Deftones didn't really have a hard time with their third album, White Pony, since it received generally positive reviews and entered the Billboard charts at number three. However, the class of 2000/2001 nu-metalurgists overshadowed the group in terms of sales, even if they retained greater critical respect and a hardcore fan base, who nevertheless still registered some reluctance in regard to the artier, atmospheric, post-punk edges on White Pony. At first, their simply titled eponymous fourth album seems like a retreat from that territory, since as it opens with "Hexagram" it hits hard -- harder than they ever have, revealing how mushy Staind is, or how toothless Linkin Park is, even if it's a bit of a shame that Chino Moreno has resorted to guttural barking for singing. Deftones continue in that vein through much of the first half of the record, gradually working in more atmospheric numbers as the record draws to a close. That shift in mood has the strange effect of seeming confident at first, and then a retreat, even if the music they're retreating to is, by and large, more adventurous and reminiscent of White Pony. It feels as if Deftones feel compelled to strengthen their metallic roots and will sacrifice the very things that make them better and more interesting than the rest -- namely, their love of art rock, whether it's via the Cure or My Bloody Valentine. They don't abandon this impulse completely -- and when they marry it to their harder inclinations, the results are smashing, as on the lead single, "Minerva" -- which is welcome, since even if the harder stuff is done well (again, better than their peers), it doesn't carry nearly as much promise as when Deftones don't play by the nu-metal reviews. When they do play by the rules, they're good, but they're great when they don't follow a map. Deftones sticks a little too close to familiar territory this time around -- the sound is still good, but knowing that they have done a record like White Pony, this feels like a disappointment, especially because in its unevenness, it sounds like it is the album that should have come before this one.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine