Vaulting from genre favorites to the big leagues, Californian alt-metal outfit Deftones went from being the cool kid's nu-metal band of choice to a mainstream force with their seminal third album, White Pony. Taking steps away from the hip-hop swagger, rote riffs, and unpolished youthfulness of their early work, the band delved into their sonic toy chest, experimenting with atmosphere and effects, tightening their songcraft, and boosting Chino Moreno's pure singing vocals. The result was an artistic breakthrough, one that not only signaled a new direction for the band but also -- for better or worse -- cemented itself as arguably their finest work. Bridging their beginnings with what was to come, White Pony placated the hardened metalheads with ripping ragers like "Feiticeira," "Street Carp," and the Grammy-winning "Elite," while expanding their horizons with the midtempo lurch of "Rx Queen" (featuring an uncredited Scott Weiland on vocals) and the haunted haze of "Digital Bath." Whether loud or soft, violent or tender, each track on White Pony serves melody and mood in droves, resulting in the kind of album that is instantly recognizable as a conscious leveling-up. While best known on the charts and MTV for singles "Change (In the House of Flies)" and the bastard child afterthought "Back to School (Mini Maggit)" -- which was crammed in at the behest of their label -- the real meat of White Pony lies in a trio of late-album cuts that kicks off with the searing "Knife Prty," electrified by Rodleen Getsic's terrifying vocals at the close, and extends with the brutal "Korea," which features one of Moreno's most head-caving screams ever put to tape. The album's unnerving collision of sensuality and danger climaxes on the cinematic epic "Passenger," a bone-chilling duet with Tool's Maynard James Keenan that finds both frontmen at peak performance. Hearing the group evolve from 1997's unhinged "Headup" to something like the sparse, electronic ballad "Teenager" is a wonder and, in hindsight, it was clear that things would never be the same again for Deftones. Having tamed the beast, they emerged even more potent and powerful, embarking on a course to become boundary-pushing artists and survivors of the nu-metal era.
White Pony Review
by Neil Z. Yeung