One word: perseverance. We’ve been together for almost eight years, on the road for two and we do it with honesty and integrity – and the kids can tell”.
8. Ohms (2020)
The band’s most recent album, Ohms, is objectively great. The last to feature bassist and Quicksand legend Sergio Vega, stylistically it is most similar to Saturday Night Wrist and Koi No Yokan, with the alternative rock influences very clear, courtesy of Stephen Carpenter’s busy riffs, which contain flecks of J. Mascis and John McGeoch.
Although the record leans heavily on dream pop and shoegaze, there’s still the influence of heavier groups such as Fantômas and Meshuggah alive and well, as the thunderous ‘Genesis’ confirms’. This is the sound of Deftones who know exactly what they’re doing, and it has us excited for their next.
7. Gore (2016)
Another somewhat contentious take, Gore is a highly underrated record, and it is criminal that it gets so overlooked in the band’s discography while other records steal the limelight.
Fusing the djent influence of Meshuggah with more spacey influences such as Cocteau Twins, it’s an interesting listen as you hear both sides of Deftones’ music – the punishing metal and the ethereal beauty – in total symbiosis. They dovetail to create a sound like no other.
Single ‘Doomed User’ is the best example of this. Carpenter delivers some classic thrash metal bar chords during the verse, as well as one of his most pounding riffs, before everything ties itself together in the chorus, with Chino Moreno’s vocal delivery simply astounding.
6. Diamond Eyes (2010)
Since it was released in 2010, Diamond Eyes has been a fan favourite. Something of a stylistic successor to 2003’s self-titled album, there is no real down point, which surprised everyone given the absence of long-term bassist Chi Cheng following what would prove to be his fatal car crash in 2008. The incident tragically left him in a semi-comatose state before he passed away due to cardiac arrest in April 2013.
However, the band could count on their friend Sergio Vega, who slotted in seamlessly. And whilst playing similarly to Cheng in the sense that he loves to bend his strings and plays with his fingers, he brought something new to the fore, and during this period the band got even more melodic as the track ‘Sextape’ affirms. Alongside that cut, there are a plethora of other standout moments such as the atmospheric ‘Beauty School’ and the unrelenting ‘Rocket Skates’. ‘You’ve Seen the Butcher’ is also a masterpiece.
5. Saturday Night Wrist (2006)
Personally, Saturday Night Wrist is my favourite Deftones record. I remember being bought it for my 10th birthday, which I imagine was from the local Woolworths. However, it had to be included in this spot, as it’s only fair, but there are only minutiae that separate it and the following entries.
It’s an incredibly consequential album given the context. Moreno’s drug addictions and crumbling marriage inspired many of the songs, the recording and production lasted nearly two years which strained inter-band relationships, and it is also the last record to feature Cheng before his accident. Despite all the environmental factors working against it, it is a miraculous record.
Featuring cuts such as ‘Hole in the Earth’, ‘Rapture’, ‘Cherry Waves’, ‘Mein’, ‘Rats!Rats!Rats!’, ‘Beware’ and ‘Kimdracula’, again, the album is without a downside. Each member is on top form, and drummer Abe Cunningham delivers some of his most dynamic moments, helping the band to take it to elevate themselves. System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian also features on ‘Mein’, so what’s not to love?
4. Koi No Yokan (2012)
On another day, Koi No Yokan could well have been further up the list, and I can think of around four of my friends who’d have this at either first or second. Perhaps the most dreamy album the band have released to date, this is unsurprising given that the title is taken from the Japanese “恋の予感” which translates literally to “premonition of love”.
Moreno labelled the album “dynamic”, and he was accurate in his assessment. Much of this has since been attributed to the increased contributions of Vega, who introduced the band to the Fractal Audio Systems Axe-Fx preamp/effects processor, which allowed them to “bring Fractal into hotel rooms and run it into software and record ideas and flesh them out later”.
Incorporating elements of groove and doom metal, as well as shoegaze, dream pop, and post-rock, Koi No Yokan never gets old. Whether it be ‘Swerve City’, ‘Rosemary’, ‘Entombed’, or otherwise, be prepared to be whisked away into an enchanting neverland.
3. Deftones (2003)
The band had the task of their career on their hands in producing an adequate follow-up to what is ostensibly hailed as their magnum opus, White Pony, and they responded as any band worth their salt would do, with ease. One of their most eclectic and dynamic works, there are flecks of trip-hop and doom metal here, and it feels incredibly heady because Delgado ditched his turntables for synthesisers.
From ‘Hexagram’ to ‘Good Morning Beautiful’ to ‘Bloody Cape’, the album features some of the band’s most affecting moments of the era. However, the most significant across its 47-minute duration is undoubtedly ‘Minerva’. Complete with an iconic video shot near the Salton Sea in California, the track invariably sends shivers down your spine, and the mix of Cunnigham’s drums is just exquisite.
2. Around the Fur (1997)
Around the Fur is a classic, and is well-deserving of its place on the list, but I suspect that this will also be something of a polarizing choice, but you cannot deny the importance of the album, as it features some of the band’s heaviest and best-loved tracks.
This is the record that confirmed to many that Deftones weren’t just a ‘nu-metal’ band, a tag they always rejected. Just because the record contains hues of groove metal, and Moreno’s percussive form of delivery is similar to Mike Patton’s, it is so much more than that.
Brimming with wonderful moments, ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’, ‘Lhabia’, ‘Headup’, ‘Rickets’ and ‘Around the Fur’, are just a few that instantly spring to mind, and the unfettered energy of the album is infectious.
The highlight is ‘Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)’, showing the world that Deftones were different from their peers. Merging their brand of groove metal with shoegaze, since it was released, ‘Be Quiet and Drive’ has been one of their most influential cuts, and it’s not hard to hear why.
1. White Pony (2000)
White Pony had to pip the others to the top spot because of what it achieved. Produced by Terry Date, this was when Deftones truly arrived, and their experimental side was brought to the fore. Blending post-hardcore, trip-hop, shoegaze, metal, and even prog together to create one life-changing experience, it is indicative of Delgado’s impact on the band that this was the first album to feature him.
The band concentrated on the craft of writing songs, and the monumental shift that the album represents has since been attributed to ‘Change (In the House of Flies’), where the band started working as a genuine unit. Regardless of the pressure, the band were faced with to deliver a follow-up to Around the Fur, they took their time, and it shows. Cheng said: “We didn’t feel like we had anything to lose, so we made the record we wanted to make.”
Moreno wanted to bring an element of fantasy into his lyrics, saying: “I basically didn’t sing about myself on this record. I made up a lot of story lines and some dialogue, even. I took myself completely out of it and wrote about other things. Once I did that I was able to sing about anything I wanted to, I could be a lot more general. There’s a lot of stuff on this record that people are going to question me about, and I can just remove myself from it. It’s not me. I’m writing a story here.”
Every track on the album is a masterwork. ‘Digital Bath’, ‘Change’, ‘Back to School’, ‘Knife Prty’, ‘Street Carp’, ‘Passenger’ and ‘Pink Maggit’, are just some, and whilst they’re all stylistically similar, they all bring something different to the party, a testament to the artistic genius of Deftones.