If you listen to loud music, odds are good you know the Deftones' narrative: They were the most talented band in their scene, critically acclaimed but never quite as popular as they should have been, who after some dark and tragic times had a second renaissance period that sees them arguably more popular than ever. While their contemporaries have largely become nostalgia acts, Deftones haven't fallen into that trap, and through good songwriting and an incredible live show, they still feel like a vital part of heavy music.
If you were to build a list of Deftones best songs, you'd likely have a list of their radio singles, and that's okay because there's no denying the power of “Be Quiet and Drive” or “Change” or “Diamond Eyes.” That said, Deftones, like many bands, are more than just their greatest hits. On their best albums, the deep cuts are just as strong as the singles, and given the nature of their set lists, odds are good you're just as likely to hear the songs that didn't make it to radio as you are the ones that did. So, rather than trot out the regular “here are 10 songs you've heard a million times” best of list, we're digging deeper for this one.
So what makes a deep cut for the purposes of this list? Any original Deftones song that wasn't released as an actual or promotional single, as per their Wikipedia discography page, before the release of Gore, which is still a little too new to be seriously considered here.
Not every good song belongs in a band's canon. For me, “Rickets” plays the gatekeeper to the upper echelon of the Deftones' catalog. If a Deftones song is as good as “Rickets,” it belongs in their canon. Not catchy enough to be a single, “Rickets” was one of the straightforward rockers that made Around the Fur the classic that it is today, proving that even their heavier hooks were catchier than what most of their contemporaries were coming up with.
The standout track from what is the least best part of their career, “Kimdracula” is the gem that proves that even when things weren't great for the band, they were still capable of magic together. You're not likely to hear much from Saturday Night Wrist these days, but that it's been a regular in their set lists recently is a testament to how good it is.
There are plenty of examples of Deftones trying to write what I refer to as “self-conscious epics,” songs that are trying a bit too hard to be more than just another rock song. These types of tracks have been hit or miss over the course of their career, but with “Rosemary,” the band really nails the shoegaze-meets-metal-meets-post-rock-meets-prog-rock whirlpool of sounds they had tried less successfully on tracks such as “Beware.”
Were it not for the appearance of Tool's Maynard James Keenan on this track, it's hard to say if “Passenger” would be as popular with Deftones fans as it is. Keenan feels almost alien on the track, Deftones songs not being particularly known for clean, clear vocals. To their credit, the band didn't try to write a Tool-light type of track, but the track also doesn't really need the last minute either, so there's that.
A lot of heavy bands out there are capable of writing softer, chiller, beautiful tracks, but very few are good at writing songs that might fit on a bedroom mixtape. While maybe not as overtly sexy as “Sextape” or their cover of “No Ordinary Love,” “Entombed” is still a pretty nice jam for once the sun goes down.
This has easily the most interesting intro of the band's entire career, and few things get a Deftones crowd moving the way the opening guitar part does. While it might be sonically miles away from where the band are today, give it a listen and be amazed by how fresh it still sounds. Chino has few vocal moments as impressive as the end of “Root.”
Not the most complicated song in the world, “Lotion” remains a classic because of how straightforward and catchy it is. While Deftones do and should get endless props for not being static and for being willing to try new things, it's important to remember that when they wanted, they could write straight-ahead bangers as well as anyone. “Lotion” is where you start if you want to try to show the excellence of Deftones.
3. “Knife Prty”
Deftones are one of those bands that write songs that only they could write. It would be extremely hard to imagine any band, especially back in 2000, writing a song like “Knife Prty,” but Deftones make it seem so obvious and natural. Rodleen Getsic takes a very good song to a completely different level, which results in a song that remains haunting even to this day.
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Deftones have worked with their share of artists over the course of their career, but they've never quite melded as well with anyone as they do with Max Cavalera on “Headup.” The riff is perfect, as likely to get you moving in your cubicle as it will in the pit. Sure, Chino hasn't nailed the verses live maybe ever, but that doesn't mean that fans aren't excited to hear it every time it shows up in a set. On an album with “My Own Summer” and “Be Quiet and Drive,” two out-and-out classics, “Headup” holds up as one of Around The Fur's best.
1. “Engine No. 9”
Odds are good that you've probably heard “Engine No. 9” every time you've ever seen Deftones headline a show. According to Setlist.fm, it's their most-played non-single, and with good reason: It's Deftones at their early best. Sure, “7 Words” might be the track that the band is more partial to, but “Engine No. 9” slays, built around one of the best grooves the group ever came up with. It's got everything: killer riffs, an amazing intro line, a hook that's fun to scream. It's a song by a young band firing on all cylinders who've got greatness inside them.