ALBUM REVIEW: Deftones – Black Stallion
Photo Credit: Tamar Levine
In many ways, 2020 has been the year of Deftones. They released Ohms, their highly anticipated follow-up to 2016’s Gore, their last studio effort. Diamond Eyes, widely viewed as one of, if not the best album of the 2010s, celebrated its 10th anniversary this year. Most importantly, however: White Pony, their landmark third record that solidified their status as alt-metal titans, turned 20 in June. To celebrate the anniversary of an album that is as old as one of our writers, and is surely older than many of the band’s listeners, Deftones set out to release a new edition that would contain both the original songs, now remastered, as well as remixed versions of those 11 tracks. Enter Black Stallion.
What fans of the band must keep in mind before heading into this remix album is that they should keep their expectations in check, and we’ll tell you exactly what we mean by that. Black Stallion is not going to be a note-for-note reproduction of White Pony, regardless of how much some would like it to be. What it actually is, is a collection of 11 tracks, reimagined by 11 different people. Thanks to that, it can feel a little disjointed in a way, since it’s not just the same four or five people writing some songs for some amount of time, like it would be with a normal record.
As such, some tracks, for instance The Cure main man Robert Smith’s version of Teenager, or Salva’s rendition of Rx Queen end up staying true to their original versions the most, while still being ‘different’ enough to be considered remixes: the former features a soft piano alongside the soft soundscapes of the original, while the latter moves into a more sinister direction, with some organs replicating Stephen Carpenter’s minimal guitar opening. Digital Bath, then, is quite peculiar. The original track is one of the most well-loved songs in the band’s discography, and DJ Shadow (essentially the reason Black Stallion came to exist) chose to take it into a more minimal direction, so while it still retains Chino Moreno’s vocal performance, the remix can feel as if it builds up, but then the payoff never happens. This is most likely thanks to the amount of time listeners have spent with the original track, and doesn’t at all mean that this is a bad remix. It’s just different, and it can take a while for some to become comfortable with it.
Other tracks, namely Trevor Jackson’s version of Korea or Clams Casino’s Feticeira retain so little of their identity that they barely resemble their initial guises. The worst case is of this is the Tourist remix of Change (In the House of Flies), which is so far removed from what it actually sounds like, that it ends up echoing a DJ set that one would hear being mixed live at festivals such as Tomorrowland (y’know, back in the day, when those used to be a thing…). This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing – and it still doesn’t have to be a bad thing, depending on what your thoughts are, but when you consider the fact that Change is, at 100M Spotify streams, one of, if not *the* most streamed song in Deftones’ entire discography, and when you A/B the original versus the remix… It can be a tad disappointing, as Tourist could’ve done so much more with such a great song, but hey, whatever floats your boat – you may enjoy it more, who knows.
It’s not all bad, though – far from it! Squarepusher’s Pink Maggit is an adequate, if a little too long, glitchy reminiscence of the album closer, Phantogram’s vision of Street Carp takes the track into more peaceful territory, and the Purity Ring version of Knife Prty is one that is sure to appeal to most, if not all listeners. Elite now has a newfound sense of urgency thanks to Blanck Mass, and it could easily double as the song that is played from tape before the band comes onstage, getting everyone’s blood pumping in anticipation. Finally, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda manages to take Passenger, which was already a top-tier song, and turn it into what is the best interpretation on this album, hands-down. It perfectly takes Moreno and Tool/A Perfect Circle/Puscifer frontman Maynard James Keenan’s vocal performances, as well as parts of the instrumentals from the original, and blends them with the synths and electronics that define this collection of remixes. Well done, Shinoda, well done.
In the end, while we get the point of having 11 different artists recreate the songs off White Pony, and to thus have a different creative vision for each of them, that record is such a seminal and standout release in metal history, that we feel it would have benefitted from a cut-down list of personnel involved. Black Stallion can feel like it had a bar set so high for itself, that it simply doesn’t manage to break it. Even so, with so many approaches and such a variety of sounds and soundscapes, there’s bound to be something here for everyone to enjoy, and that is ultimately quite a commendable feat.
Now, where did we leave that copy of Ohms…?
Standout Tracks: Passenger (Mike Shinoda remix), Knife Prty (Purity Ring remix), Elite (Blanck Mass remix)
For Fans Of: Deftones
Written by: Florin Petrut