Get in your way-back machine and set the dials for 1997. People back then had big 1990s optimism and even bigger pants (JNCOs). James Cameron’s Titanic was dominating the box office, and sadly two iconic women, Mother Teresa and Princess Diana died. Scotland cloned a sheep named Dolly, and the first of the Harry Potter novels was published. And a band from Sacramento, CA put out their second album. Of course, we mean Deftones and Around The Fur (Maverick). Not just any sophomore effort, the album would be a stylistic left turn for the band that was on the forefront of Nu Metal just a few years earlier. A classification the band would come to shun and remove themselves from over future releases.
After the slow boil of the success of their 1995 debut Adrenaline (Maverick) that pushed the band into the scene, Around The Fur was riding a definite wave of hype leading up to the release. The furious lead track and single ‘My Own Summer (Shove It)’ was not just a great first sample, it was accompanied by a phenomenal video that got fans and critics amped. With a fantastic riff and vocal delivery, the memorable song is still one fans still love to this day. However, as killer as it is, ‘My Own Summer’ didn’t really prepare anyone for the changes the band had undergone in the time between releases or the new direction it would take them.
Second track ‘Lhabia’ brought a more alt-rock style, to their riffery and singer Chino Moreno’s obtuse vocals, alternately whisper rapping and singing. Although it was in line with some of their earlier material, the chorus and the song structure are daring to the ear, even now. ‘Mascara’ followed and is an alt-rock tune not unlike something you might have heard from Chino’s heroes The Cure or Morrissey, but much heavier. It was unexpected but interesting. Guitarist Stephen Carpenter tossed expectations out the window in all of his textural choices, experimentation, and moods.
Another propulsive song in the title track highlights what a tremendous rhythm section drummer Abe Cunningham and bassist Chi Cheng (RIP) were together. Cunningham blasts his kit with authority like many 90s metal drummers, but he had developed a nuanced groove that was hard to top. Cheng was all over the map in a dominant performance, where he transformed songs simply with his choice of notes, counter melodies, or when he just paused for a verse and allowed other elements to shine. Around The Fur also has another stellar vocal performance for Moreno who really opened up on this album even more lyrically than before. DJ/keyboardist Frank Delgado, who was yet to become a full-time member in 1997, also created memorable pieces to this track. The little heard since ‘Rickets’, is one of the heaviest, most underrated bangers in Deftones’ back catalog.
‘Be Quiet And Drive (Far Away)’ continues the use of parenthesis in song styles, but more importantly is really the key track to the album in many ways. Sure, it was a massive hit for the band, with a fantastic video that saw a lot of play, and continues to feature prominently in every concert since. On the other hand, the track is really the moment when the band started to show their future self, as an avant-guard band accidentally writing insanely catchy metal songs. It was their first song that really had mainstream currency, which is interesting when you consider the White Pony release just a few years later. The production by metal master Terry Date (Pantera, Slayer, Soulfly) cast a sweet sheen sonically over the tracks, compared to the rawness of his work on Adrenaline. Date was assisted by Matt Bayles, who would go on to produce Mastodon, ISIS, and Botch to name a fewout of thousands.
‘Lotion’ is another heavy track with a great chorus. There really isn’t a throwaway song on this album, which says something about the songcraft the band put into it, considering the barrage of bad albums that released in `97. ‘Dai The Flu’ is another brooding mid-tempo number. On a less strong album, ‘Head Up’ would be one of the centerpiece songs. Featuring a guest appearance by Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy), the song is an anguished raging tribute to Max’s late son Dana Wells, who was also a close friend to Chino. The band continues to perform the song live to this day. Final official track ‘Mx’ is another hard, but chill forerunner of what future Deftones music would mutate into. Hidden track ‘Damone’, appearing at the 34-minute mark in ‘Mx’ is brief, dramatic, rough, and emotional.
Although it wasn’t the quite gamechanger for the band the way White Pony has become, Around The Fur definitely sent Deftones further down the path they are still pursuing today. Considering the musical make-up of the band now is so different twenty years later, the influence, staying power and reverence by fans and other artists for these songs is something to behold.