The Deftones' Chino Moreno and Staind's Aaron Lewis are two of metal's most emotive front men. Unlike most headbangers, they trade in tears as much as testosterone, though the two take different routes to your heart.
The subtler of the two lyrically, Moreno conveys emotion through his voice more than his words, which are becoming increasingly impressionistic. His delivery is supple and theatrical: He stretches syllables like warm taffy, and then shatters the reverie with a banshee's shriek. Led by his druggy drawl, the Deftones go from daydream to nightmare in an instant.
The band set the bar for moody, dramatic metal on its last album, 2001's manic-depressive White Pony. With their fourth release, Deftones, they further indulge in the aggressive atmospherics. On the pulsating "Lucky You," disembodied vocals float above sci-fi beats; the doleful "Deathblow" pairs a roiling bass line with jags of lilting harmonica; "Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event" blends wisps of piano and tambourine into a ghostly slow burn. The band still knows how to gnash its teeth (as in the tense opening salvo "Hexagram" and the vein-popping "When Girls Telephone Boys"), but Deftones is primarily a lesson in nuance and seduction.
Staind would do well to learn such a lesson. The band's cloying third LP, 14 Shades of Grey, is the emotional equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet. There's no denying the band's skill at crafting rousing arena rockers; Lewis' ode to his daughter, "Zoe Jane," is a tender, touching number, with an affecting baritone by Lewis; "Fray" is a stirring, vindictive rocker that sees the singer working himself into a lather of self-loathing. But this band succumbed to self-parody some time ago, and 14 Shades of Grey doesn't help matters any. "I wish that I could disappear/Unzip my skin and leave here/So I could be no one again," Lewis moans on "Blow Away." The mopey millionaire exhausted his wellspring of childhood hurts on previous albums, so now he's sniveling about stardom. But all the whining reduces Staind to a bunch of same-sounding sad sacks.
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