London Brixton Academy

There are no dead crows in jars...

There are no dead crows in jars, or cages to hold the most socially maladjusted fans. Tonight, the nu-metal mask has slipped off and revealed what purport to be real tears. The stage is dark, but just at its tip you can make out Chino Moreno, the Deftones‘ tender, tormented soul, doubled over, keening away unaccompanied. He has lived and loved, we should know, he has felt unimaginable pain and been left vulnerable and traumatised. He doesn’t need costumes or pyrotechnics to dramatise his spiritual agony; surely, naked emotion is enough? I am wounded superstar, embrace my sensitivity.

Clever boy, Chino Moreno. It’s hard not to fall for his comprehensive rebranding of metal, where all the extraneous gimmicks have been pared away to leave fantastic churning riffs and a big bleeding heart. Essentially, the Deftones operate in the same gloomy area as Slipknot and Korn; maximum volume angst played out to an energising and highly lucrative hybrid of goth, rap and heavy rock. Their crucial advantage, though, is a relative tastefulness that hurls fine, blustery melodies into the melee and keeps the panto horror show on hold.

The backdrop, then, shows the silhouette of a pony galloping across a starry sky. And Moreno flings himself around the stage dressed in a jacket and tie, so that his bounding and posing looks more surreal than sinister. It’s only when he bends over, and trousers slump down to show his bumcrack, that the spectre of Marilyn Manson rears up.

It’s all undeniably impressive stuff, with guitarist Stephen Carpenter lurching into ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’ and Moreno hovering on the edge of the pit. As the bloodied but soaring ‘Street Carp’ and ‘Knife Party’ prove, their forthcoming third album, ‘White Pony’, sets a new standard of excellence for the genre. But just because the Deftones have a more austere methodology than many of their rivals, does that really make their angst necessarily more authentic? Ironically, it’s the same question that dogged one of their most glaring influences, The Smashing Pumpkins, before Corgan‘s hopeless attempt to reinvent himself as dome-headed perv-king of industrial rock.

So who are The Deftones really fooling? Issues don’t automatically become more plausible through the absence of pageant. Earnest restyling can’t ever completely disguise heavy metal showmanship, and this is all just as much of an awesome, knowing spectacle as those of the spooks and boilersuits brigade. Nothing more radical, really, than a smart, improved new strain of the old virus. A tiny particle of subtlety in unfamiliar territory.

“Now,” as Moreno eloquently puts it, “take it home and fuck with it.”