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Music / Deftones

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Related Acts:
  • Sol Invicto (Carpenter)
  • Kush (Carpenter)
  • Team Sleep (Moreno)
  • Phallucy (Cunningam)
  • Decibel Devils (Delgado)
  • The Bamboo Parachute (Cheng)
  • Quicksand (Vega)
  • ††† (Moreno)
  • Palms (Moreno)
  • Saudade (Moreno)

Deftones is a metal band formed in 1988 in Sacramento, California. The band has been comprised largely of the same core members for its entire career, with the exception of bassist Chi Cheng, who had to be replaced after being seriously injured in a car accident in late 2008 which he unfortunately never fully recovered from, remaining in a semi-conscious state up until his death on April 13, 2013.

The band's distinctive musical style is often disputed by their fans, and trying to categorize them will result in a lot of backlash. Specifically, much of the band's music has a lot in common with nu metal (particularly their early work), including the vocalization (a mix of screams, whispers, spoken word, melodic singing and occasional rapping), the use of turntables for additional instrumentation and sound development, plus syncopated, riff-based instrumentation (although there is a lot of experimentation and complexity in many of their songs).

However, fans argue that Deftones "isn't really nu metal" because of the lack of angst, or claim that they're "too good" to be a nu metal band (though most will agree that their debut album Adrenaline fits, or at least "Engine No. 9"). Adding to the dispute is the band's diverse influences and mix of an abundance of styles, including alternative metal, alternative rock, dream pop, shoegazing, grunge, hardcore punk, rap, new wave, emo, progressive rock and rap metal. Their music could fall into any number of categorizations as a result.

The band's magnum opus is generally considered to be either White Pony or Diamond Eyes by fans and Koi No Yokan by critics. The band is generally considered an influence on nu metal, even with the debate over whether or not they belong to the genre, and many bands in the genre have cited them as an influence, including Trope Maker Korn and Trope Codifier Limp Bizkit.

The name "Deftones" was coined by guitarist Stephen Carpenter, and is a portmanteau of the hip-hop slang term "def" (which was used by artists like LL Cool J and Public Enemy) with the suffix "-tones" (which was popular among 1950s bands such as the Delltones and the Harptones), while also being a pun on the term "tone deaf".



  • Chino Moreno (vocals, and guitar starting with White Pony) (1988–present)
  • Stephen Carpenter (guitar) (1988–present)
  • Abe Cunningham (drums) (1988–present)
  • Frank Delgado (turntables and keyboards) (1997–present)


  • Chi Cheng (bass) (1988–2008, died 2013)
  • Sergio Vega (bass) (2009–2021)


Studio Albums:

  • Adrenaline (1995)
  • Around the Fur (1997)
  • White Pony (2000)
    • Rereleased in 2020 as a double album with a remix album titled Black Stallion remix album and without "Back to School"
  • Deftones (2003)
  • Saturday Night Wrist (2006)
  • Diamond Eyes (2010)
  • Koi No Yokan (2012)
  • Gore (2016)
  • Ohms (2020)

Other releases:

  • Live (live album; 1998)
  • Back to School (Mini Maggit) (EP; 2001)
  • B-Sides & Rarities (compilation album; 2005)
  • Covers (compilation album; 2011)
  • The Vinyl Collection: 1995–2011 (compilation album; 2011)
  • Live: Volume 1 – Selections from Adrenaline (EP; 2013)

Through... the haunted trope in your eyes:

  • Alternative Metal / Alternative Rock: Hard to tell. Many think they aren't the latter, though.
  • Avant-Garde Metal: They have gravitated towards this, beginning with White Pony and getting even more bizarre with every succeeding release.
  • Auto Erotica: "Passenger", natch.
  • Big Fun / Fat Bastard: Chino used to be a pretty skinny guy; this is what he looked like. But around the time the band's self-titled album released, he looked like this. He has since lost weight, however.
    • For most of the band's run, Stephen Carpenter's been a pretty big guy.
  • Book Ends: The re-release of White Pony placed "Back To School (Mini-Maggit)" at the start of the album, which means that version of the album begins and ends with what are basically different versions of the same song. Though "Back to School" wasn't originally intended to be part of the album, it actually sort of works, especially because Epic Rocking closer "Pink Maggit" takes two and a half minutes to get to the part that "Back to School" was actually based around.
  • Careful with That Axe: Chino has had to cancel tours because of damage caused by heavy screaming. His more recent works may be more violent-sounding than when he began.
    • He screams are more captivating by preceding it with a gentle spoken word whisper, then proceeding to unleash a banshee-like scream. See for example their major hit "My Own Summer (Shove It), Royal, 7 Words, Lotion, just to name a few."
    • Also the song "Knife Party" has a bridge that features a woman singing wordlessly, that turns into a woman screaming frantically.
    • The chorus for "Rocket Skates".
    • "When Girls Telephone Boys", by the time the fadeout begins Chino is practically squealing.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Quite a few songs on Adrenaline, but particularly "7 Words" and "Engine No. 9".
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Done heavily with the B-Sides and Rarities release.
  • Cover Version: They've covered: "Savory" by Jawbox, "Wax and Wane" by the Cocteau Twins, "Simple Man" by Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Sinatra" by Helmet, "No Ordinary Love" by Sade, "If Only Tonight We Could Sleep" by The Cure, "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" by The Smiths, "The Chauffeur" and Nightboat by Duran Duran, and "Drive" by The Cars, among others. Additionally, while not by the Deftones, Chino appears on Korn's cover of Ice Cube "Wicked". The song features Chino rapping the verses while Jonathan scats the chorus.
  • Dark Reprise: Around the Fur's second track, "Lhabia," is one of the slower, more alternative rock-leaning tracks on the album. Later on in the album comes "Lotion," which is one of the heaviest and fastest songs off the album and features an almost identical main riff to that of "Lhabia."
  • Destructive Romance: "Poltergeist", where both parties fight constantly and hate the drama, but also hate to admit that they depend on it to feel whole.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Adrenaline, while possessed of traces of what they would become, was far closer to Nu Metal than their later material (including multiple songs that absolutely fit within that genre, namely "Engine No. 9") and is one of the main reasons that they're still often classified under that genre.
    • Adrenaline is also the only album to feature the guitars in standard 6-string tuning.
  • Electrified Bathtub: "Digital Bath". See the entry for Murder Ballad further below.
  • Emo Music: Heavily influenced by multiple early emo acts (particularly Hum and Drive Like Jehu) and have recorded numerous songs that fit the label (namely "Knife Prty", "Mein", and the bulk of Gore). They have also been a massive influence on the genre, with many acts citing them as one of their main inspirations.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Frank Delgado's work. Most notably used in "MX", which features... watery noises, to begin with.
  • Genre Roulette: Having been influenced by numerous genres, it's no surprise they've made a few songs diverting from their typical alternative metal motif. Such examples include:
    • Nu Metal (Earlier works, like Adrenaline and Around the Fur)
    • Rap Metal (REALLY early work, like a few tracks on Adrenaline, but also on White Pony with "Back To School (Mini Maggit)")
    • Electronic Rock ("What Happened To You" and their cover of The Cars' "Drive")
    • Trip-Hop ("Pink Cellphone," although this could also fit under Electronic Rock, possibly "Lucky You")
    • Progressive Metal ("Passenger," "Knfe Prty," and debatably "Royal")
    • Post-Metal (A LOT of stuff on Koi No Yokan, like "Leathers," "Goon Squad," "Tempest," and "Rosemary.")
  • Groove Metal: Their material showcases significant influences from the genre, most especially the slow-mid tempo, palm muted, and heavily bent riffs that characterize the modern groove sound. They are occasionally listed as part of the genre, but that is if you don't consider them Nu Metal, Alternative Metal or Avant-Garde Metal...
    • The band cites Meshuggah and Fear Factory, two well-known groove metal bands, as among their sizable list of influences.
    • They have likewise been a huge influence to Djent, with the scene's more mainstream acts borrowing many elements of their sound, from their blend of clean and harsh vocals, to their heavy, complex grooves and atmospheric soundscpaes
  • Hidden Track: "Fist" is unlisted on all versions of Adrenaline, albeit still a separate track. "Bong Hit" and "Damone" from Around the Fur are heard after a LUDICROUS amount of silence following "MX".
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: The verses of "Lhabia" and some of Chino's Careful with That Axe moments
    • "Crenshaw Punch/I'll Throw Rocks at You" even has some lyrics officially written as "incomprehensible".
  • Intercourse with You: Much of the band's lyrical content can be construed as such, so much so that a contingent of their fans nickname them "Sextones" and/or "Horny Korn".
    • "Sextape", anyone? The song and subsequent video are somewhat mislabeled, as it is a lot more romantic than the title suggests. Matter of fact, much of Diamond Eyes features sexually explicit lyrics - most especially in songs like "You've Seen The Butcher" and "Rocket Skates". Also "Crenshaw Punch/I'll Throw Rocks at You", "Passenger", "Pink Cellphone".
    • Pretty much any time the word "waves" shows up in the lyrics, with the exceptions of "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event", "Cherry Waves" and "(L)MIRL".
    • "Lucky You"
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: "Knife Prty", both musically and lyrically.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Beware" and "Diamond Eyes" both end with very violent guitar crunches that follow moments of serenity. Beware's lyrics don't help.
    • Don't forget "Bloody Cape" "GOD HELP ME! GOD HELP ME!"
    • "Gore" gives us the title track and "Phantom Bride", the latter being unexpected being that "Phantom Bride" is one of the prettiest sounding songs Deftones has ever made.
  • Lighter and Softer: Gore.
  • Loudness War: Funnily enough considering their appeal lies in their incorporation of experimental, softer elements to Alternative Metal, their albums are completely fucked mastering-wise (even if they don't clip too egregiously).
    • Though their latest album doesn't seem as loud, and is all the better for it.
  • Love Nostalgia Song: "Teenager"
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Inverted with "Needles And Pins", which appears to be an extremely heavy and dark... love song.
  • Madness Mantra: The end chorus of "Pink Maggit".
  • Meaningful Name: The title of Saturday Night Wrist refers to nerve damage commonly caused by drunks falling asleep with an arm draped over the armrest of a chair. Given that the creative process of the album was heavily affected by Chino's drinking and drug problems (which were reflected in the lyrics), it proves to be very fitting.
  • Metal Scream: Chino pulls this off on occasion (mainly on their earlier releases), but the track "Elite" off White Pony is nothing but a Metal Scream.
    • Speaking of White Pony, Maynard James Keenan does this on "Passenger", and Rodleen Getsic on "Knife Prty".
    • "Tempest", from Koi No Yokan, has a great one towards the end.
    • However, the scream near the end of "Royal" has to be the most chilling scream Chino has ever done.
  • Mood Whiplash: Chino can go from a heavenly, choir boy-esque singing voice to a loud, spine-chilling, banshee scream in a matter of seconds, and vice versa.
  • Murder Ballad: Not really a ballad, but "Digital Bath" is about the narrator killing a woman via Electrified Bathtub.
  • New Sound Album: They've done this multiple times.
    • Around the Fur largely shifted away from the overt Nu Metal stylings in favor of post-hardcore.
    • The original release of White Pony dropped all nu-metal/rap metal elements of the band in favour of a more progressive and eclectic sound.
    • Diamond Eyes was the first album to feature 8 string guitars, and accordingly the riffs are much lower in pitch and much heavier than on previous albums.
    • Gore was the closest that they ever came to a straightforward post-hardcore album.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Probably a majority of songs.
  • Nu Metal: Depends on who you ask, really. Their early material certainly could qualify (especially "Engine No. 9", which was a completely straight representation of the genre, as well as the non-album track "Teething"), but as time went on, their increasing eclecticism and general shunning of the genre's tenets arguably disqualified them. Most people nowadays just label them as "alternative rock" or "alternative metal".
  • N-Word Privileges: Averted; the N-word was used in "7 Words". Justified by the fact that it's an anti-racist song.
  • One-Woman Wail: Rodleen Getsic on "Knife Prty". It's kind of hard to miss.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Chino Moreno, when not screaming.
  • Post-Hardcore: A significant component of their style, and the direction that they seem to have moved most heavily towards on Gore.
  • Rap Metal: "Back to School (Mini Maggit)"
    • A few songs off of Adrenaline.
    • Chino's guest appearance on Korn's cover of "Wicked".
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Rats!Rats!Rats!"
  • Serial Escalation: The band becoming progressively weirder every album.
    • From Adrenaline until Koi No Yokan, Stephen Carpenter would write each successive album in a lower guitar tuning. He switched to using 7 string guitars when writing the self-titled album to facilitate this. By the time he was writing music with 8 string guitars tuned to EBEADGBE, he thought that was plenty low enough. In the song "The Spell of Mathematics" from Ohms Stephen put the 9-string guitar (C#F#BEADGBE) to a full use.
  • Self-Titled Album: See above.
  • Something Something Leonard Bernstein: "Headup" and "7 Words" are notable members of this trope.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Occasionally, such as with "MX" (by Abe's then-wife Annalynn) and "Pink Cellphone" (by Annie Hardy)
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: "Teenager", which contained no distorted guitars at all and was mostly based around electronics. They would release several more songs like this afterwards.
    • On the previous two albums there was "Mascara" and "Fist"
    • Their Self-Titled Album has "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event", arguably one of their calmest (and saddest) songs.
    • The acoustic version of Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away) also counts.
  • Take That!: "7 Words" is a Take That! to racist cops, with some unusually (for Chino) direct lyrics.
  • Textless Album Cover: Ohms, and the re-release of White Pony, though the band name and title are on the inside back cover of the latter, and thus are visible through the clear CD tray.
  • The Cameo: A lot.
  • True Companions: The whole band.
  • The Walrus Was Paul: Chino Moreno's songwriting at times can become Mind Screw material.
  • Vapor Ware: Kush, Steve Carpenter's side project with B-Real and a couple of the dudes from Fear Factory. We haven't heard anything on it since 2002, although they were supposedly working on an album.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Bored" in particular, but a lot of their songs have this. Chino Moreno comments on this:
    [Sometimes] my lyrics don't deal with specific topics. I write down on paper the feelings of the moment, it's not easy to explain the contents of the lyrics or give a logical sense to the words.


Video Example(s):


Deftones at Hellfest 2018

The album version of "Elite" already follows this trope, but the band likes to take it to the next level in concerts by having Chino start the song when you least expect it.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / LyricalColdOpen

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