November 16, 2006

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Deftones, Saturday Night Wrist
Maverick, 2006

Following the jarbled mediocrity of their self-titled fourth album, Sacramento's Deftones have returned three years later with their fifth offering, Saturday Night Wrist. Shifting the sharp riff and meathead moshing days of the band's debut to the career-defining elegance of 2000's White Pony, Deftones are a band that have been fortunate enough to entertain a massive fan base while they matured.

Many underground heavy bands in the ranks of Mogwai or Pelican have begun exploring ambient tones matched with crushing riffs. Deftones have smartly avoided dating themselves by following suit. Among their fans and critics, they've always been noted for incorporating sonic exploration with their signature sound of Slayer meets the Smiths.

As was the case with the last record, singer Chino Moreno wasn't present a great amount of the writing for the album. Here, it's obvious due to the odd placing of his vocal patterns over what is otherwise a unified song. Let's just call it the Morrissey effect. It's a growing attraction. After half a dozen listens nearly every song on this long player grows into hummable ditties as you stand in line for a coffee.

The aptly titled instrumental "U, U, D, D, L, R, L, R, A, B, SELECT, START" proves the band has never been tighter musically. Saturday Night Wrist overall will function as a suitable introduction to a new legion of fans for the band. The songs that don't work are sadly the heavier tracks "Rapture" and "Rats! Rats! Rats!" that exist solely to instill credibility within their older fans. Standouts are the Smiths-meet-Failure track "Cherry Waves" and the high-tempo "Mein" (featuring a seemingly hypnotized or constipated Serj Tankin on background vocals).

With each new record the Sacramento quintet have managed to release a departure from the musical norm at the time. Here Deftones have wisely traded in their moshibility for lush ambient tones and magnification of melody. Despite its minor faults, the spacey Saturday Night Wrist is a welcome break in mainstream heavy rock. It's hard to discredit a record of this caliber coming from a band well over a decade into their professional career. B+
Sean Joncas