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The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s: #9, Deftones

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The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.

We can argue all day, night and into next week about whether Deftones or Korn were more “important” to the genesis of nu-metal. Both bands were there very early on (the late ’80s, in one form or another), both are from the California interior, both signed to major labels around the same time and they rubbed shoulders with one another quite often.

But this much is certain: Deftones have always been nu-metal’s equivalent of your quirky cousin who refuses to do what everyone else in the family is doing. Even on their 1995 debut Adrenaline, which opens with the numbingly aggressive and challenging hallmark track “Bored,” the band was already experimenting with complex, frenetic, off-kilter rhythms, night and day when juxtaposed with Korn’s more straight-forward, four-on-the-floor approach. Terry Date’s bare bones, punk-as-fuck production served to underscore those differences.

I hate the term “thinking man’s _____,” but if it ever applied to nu-metal Deftones were certainly that band. Their music has always been inherently more interesting than that of their peers; more inventive, more challenging, darker, moodier, weirder. Their ’00s releases would see the culmination of that strangeness, but it was all there out in the open on their ’90s output, too. “Rickets,” from the band’s sophomore album Around the Fur, is a really strange fucking track; a pummeling riff, a 5/4 time segment in the verse, noisy, ambient guitar passages and Chino Moreno doing all sorts of acrobatics with his voice; whispering, screaming, singing, crooning, howling.

Moreno, of course, is the wild card that makes this band go. By bringing outside influences to the table — punk, new wave, goth — he was the X factor that made Deftones into more than just a metal band, expanding their appeal to alternative fans and beyond. His unique presence as a frontman — alternatingly frenetic and pensive — was surely inspired by all of those. His later work with Team Sleep, Crosses and Palms would make those influences all the more clear in hindsight.

Deftones weren’t the most popular band to come out of the ’90s nu-metal movement, but they were certainly the most fascinating. Twenty years later, they still are.

 THE LIST SO FAR
#25: Morbid Angel
#24: Melvins

#23: Meshuggah
#22: Emperor

#21: Cave In
#20: Botch
#19: Cradle of Filth
#18: Sepultura
#17: Napalm Death

#16: Rage Against the Machine
#15: Type O Negative

#14: Dream Theater
#13: Alice in Chains
#12: Nine Inch Nails
#11: Carcass
#10: Death

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