The 21st century proved a tough battlefield for many '90s alt-metal and nu-metal bands. Corpses of deceased and irrelevant nu-metal bands line the depths of Internet radio (and the side stages at many music festivals looking to draw crowds in their 30s and 40s), but a few bands are still going strong from the time period.
Among those brave few is Sacramento-based five-piece Deftones, who happen to be rolling through Orange County for a sold out show on Friday. There's no question that the band that started in 1988 still remains relevant today. Here are 10 reasons why.
Outside of bassist Chi Cheng's coma and death, Deftones have used the exact same personnel since they started in the late '80s. With so many nu-metal bands getting rid of expendable parts and focusing the band around one or two original members, it's nice to see a band that's actually played together since day one.
9. They're understandably angry. So many nu-metal (and other metal) bands always sound like they're yelling at you for no particular reason. Deftones never seemed quite as inexplicably angry as many of their counterparts, and vocalist Chino Moreno always did a great job with the melodic singing parts between the aggressive breakdowns. When Moreno's screaming, you know it's something worth screaming about.
8. "Cool people" were never their main audience. It's pretty rare that you hear some bros talking about Deftones these days. Maybe there were some back in the '90s, but Deftones has never seemed like a band who wants to capture the mainstream partying demographic. Nerds, outcasts, and loners are much more likely to support a band for over two decades, and Deftones are certainly living proof of that. When you think about it, it could mean that the next generation of hipsters will all be walking around in Deftones shirts.7. They never took time off.
in 1995, Deftones' longest break between full studio albums was four years (2006-2010), during which they dealt with the loss of Cheng from the band. Even when they haven't been putting out new music, Deftones have toured for the majority of the last two decades (and even before that). In a world full of bands who constantly hate each other and break up, it's nice to see five guys that seem to get along well enough to make music consistently.
6. They laid off the rap-rock. Nu-metal became synonymous with the terrible rap-rock sound of the '90s (and Linkin Park), but Deftones only released a handful of songs that really fit into that mold of "rap the verses and scream the chorus." For that matter, had Deftones gained popularity a decade later, they probably wouldn't even be categorized as nu-metal at all, but they all might've had those terrible screamo haircuts.
5. The poetic lyrical imagery. Reading through most nu-metal lyrics is like deciphering an angry note from a toddler (who suddenly learned how to curse). On the flip side, one of the things that truly separates Deftones from their contemporaries is the vivid (though often still vague enough to be relatable) lyrics used in many of their songs. Compared to the backwards hat-wearing lyricists of so many '90s bands, Deftones lyrics read like absolute poetry.
4. They're musically solid. Never underestimate the importance of actually being able to play an instrument and sing/scream on a professional level. From top to bottom, Deftones put together a sonic package that most bands can't touch. They might not have that one standout member who'll go down in rock history on his own (although Moreno is very good at what he does), but they all work together to create high-quality music time and time again. To compare them to another (even more) outdated metal band, they're kind of like Iron Maiden in that regard.3. Chino Moreno always seemed smart.
Not only is Moreno one of the top metal vocalists of all time, but he's also never seemed like an idiot on the level of so many of his contemporaries. Aside from his intelligent lyrics, Moreno never got in trouble for doing something incredibly dumb (like fighting in a Waffle House), and always seemed to have intelligent opinions when interviewed about everything from politics to his dislike of dubstep.
2. Their songs had actual messages and content. So much nu-metal was written about wanting to fight, rock out, or get laid that it's a refreshing change of pace to listen to a lot of Deftones songs. While some bands just repeated their desire for violence and/or sex, Deftones covered social issues on both a local and international scale. They brought actual problems to the forefront of their music, rather than doing it all for the nookie.
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While no one ever confused nu-metal for being particularly art-driven (although, Deftones are definitely one of the more intelligent bands, as previously mentioned), many of the top bands decided to change up their style to find something a little more marketable as nu-metal wore out, or they tried to put out the one catchy song to sell a billion records while it was at its peak. Deftones never did that, they just kept making the same distinctly Deftones-sounding music. People hate when their favorite bands sell out, so Deftones no doubt kept the bulk of their fan base by staying true to themselves.