Album Review: Deftones – White Pony – Black Stallion

Released in 2000, White Pony cemented Deftones as one of the most creative forces within rock and metal. Their chameleonic ability to shift between different moods and soundscapes encapsulated the perfect push and pull dynamic that makes up the very fabric of their DNA. Monolithic slabs of metal riffage combined with art rock, hip hop and alternative influences blended seamlessly into a smorgasbord of vibrant musical ideas. With the album this year celebrating its 20th birthday the band has, alongside a new remaster, compiled a collection of remixes, reimagining the records track listing through various different artists. 

The first portion of the record is the newly remastered version of White Pony. There appear to be no major perceivable differences, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some remasters have occasionally opted to make some unnecessary changes, in the process removing a lot of the initial charm and character the record once had. This remaster, however, seems to be solely focused on adding more size, with thicker guitars, heftier drums all subtly building on what is already a huge sounding record. There’s not much more to be said really, White Pony is still amazing and still sounds just as vital and vibrant as it did upon first release. 

The second disc, entitled, Black Stallion is where the remixed tracks come in. Remix records are somewhat of an oddity and can be quite difficult to discuss and dissect with a critical eye. It is hard to dissociate them with the source material and can often force you down a path of endless comparisons. Are these songs an enjoyable novelty or do they stand up on their own? 

The opening to Black Stallion kicks off in a very familiar way. As Feiticeira’s opening riff enters before quickly dissolving into a more mellow synth laden electronic soundscape. Black Stallion is pretty much exclusively electronically driven, with the majority of songs featuring a newly written instrumental designed to try and intertwine with Chino Moreno’s off kilter melodies and hooks. 

In terms of highlights, it’s hard to look past the remix of Passenger. The song is transformed by Mike Shinoda into a glistening electronic piece, its driving riffs replaced with a gentle pitter patter of synths, sounding like rain spattering against the car window. Its chorus accentuated with big stabs of melodic chords and a heavy electronic drum beat, the dynamic twists and turns still remain but are all being viewed through a different lens. 

Whilst a lot of the other tracks tend to mold themselves around Chino’s main vocal it was interesting to hear some of the original guitar work being used. The breakdown riff is still present and allows the song to build to a huge climax before dissolving into a lilting solo piano melody. Whilst the Maynard Keenan infused epic is still always going to be the definitive version this manages to stand on its own merit, offering something both original and familiar at the same time. Knife Prty is another stand out. The chorus has now been transformed into a duet, where angelic female vocals act as a perfect counterpoint to Chino’s impassioned emotionally wrought voice. Purity Ring have offered up a new twist that blends perfectly with the emotional tone and vibe of the White Pony version whilst simultaneously revamping its instrumental.  

Even though there are some creative new takes on these classic songs, stylistically some of the tracks on Black Stallion tend to disappointingly maintain a strict adherence to the blueprint. The remix of Teenager by Robert Smith adds some subtle touches but overall is pretty much an exact replica. Listening back to the version found on White Pony only shows that the already minimalist track has not really had anything interesting added to it, leaving any reasons for listening to the remix feeling somewhat void. Whilst many of the tracks here further showcase Chino’s vocal talents the remix of Street Carp ends up making him sound somewhat intoxicated. The slowing down of his vocal to fit the remixed track doesn’t really work, at points leaving him sounding off time, slurred and clunky. Adding female vocals into the chorus certainly adds a nice flavour and it’d actually be interesting to hear more of this throughout the song, without the strange echoey Chino we get here.

In terms of the rest of the record there are some interesting ideas sprinkled across its 11 tracks. Elite is repurposed into an apocalyptic industrial thumper, Chino’s screams echoing in the distance as a machine-like stomp propels the song forward. RX Queen adds a glitched out drum loop to its slinky signature riff and Korea has seen its brutish riffing swapped out for a shimmering Blade Runner style instrumental. 

Overall, it’s great to revisit one of the noughties finest rock albums with a slick new coat of paint. White Pony is a timeless record and never tires on repeat listens. Some of the remixes offer something different and are certainly worth going back to, particularly Passenger and Knife Prty. However, a lot of the other tracks end up overstaying their welcome or don’t offer enough reasons to re-listen. It is still worth exploring, if not just for another excuse to listen to the excellent White Pony again, but unfortunately the highs found on the Black Stallion half of the record are too fleeting to feel nothing more than a novelty. 

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