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Deftones’ Top 20 Songs

on April 06, 2016, 11:00am
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Many people don’t realize that Deftones have been around since 1988. People categorize them as survivors of the nu metal wave that broke in the late ’90s, but factually they’ve always been something else. Stephen Carpenter’s heavy metal riffs, Chino Moreno’s piercing drawl, and a dash of Frank Delgado’s DJing have always kept the band evolving and adding new sounds to their core. They’ve even managed to survive the tragic 2013 passing of original bassist Chi Cheng, who had spent four years in a coma following an automobile accident. While some of their best work dates back to their debut, their output has remained so consistently strong that even their new record, Gore, cracks this list. Coming up with the 20 best Deftones songs when they’ve had a strong, nearly 30-year career wasn’t easy. Where does your favorite song rank? Does it rank? Read on to find out.

–Dan Bogosian
Contributing Writer

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20. “Doomed User”

Gore (2016)

You know what I love? Hardcore punk and Quicksand. You know bassist Sergio Vega was in Quicksand? Yeah, hasn’t really come through yet in his work with Deftones … until Gore. “Doomed User” is about as straight-punk as Deftones can get, and they nail their landings on this fast, thrilling punk ride. –Dan Bogosian
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19. “Passenger”

White Pony (2000)

White Pony has largely been considered the defining Deftones album, and one of the core reasons is “Passenger”, the primal collaboration between Moreno and Tool’s Maynard James Keenan. Whether the metaphor of being a passenger to someone else’s driver is a dark comment on powerlessness or an avid sex story doesn’t matter. What matters is two of the greatest frontman are at their best, creating this ethereal, dark beast of a song. Deftones didn’t collaborate with outside artists on record much before Pony, and they haven’t collaborated with artists much since, leaving “Passenger” as an amazing outlier. –Dan Bogosian
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18. “Prayers/Triangles”

Gore (2016)

As a huge fan of Moreno’s side project Palms, I had my fingers crossed that Gore would hit that same blissed-out sweet spot, and lead cut “Prayers/Triangles” does just that, opening with a chorused guitar line and a wave of warmth. The atmosphere is that of a California night, comforting and romantic. Give it a listen and the melody will never escape you. –Jon Hadusek
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17. “Swerve City”

Koi No Yokan (2012)

Few things kick ass like a good opening track, and “Swerve City” jump-starts Koi No Yokan like being awoken by a bucket of water. One of the shorter songs on the album, it still captures everything that makes Deftones great: a fist-pumping beat over a detuned thriller of a riff, with Delgado’s keyboards and Vega’s thick basslines dancing all over the space the other band members leave. It feels like they weave around in perfect music right before Chino shouts, “They travel through the air,” creating one of those moments where the music and vocals work hard to create more together than they do individually. It’s brilliant. –Dan Bogosian
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16. “Feiticeira”

White Pony (2000)


Although my introduction to Deftones isn’t nearly as priceless as Dan’s anecdote later in this article, I totally understand why “Feitceira” wooed me back when I first heard. “This sounds like Radiohead,” I remember thinking, and at the time, anything that reminded me of Radiohead was an A-fucking-plus in my book. The rest is history. I picked up a copy of White Pony and now I’m calling them one of my favorite bands and writing this article. Looking back, it’s less that the song sounds like Radiohead, but rather it sounds like nothing I’d ever heard before — the same effect Radiohead’s music had on me when I first encountered it. That said, both bands belong in the same vein as pioneers of guitar music throughout the ’90s and 2000s, and I refuse to believe I’m the only one to draw that comparison upon hearing Deftones for the first time. –Jon Hadusek
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15. “U,U,D,D,L,R,L,R,A,B,Select,Start”

Saturday Night Wrist (2006)

This jazzy instrumental ebbs and flows unlike anything else the band’s ever produced, a credit to the song’s bizarre instrumentation, which sees Carpenter on drums and Moreno on guitar. Despite being wordless, it’s the most memorable part of the pleasant blur that is Saturday Night Wrist, the black sheep album in the discography. The track title references the famous Konami Code of video game lore. –Jon Hadusek
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14. “Around the Fur”

Around the Fur (1997)

The intro to this song, the title track on their sophomore album, still stands up today. That itching bass drum kicking and kicking, the wilting of Chino’s whispers: it all accumulates into one of their catchiest choruses from the ’90s. “I just want your eyes fixated on me, coming back around the fur.” I can’t make a ruling on whether this song is a rant towards a hooker or a love song towards one or something else I don’t fully process; what I can say is I’m ready to start a mosh pit every time I hear it. –Dan Bogosian
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13. “Diamond Eyes”

Diamond Eyes (2010)

“Diamond Eyes” sounds like the soundtrack to the future of slasher movies, like someone is being hunted by an unstoppable foe. Few bands turn insane riffs into powerful songs like Deftones do, and singing about those pearly diamond eyes before what sounds like the slasher cutting his victim stands out as something no other bands could pull off. Throw in a sneaky time signature change at the chorus and what might be their most violent breakdown, and what’s not to love? –Dan Bogosian
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12. “Minerva”

Deftones (2003)

In a way, Deftones brought shoegaze to the alternative metal mainstream with “Minerva”, a crushingly heavy, textured jam indebted to Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins and Hum (who Moreno and Carpenter have cited as the origin for their guitar sound). The song’s power lies in its repetition — essentially a two-chord drone — as feedback swells and recedes in a controlled chaos. It’s far-and-away the best track on the 2001 self-titled album and hints at the dreamier directions Deftones are now exploring. –Jon Hadusek
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11. “Teenager”

White Pony (2000)

“Teenager” is the softest and most sentimental moment in the Deftones’ discography. True to its title, the lyrics were written by a 15-year-old Chino Moreno after a first date, and the tone of the song perfectly evokes the strange ambience of a boy in his room late at night, scratching out words on a pad because he can’t sleep off his yearning. I’ve probably put this track on every mix I’ve ever made for a girl. –Jon Hadusek
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10. “Bored”

Adrenaline (1995)

A portrait of a young Deftones bashing it out in their knee-highs and Chucks. The band would quickly graduate from the thinner and thrashier sound of their debut album, Adrenaline, but even in their earliest form, you can tell there’s something different about Deftones. Those intangibles are most evident on “Bored”: the urgency in Moreno’s delivery, Carpenter’s manic riffing, Cheng’s seductive bass lines, and the pot-banging brilliance of drummer Abe Cunningham. The trajectory for the rest of their career was set right here. –Jon Hadusek
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09. “Entombed”

Koi No Yokan (2012)

If “Entombed” isn’t the Deftones’ finest song, it’s arguably their sexiest. Beneath the uplifting textures and shoegazing bliss, Moreno’s emotion is palpable and affecting. He channels Morrissey, projecting morbid eroticism through lyrics laced with pain: “From the day you arrived/ I’ve remained by your side / In chains, entombed.” Love is often beautiful, but passion can turn volatile, and that is the motif I draw from “Entombed” and Koi No Yokan. –Jon Hadusek
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08. “Pink Maggit”

White Pony (2000)

Though many fans prefer the rap rock version (“Back To School – Mini Maggit”), the original version before the label pushed Deftones to go more nu-metal is truly the better version. To what sounds like waves of distorted guitar and clouds of feedback, Chino does that stretched-out whisper-scream seemingly only he can do before jumping into one of their catchiest, heaviest jaunts. They’ve all commented on how none of them were cool in high school, and “Pink Maggit” and its perfect chord progression instantly capture that angst and anger. Who cares if you were picked last in gym the first time around? Back in school, we are the leaders. Find me a better way to brush off the criticism than “all you are to me is meat.” It doesn’t exist. “Pink Maggit” is top notch. –Dan Bogosian
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07. “Rocket Skates”

Diamond Eyes (2010)

That galloping riff with those bass slides at the start of “Rocket Skates” make me want to both film a skateboarding video and burn a few houses down. There’s an unrelenting energy that drives this song, like it’s always falling forward until suddenly ending, and we’ve made it through okay. “Guns, razors, knives” is such a simple but brilliant signature that the band posted it all over their merchandise after Diamond Eyes was released. Few bands that have lasted this long are still discovering a youthful brilliance like “Rocket Skates”. I can’t skate and I’m not going to burn anything down, but I promise you, I want to. –Dan Bogosian
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06. “My Own Summer (Shove It)”

Around the Fur (1997)

For many, this was their first Deftones song. Carpenter’s lascivious riff and Moreno’s vocals, whispered through a veil of fuzz, create the intoxicating combination that would become the template for the band’s sound going forward: heavy, sexy, poetic. The lead track on Around the Fur and an FM radio hit, “My Own Summer” sounded like nothing else at the time, standing out like a shining beacon amid nu metal power-hours and countdown video shows. It remains their most anthemic chorus and a highlight of live shows. –Jon Hadusek
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05. “Beauty School”

Diamond Eyes (2010)

I’ve been on tour with bands whose sound engineers use “Beauty School” to test out and mix the sound systems at live venues across the country. There’s a simple reason for that: the song has all the highs and lows you could ever want and blends them beautifully without losing a step. It sounds like a runner chasing the wind and slowly catching it. Test out any audio equipment with it: If this song doesn’t sound good, either the sound system needs to be mixed better, or your ears are broken. –Dan Bogosian
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04. “Knife Prty”

White Pony (2000)

This is Carpenter’s defining performance on a Deftones song and some of his best guitar lines. It’s also an example of the band’s penchant for “unnerving” its audience. “Knife Prty” is creepy and insinuative — “My knife, it’s sharp and chrome/ Come see inside my bones” — yet somehow alluring (and undeniably catchy). It’s a highlight on White Pony and therefore a highlight in the band’s catalog. –Jon Hadusek
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03. “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”

Around the Fur (1997)

Want to know what my introduction to Deftones was? You’re not gonna like it. I was 10 years old or so and a huge Incubus fan. I saw Adam Sandler, Incubus, and Deftones perform “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”. If Adam Sandler’s version can make me love Deftones as an adolescent, imagine how good the actual song might be! It turns out it captures the feeling of needing to escape even better when the band is going heavy and Moreno is singing at full volume. –Dan Bogosian
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02. “Tempest”

Koi No Yokan (2012)

Point out any riff by any band that’s heavier than “Tempest”. If you named anything just now, I will fight you to the death arguing you are wrong. The fact that the main verse part is accentuated by the bridge’s variation, a slight but twisted difference that hits like a sledgehammer, makes it all the more impressive that this epic has a chorus that we can all sing along to. Expansive textures, Shakespearian lyrics, and multiple all-time-great riffs rolled into one banger make it one of their best. But if “Tempest” isn’t the top slot, what could be? –Dan Bogosian
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01. “Change (In the House of Flies)”

White Pony (2000)

I thought whittling down an ultimate No. 1 best Deftones song would be impossible, if not arbitrary, like picking the best flower in a field of golden lilys or choosing something off a brunch menu when you’re hungover. But to my surprise, Dan and I both immediately settled on a unanimous choice in White Pony’s climactic “Change (In the House of Flies)”. I would go as far as calling it a modern classic and one of the greatest alternative rock songs of all time. It is a pure and perfect distillation of why Deftones are such a captivating band. The impressionistic atmosphere, the seduction in Moreno’s voice and imagery, the riffs: It’s all here. If we could only take one Deftones song — only one — with us for the rest of our lives, let it be “Change”. –Jon Hadusek

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