Maverick - 2003 - 47 minutes

Before even hearing their debut albums, anyone who saw the promo videos for Korn's 'Blind' or the Deftones' '7 Words' knew that metal was turning in on itself. The strange guitars, time changes and vocals signalled the start of a whole new order and an entire genre followed in their wake.

In the eight years since, fate has played a game of pluses and minuses with both bands. Korn got the bigger share of fame but failed to recapture the intensity of their first record with last summer's eagerly awaited 'Untouchables' proving to be a rehash.

Deftones meanwhile, didn't get the same shine of the spotlight, yet every time they went into the studio they came out sounding better than before. Their calling card 'Adrenaline' signalled a fusing of introspection and rage that would see them pull away from their peers two years later with the follow-up 'Around the Fur'.

Then in 2000 came 'The White Pony', a (still) vastly underrated opus that saw Deftones blending atmospherics, backing singers and more turntables in between the tender/rage vocals of Chino Moreno and fearsome guitars of Stephen Carpenter. The anthemic quality and moodiness of 'Around the Fur's standout track 'Be Quiet' were bettered on the likes of 'Knife Party', 'Passenger' and 'Pink Maggot', a troika, which said that the only thing that could slow the Deftones down was how fast their fans were able to keep up with them.

Now three years - and reportedly $2.5m later - comes their self-titled fourth instalment, which has some great moments yet suggests devotees won't be out of breath. It's a far more brutal collection than its predecessor but with that power some of the drama has been lost. You have to wait until the third song, 'Minerva', for the first instance of music that refuses to let you go and while - two tracks later - 'Deathblow' spookily recalls the harmonica from spaghetti western 'Once Upon a Time in the West', its impact owes much to another great 'White Pony' cut, 'Change'.

The album's best moments come in the second half with 'When Girls Telephone Boys' alluring title blown away as Carpenter metes out tonal punishment and Moreno wails "I do hope we never meet again". That's followed by 'Lucky You's rumbling electro and echo filled-drums and 'Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event' which wraps Moreno's voice around a piano for a Deftones first - a song you could, almost, slow dance to. It's here that the band push hardest - doing to themselves what they did to metal in the mid 90s. If everything else had lived up to these two, they could've retired now and waited years to hear serious challengers come around.

Instead, split unevenly between aggression and adventure, Deftones finds its creators never less than compelling but falling short of the life-altering band they have the potential to be. The mosh pit will love it, but those of us who prefer to stay down the back may have to wait for Moreno's Mogwai-tinged side project Team Sleep for the low points we've been waiting for.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Hexagram - Needles and Pins - Minerva - Good Morning Beautiful - Deathblow - When Girls Telephone Boys - Battle-axe - Lucky You - Bloody Cape - Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event - Moana