While I should be doing my office work, I instead want to try my best to write a review for this substantial album from the Deftones. You see, this was the turning point for the band. This release stands out because it’s the divide between furious emotion and brilliant compositions. Whereas the album Adrenaline showcased a young band ready to make their mark with angst and immediate attention, Around the Fur, instead, showcased a band aware of their flaws, structure and lyrical approach, and thusly achieved an overall great improvement in said areas. This is brought to quick notice when jamming the first track, “My Own Summer (Shove It)”. The guitars build up a thick layer of brooding power while the drums pound along to the almost deadly landslide that the band erupts during the breakdown. Bassist Chi Cheng thumps along with a groove that’s catchy yet subtle; and, of course, there’s lead singer Chino Moreno, whose vocal talent is stretched here, but hints at his future present sound (Saturday Night Wrist, Diamond Eyes).
And that’s one of the main things that many people seem to hold dearly to themselves. This was the Deftones still at a young age, but maturing into what they would eventually become. This album was released in 1997 and it shot them into the mainstream public with generous radio and MTV video plays (funny how I don’t recall them at all during this time...). With that, the band was held up high in the alt-metal scene alongside acts like, KoЯn, Coal Chamber and ugh, Limp Bizkit. Still, you didn't have to be a scholar to see that the band was doing something more profound. This should be immediate when you actually listen to the instrumentals themselves. And let’s not forget, Chino Moreno’s unique vocals. When I listen carefully, I think to myself how much this fits in with other artists at the time, which weren't necessarily “heavy” like the Deftones, but just as honest. Think of the year this came out: 1997. That’s the time when '90s-style emo was probably at its peak. The Get up Kids, Braid, the Promise Ring and Boys Life, among others, are always set alongside the Deftones in my book. I know that’s a weird thing to comprehend, but hey, it’s what I take of it.
Oh, so as far as the music goes, it’s punishing, but not that chugga-chugga stuff you might assume. Guitarist Stephan Carpenter is an excellent riff master, what with a style that reminds me of Kevin Shields, Bernard Summer and metal acts like Meshuggah and Fear Factory. The guy can play, and his style is awesome on songs like “Around the Fur” and “Lotion.” He goes from the chaotic to the somber, then back again in a matter of seconds which is one of the Deftones' best trademarks. This focal point is when the band goes from average to unique. Take the track, “Labia.” There is a growing assault ready to happen, but it’s resting until the right moment, and once it does, a sonic overdrive is unleashed. This seems absurd, but it works very well. Heck, bands like Thursday and Glassjaw do the same thing as well as many more. Go there if you want.
Not to skip out on them, the rhythm section will now get its due. Drummer Abe Cunningham adds to the overall mix with a focused pattern that doesn't go beyond what it needs to be. He pounds along to the song structures with a very straightforward diagram of one that knows how and when to “bring it.” His kicks and cymbal bashing accompany Chino’s scream with an almost organic feel adding to the overall ambience. Next to this is Chi Cheng (get well buddy!!!) who thrashes with his bass and brings a youthful notion to the sound. But, there is also a point where his bass adds to the mystique. It paints a picture of sometimes dread and doom on “Around the Fur” and then of passive-aggressive human emotions on “Dai the Flu.”
Lastly is the notion of Chino Moreno's voice and lyrical content. The music is of a personal nature and upon reading some of the songs, there is a heavy amount of reflection as well as depression and guilt. This album was dedicated to Chino’s friend, Dana Wells, who was the stepson of Max Cavalera of Soulfly and Sepultura fame, who passed away. (Max sings on the angriest song, “Head Up.”) You can feel the sorrow and struggle, but also get a brief glimpse of hope and desperation throughout the album. It’s raw and upfront, but that’s what makes it good. His soft Morrissey crooning is erotic and sublime, while his throat-tearing screams recall harsh swims in thorn-covered bushes and acid-drenched showers (huh???).
The Deftones seem to have always been the odd one out of the bunch, but they nonetheless have garnered a very strong fanbase and solid discography. Their strength lies in their desire to be themselves and that is something more bands need to do. Dig it...