Even though the ongoing reappraisal of nu metal has recognized that era as a significant cultural moment, Sacramento band Deftones still manage to catch a bad rap. Sure, they came up as part of the same movement as Korn and Limp Bizkit, and they toyed with some dated, aggro rap-rock on a couple songs in their early days—minor infractions that forever saddled them with the nu-metal label. But the only people who can actually complain about the band have never really listened to them. Deftones play a sort of hybrid of alternative metal and dream pop, sounding like Helmet fronted by Morrissey or the moody love child of Faith No More and the Cure.
Deftones have even nodded to shoegaze and postrock: “Cherry Waves” (off 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist) is just as creamy and heart-wrenching as anything My Bloody Valentine has ever released, while “Mascara” (off 1998’s classic Around the Fur) could pass for a lost Slint demo. Hell, if Deftones’ 1998 single “Be Quiet and Drive” had picked up a bit more airplay upon its release, it could have usurped “Everlong” as 90s radio rock’s most ubiquitous post-shoegaze emotional banger. Deftones have attempted a slight reinvention with each of their records—on 2000’s White Pony they got moody and dynamic, and on 2016’s Gore they added some djent-inspired eight-string guitar. But they’ve never strayed too far from the formula that’s made them one of rock’s most enduring and consistent bands—groovy, absolutely slamming rhythms; incredibly heavy, chunky guitars; swaths of dreamy synths and sound design; and Chino Moreno’s gorgeous, crooning vocals. Their latest record, Ohms, released smack-dab in the middle of the pandemic, streamlines all Deftones’ signature moves into their most stripped-down and direct set of songs in years.
Deftones, Gojira, VOWWS, Fri 5/27, 7 PM, Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island, 1300 S. Linn White, $38-$79, all ages