In the summer of 1999, the concept of downloading and album leaks were things that didn’t play into my everyday thinking. Along with Dennis and Miles, my two best friends at the time, we would head over to our favorite music store everyday to hang out and listen to music. One day we popped in and an employee, who was a really awesome dude actually, was blaring this album. It wasn’t slated to be released for like two months, but somehow he had the album. Apparently it had “ leaked,” and knowing we were all giant Deftones fans, had made copies for us to take home.
For the following months this was our go to album. Driving around, being young kids with the world before us, the album seemed to changed our lives. I can’t speak for my two friends, but this album had a monumental impact on my life. It changed the way I thought about music, and exposed me to a different set of sounds than I had primarily been listening to at the time ( Korn, Limp Bizkit…)
The Deftones had already been a band I loved, but this album was the one that stuck with me the most at the time. From the opening track “ Feiticeira,” you can sense that these guys were trying to make an album to branch out of the already tiresome genre of Nu Metal.
By this point, bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit were big time names, and others like Orgy, P.O.D., and Papa Roach were heading up the ladder. The sound wasn’t difficult to master. Throw in teenager angst, crunchy, or “hard” beats and you basically have an album. It’s clear, even now, why most of those bands are long gone, and why the Deftones are still getting bigger with each release.
Since turning the corner with this album, they’ve consistently made amazing albums that merge all kinds of genres. Yet before WP, the band seemed to have perfected the brand of heaviness they would later become known for. WP, again, is where the template opened up to allow more. It’s still extremely aggressive at times, but also shows a certain beauty and delicateness to it. Songs like “ Digital Bath'' are just beautiful, while still having a heavier overall tone to them.
“Bath” is also one of the first times you heard Chino Moreno aim for types of range out of his vocal cords. While not a traditional voice, it’s still one of the most recognizable in music, to me at least.
Track three, “Elite” has more of the Deftones fans of the first two albums would be familiar with. It’s very heavy, and the guitars of Stephen Carpenter, and the drumming of Abe Cunningham are ultimately what makes this a stand out track. I’ve always wondered why this song isn’t played more live, but I guess that’s how it goes sometimes. It just seems like a perfect song for the live setting. Anyway, even with this track you can tell that the band is really trying to branch out and make a truly unique album.
“RX Queen,” written about Moreno’s at the time wife, opens with creepy, low lying bass lines courtesy of Chi Cheng, and it’s those wandering bass-lines that help give the song focus, as well as guide it further into a more industrial, beat driven area. The record also showcases the sampler, or DJ in the band, Frank Delgado, for the first time. He toured with the band on the Around the Fur tour, but White Pony was his first proper recording with the band.
You could say in many ways this is Delgado’s album. The lush layering, interesting mix of background sounds, as well as just a darker undertone makes this record stand out. Frank Delgado may have not made the Deftones what they currently are, but without his involvement it’s hard to say what the following albums would have ended up sounding like.
“Street Carp” is next, but honestly I think it might be the weakest of the tracks on the album. It’s still good, and the placement on the record is brilliant, but maybe that’s what makes it so difficult. Coming after “Rx Queen” and before the massively underrated “ Teenager” it’s dose of heaviness but just feels overshadowed by the surrounding songs. “ Teenager” arrives next, and it’s likely one of the calmest, trippiest, most beautiful songs the band has in their catalog.
I always picture this song as a sort of time capsule of what kind of love was once present in your life, and also a journey of self exploration. I nearly always imagine this song being in the film “ Blade Runner.” Rachel, played by Sean Young, staring out on the post utopian world, raining running down the windows. It’s a perfect example of a science fiction love song, and for me, it’s one of the major revelations of the band's career.
“Knife Prty” then expands with density , and one of the best things about this is the lyrics. Moreno has the skill in writing that a lot of other vocalists simply don’t. He can write about real, passionate things, while also venturing into completely unknown territory. The female vocals at the end are a dream come true. Most bands wouldn’t dare to venture this way when they already have a built in fan base, but they really really should. After the female vocals spill out of control, the mythological undertones of the song erupt in a beautiful, organized mess of sounds.
“Korea, ” which was included in most of the bands “OzFest” sets from a year before, is easily the heaviest, most angry song on the album. That’s not to say it’s a bad song. On the contrary, it’s a really fucking good song. This is the Deftones how they sounded on the first two albums, with a little glimmer into where the band is headed next. The samples and turntable work by Delgado also give the song an interesting contrast to Moreno’s screaming, crazy vocals, sweeping in and out of the intensely heavy guitar and drum work.
The last three tracks are all amazing and important. They perfectly wrap up a brilliant, landmark album and remind you why this is one of the best modern rock albums of the last twenty years. “ Passenger,” featuring that guy from A Perfect Circle, follows “ Korea.” If you read my list of my favorite Deftones songs, you remember this higher up in the list . If you love the band, likely you think the same way.
After nearly fifteen years and probably a thousand listens to not only the album, but the song, it still stands out as one of my all time favorites . It’s just a level of mastery that’s rarely seen. Also, Maynard very rarely contributes to the work of other bands, so it’s still quite a feat that they got him to take part in it. The song is just colossal on all fronts. It’s Still one of the songs I can play all the way through then go back and listen to it all over again.
Following that isn’t easy, but they clearly knew what they were doing with the sequencing of the album. “ Change,” the first single and likely one of the few songs general music lovers will recognize, follows “ Passenger.” I still remember seeing this video for the first time. The whole house party vibe, and the band playing as the house slowly burns, still stands out in my head. The song itself is perfect, and it’s a clear choice for the song that introduced the world to what to expect from this album. Now, putting the song so late in the album is tricky, especially when it’s the first single. Most bands just simply don’t do that, but I guess that’s the risk you have to take. For me, the momentum of the last four songs on this album is what makes it so brilliant. The strength behind every song is clear, but those last songs are the cherry on top.
The proper album comes to an end in a beautiful, emotional ride called “ Pink Maggit” Two special editions would later come out, one with a different opening track ( “ Back to School” ) and a song that follows this one ( “ Boy’s Republic” ) but for the purpose of this article we won’t be discussing them ( Check them out though if you haven’t, they’re equally awesome). Anyway, this song quietly builds for the first two minutes, then breaks into the signature Deftones sound, while at the same time releasing all the tension that has built up over the previous ten songs. Once again the lyrics are one’s that suggest growth and hardship, but it’s this ending that ties up the amazingness of the album. Once again, it show’s what the band has learned, as well as gives you a glimpse to what roads the band might be venturing down with subsequent releases. The remaining seconds float by with a dissonant array for layers, textures, and feedback, but it serves its purpose wholeheartedly. Even with the album drawing to a close I can understand why it’s only gotten better over time. Rest in Peace, Chi Cheng.
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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