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Deftones' new 'Diamond Eyes' CD is a standout

Few people would have blamed the Deftones if the group's new CD, "Diamond Eyes," had been a dark and depressing album. The fact is, much of the past decade has not been kind to the group.

First there was the ordeal of making the group's 2006 CD, "Saturday Night Wrist," a project that began more than three years earlier and saw tensions in the band almost reach a breaking point.

Then in November 2008, bassist Chi Cheng was left in a coma from injuries suffered in an auto accident. He has survived the accident, but his recovery has been slow.

"He's out of his coma, but he's still in a semiconscious state," says Deftones singer Chino Moreno during a recent phone interview.

What's more, a recording the band had nearly finished before Cheng's accident — called "Eros" — was shelved, and the band instead started from scratch on the recently released "Diamond Eyes."

But despite the many tough times, "Diamond Eyes" doesn't sound like the work of a dispirited band. In fact, it's very much the opposite. The band sounds energized — perhaps even reborn — and the new album's lyrical direction is decidedly positive.

Moreno says the mood was not an accident, nor was it unintended.

"I think it was expected from everybody that we were just going to go with this dark record, with this sad record and this kind of pity kind of record, where at this point, I feel like although this happened to us, there are so many worse things (to go through)," says the vocalist. "It's like I felt kind of empowered to show that life is going to go on, and Chi is going to fight and we're just going to make some bad-ass music."

Given the turmoil that marked "Saturday Night Wrist" and the loss of Cheng, there was plenty of speculation that Deftones would simply pack it in as a band.

But Moreno says there were never any sentiments voiced within the band — drummer Abe Cunningham, guitarist Stephen Carpenter and keyboardist Frank Delgado — for ending Deftones.

"Everybody just gravitated toward their instruments and picked them up, and we started to play together. And that was, I think, the most therapeutic thing at the time for us to do," says Moreno. "We started playing, and we called (bassist and longtime friend) Sergio Vega to see if he could come out. He came the next day, and that was it. We started writing music that day, and everybody seemed to be in a really creative head space, so we just went with it."

With "Diamond Eyes," Moreno feels Deftones recaptured the energy and attitude that characterized its early years, when the band (formed in 1988 in Los Angeles) made albums "Adrenaline" (1995) and "Around the Fur" (1997).

"Diamond Eyes" possesses the signature sounds that made Deftones music stand out in the first place — the mix of thick, angular guitar riffs melting into melodic choruses, coupled with a rhythmic attack and fierce vocals. The group sounds especially inspired on the CD, delivering passionate performances and some of its strongest songwriting on tracks such as "Royal," "You've Seen the Butcher" and "Prince."

The group's enthusiasm for its new material is carrying into live shows this summer.

"The set has been heavy on the new stuff, which is rare for us," says Moreno. "We're playing about seven songs off of the record. We wrote this record pretty much live, and we had it all worked out before we went into the studio to record it."

Deftones frontman, Chino Moreno (center) says that despite tough times, the band is making some bad-ass music. - www.deftones.com