This year saw the passing of one of my all-time favorite bass players, Chi Cheng, of Deftones. As a teenager, I did my best to emulate his consistent, yet distinct playing style. While considering the impact that he, and the band, has had on my life, I couldn’t help but think back to my favorite album. Around the Fur, as the title suggests, featured some hyper-sexualized lyrics, but also featured some unprecedented moves for the band. This sophomore effort has some of the band’s strongest hooks, boldest experiments, and what is perhaps the most cohesive interplay between the their members, particularly with the addition of Frank Delgado.
Musically, this album was not their most advanced work, but they made bold moves in various aspects of their style, developing greatly in the years since Adrenaline. Delgado’s sampling added a depth to their sound that resonated throughout the records that have followed. Cheng’s deeper, more impactful style, paired with Abe Cunningham’s precision and experimentation, marked a distinct progression for the Deftones. Certainly, the albums titular track features one of the most memorable drum intros of the decade. Despite the band’s growth, Around the Fur wouldn’t be certified platinum until 2011, but it would certainly mark an incredible point of progression for everyone, especially Chino Moreno.
During Adrenaline, I appreciated Moreno’s vocal intensity. Only in recent years, and after several more albums, and numerous bouts with throat cancer, have I come to appreciate his true ability as a vocalist. He has a genuine strength in range, which can be seen as a masterful display in later albums, but to witness its growth in Around the Fur is nothing short of inspiring. Truly, the best example of this burgeoning strength is in the breakout track “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away).” This track showcases not only his range, but the very ethereal dynamic that would characterize the band in the years following. Over these past decades, Deftones have grown into a unique musical experience, with a dedicated family of supporters and fans that have grown with them, and have felt their pain. Chi Cheng’s absence will always be felt, but his contribution to this incredible influence on the music world will always be undeniable.