10 lesser known Deftones songs that everyone needs to hear
It’s an odd thing to talk about Deftones’ lesser known songs. Yes, they have had some huge, era-defining singles over the years, but the truth is they have always enjoyed what most of their peers could only dream of: a fanbase who genuinely pore over their albums as a whole. What’s more, Deftones have also handily collated many of their assorted rarities and covers into not one, but two brilliant compilation albums. Lesser known Deftones songs? Pfft. You could be forgiven for thinking such things don’t exist.
Despite this, however, Sacramento’s finest still have some songs that don’t always get the attention or respect they deserve; songs that haven’t been played live as much as they perhaps could have been, songs that never found a home on an album or that never got an official release, and some songs that were simply eclipsed by the enduring popularity of other tracks. Without further ado, then, here are some of the lesser known Deftones songs that everyone needs to know…
It’s impossible to talk about Smile without first touching upon the events that preceded it. In 2008, bassist Chi Cheng suffered the horrifying car crash that left him in the coma that would ultimately claim his life. At the time of his accident, Deftones were in the process of repairing their relationships; overcoming the communication breakdowns that plagued Saturday Night Wrist to find themselves firing on all cylinders again while working on their next album, Eros. Chi’s tragic accident brought those sessions to an end; the band instead starting afresh with Sergio Vega to record their classic album Diamond Eyes. But while Eros remains unfinished – (“I think it should be out there and people should be able to enjoy it,” Stef Carpenter told K! in 2016, “It’s just a matter of Chino actually finishing the vocals”) – there’s one complete song that has made it out into the world. Released digitally to mark the one-year anniversary of Chi’s passing, Smile is an elegiac masterpiece – the most overpoweringly moving song they’ve ever recorded.
Chino doesn’t exactly mince his words when it comes to discussing 2006’s Saturday Night Wrist. “I hate it,” he told K!.“I don’t feel like it’s me, it’s this unconfident version of myself that doesn’t know what he’s doing.” Despite this damning self-appraisal, it’s a record that contains no shortage of spectacular moments – some of which were rightly saluted upon release (Beware, Cherry Waves, Kimdracula, Combat), and some of which continue to bypass a lot of fans. If one SNW song has been shortchanged the most in this regard, it has to be Xerces. Moving from a concussed verse to a soaring chorus, it’s a song pitched somewhere between hope and grief, one that seems to articulate what it means to truly belong somewhere, and the sweet pain of leaving it behind.
In August 2003, some Deftones fans forked out £1.99 for the CD single of Hexagram. It was probably one of the best decisions of their life. While the frenetic track from Deftones’ self-titled fourth album was an instant classic, it was actually its B‑Side, Lovers, that made it an essential purchase. It’s hard to know what to be mesmerised by most: the sheer jaw-dropping density of its lumbering riff or the gorgeous way it all breaks down into eerie quietude. An inexplicable omission from their eponymous album – despite being touted as the record’s title at one stage – and a borderline criminal omission from their B‑Sides & Rarities compilation, the dark, dream-like strains of Lovers is Deftones operating at the peak of their powers. And it’s still not available to stream. #JusticeForLovers
The Boy’s Republic
White Pony’s cinematic closing track Pink Maggit was a defining moment on a defining record. But for those out there who bought the special edition of their third album upon its release, that wasn’t actually how it ended. Enter: The Boy’s Republic. Moving from industrial clanging to a stunning, molten riff, White Pony’s bonus track deserves much more respect and recognition than it gets. “I don’t know why we didn’t include it,” Chino told K! in 2020. “The only thing that I can think of is when we were sequencing the record, somehow it like didn’t work with it. I love the song.” Between its all-too rare airings onstage (it’s been played live just 14 times according to setlist.fm), its omission from White Pony’s 20th anniversary edition, and the fact that – urgh! – it’s also not on streaming services, The Boy’s Republic is a hidden gem on an album that is already, essentially, one colossal gem.
Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event
Deftones had never recorded a song like Anniversary Of An Uninteresting Event before their self-titled fourth album. And they’ve never recorded one since. The haunting piano ballad – replete with some of Chino’s best lyrics to date – is a firm hardcore fan-favourite, but one that still goes under the radar of far, far too many people. Its slow-burn majesty was the product of Chino tinkering on the piano that lay between the studio’s control room and the toilet. “Every day I walked by and played a couple of more notes, finally I had the whole thing on piano,” Chino told K! in 2016. “I was playing it one day and Stef came out and started playing the drums along with it. Maybe Abe played it on the record, but me and Stef wrote it. It was totally spontaneous in the studio and, honestly, that song might be my favourite Deftones song ever.” To date, it has only been played live once at the Chi Cheng benefit show at LA’s Avalon in 2009.
Smile may be the only Eros track to get an official release, but that’s not to say some of its other material hasn’t been aired in various forms over the years. Though it exists only via live recordings, Melanie – which was debuted at Deftones’ Spaceland show in 2008 – is another tantalising taste of the record they were working on. “You ain’t heard this one yet,” Chino said introducing the track before a sputtering riff, gives way to an ascendant melodic chorus. With its music and lyrics seemingly in place, let’s hope we get to hear the finished studio version one day.
Teething occupies a somewhat strange place in Deftones’ discography. Despite featuring on not one, but two official releases – its original appearance on The Crow: City Of Angels soundtrack and also a live version on Deftones’ Back To School EP – this raging Adrenaline off-cut still feels like it’s slept on. Maybe it’s because they play it live so infrequently. Perhaps it’s just the fact that – again, URGH! – neither its original studio recording or Back To School EP live recording (which features a wild recreation of the chorus of Nas’ Life’s A Bitch) are on Spotify. Whatever the reason, one thing is clear: Teething is a song of such unrestrained ferocity it could shake your teeth loose out of your gums even when played on mute.
Another Deftones album, another amazing bonus track that needs waaaaaaaaaaaaay more love. While Terry Date produced their brilliant debut Adrenaline, it was Ross Robinson (he of super-producer status and lobbing potted plants at Slipknot in the studio fame) that was behind the desk for the album’s hidden parting song Fist. For reasons unclear, it is currently called First on Spotify and YouTube. As incomprehensible as this and its semi-audible lyrics might be, Fist is proof that Deftones didn’t mature into being masters of loud/quiet dynamics; they nailed it right from the start.
A track that was initially a casualty of laziness – not on Deftones’ part, but rather some listeners – Around The Fur’s hidden bonus track Damone emerges 32:36 into its 37:19-long closing track MX. While the dawn of digital music has made it a lot easier to get to its start position instead of scanning through minutes of silence, back in 1997 it meant patiently thumbing the fast-forward button on your CD player to get to it. It was worth it, though, with Damone serving as a perfect distillation of the compelling frictions in their music that would go on to shape (and reshape) the sound of rock music in the late-’90s and beyond.
Let’s end at the beginning. There are lots of fantastic early Deftones songs from their 1993 Like Linus demo, but it’s the scratchy, propulsive riffs and vocal acrobatics of Venison that arguably steals the show. Rough around the edges but in the most thrilling way imaginable, Venison is a three-minute, 16-second rampage. That a song this good didn’t graduate onto Adrenaline is a reminder of just how fucking spoilt for choice they were when it came to making their debut.
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