As one of the few modern-day metal bands to attract critical acclaim and strong record sales at the same time, Deftones would seem to be doing something radical, but its secret can be boiled down to simple melody. Even on 2000's inventively diverse breakthrough White Pony, the group wielded a guttural guitar whump as its dominant means of expression, but Deftones knew well enough to offset the attack with minor-key swirl and Chino Moreno's wise tendency to sing as well as shout. (It's amazing how few bands have discovered that moments of prettiness and quiet reflection actually make heavy music sound heavier.) That said, the Sacramento outfit's self-titled fourth album does scale back the sonic expansiveness, leaving a collection that periodically sacrifices subtlety for sculpted efficiency, especially in its laser-focused first half. As a result, the record as a whole is less rewarding than its predecessor, though its peaks rival any in the genre. The My Bloody Valentine-influenced "Minerva" mixes woozy gentility with brutal force to powerful effect, making it one of the best singles the nü-metal revolution has spawned, but its impact is dulled by a few too many tracks like "When Girls Telephone Boys," a numbingly sludgy stomp whose sense of mischief fails to extend beyond its title. Still, Deftones' back half finds the group again broadening its horizons, most notably on the dizzyingly ambient, goth-informed seether "Lucky You" and the quietly brooding "Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event." Even at its least ambitious, the album outclasses most of its peers, so its high points stand as cause for celebration.

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