Deftones Softening On Next LP

Known for extreme heavy-metal sound, band goes in more contemplative direction with The White Pony.

Instead of getting more extreme in their dense, heavy-metal sound, Los Angeles hard-rockers the Deftones are going for a more contemplative, midtempo vibe on their third album, according to the band's vocalist.

"The way I'm singing, it's a lot of angelic-style vocals with hardcore imagery," singer Chino Moreno said in early December, near the end of the initial recording sessions for the album. Titled The White Pony, it's due in March.

Moreno said the group had recorded more than 30 songs over the past two months but tossed out at least half of them because they seemed too similar to what he's been hearing on the radio.

The White Pony is the Deftones' follow-up to Around the Fur — their 1997 gold album that spawned the radio hit "My Own Summer (Shove It)" (RealAudio excerpt).

Moreno mentioned "Pink Maggot," "Iceskates," "Timbaland," "CYUA," "Flint Eastwood," "Nightrider" and "New Murderer" as songs slated for the new LP, but he added that the titles are all tentative.

"New Murderer" is a perfect example of what Moreno called the album's combination of disturbing lyrical imagery and musical elements of new wave, hard rock and pop.

"[In 'New Murderer,'] I sort of put myself in a scenario where I'm kidnapped and forced to do things that make me uncomfortable," Moreno, 26, said from the Northern California studio where the band is recording. "But I'm sort of excited to do them. It's kind of a metaphorical song where I'm explaining a person changing, with imagery that's sort of [in the style of '80s British rock band the Cure]."

Moreno said he's been trying to blend the dark, dolorous feel of such landmark Cure albums as 1982's Pornography with his own penchant for violent imagery, crunching riffs and sweet-voiced singing. "They're two things that don't match," he explained.

"This [album] is one of the most important things I'll do in my life," Moreno continued. "I haven't felt this much pressure ever, and I'm trying not to get bugged out. It's hard to sit around here all day and not smoke weed all day and stay cool and be focused. [But] music is very inspiring. It keeps you going."

The Deftones gave fans a brief preview of the album over Thanksgiving weekend. A 30-second snippet of a new, untitled track was posted on the band's official website for two days in November, according to Maverick Records publicist Heidi Robinson, who said that 24,000 visitors checked out the song before it was removed from the site.

"Hopefully there will be more songs up there between now and when the album is released," Robinson said.

The Deftones formed in Sacramento, Calif., in the early '90s, releasing their debut album, Adrenaline, in 1995. It featured the band's signature mix of dense, heavy guitars and emotive vocals. The four-piece ensemble — which also includes guitarist Stephen Carpenter, bassist Chi Cheng and drummer Abe Cunningham — added DJ Frank Delgado following the recording of Around the Fur.

Moreno said that some of the more intense lyrics he's written for the album have managed to raise the eyebrows of veteran hard-rock producer Terry Date (Limp Bizkit, Pantera), who is collaborating with the band for the third time. But the producer said he fully supports Moreno's vision.

"Nothing that [Moreno] does will be that over-the-top," Date said. "He doesn't do it for the reason of being over-the-top or creating controversy. It's just his insides coming out."

According to Moreno, when he sang a verse of the eerie song "Flint Eastwood" — featuring the lines "I look at the cross, and I look away/ Give me the gun, and blow me away" — to Date, the producer looked at him in a "weird" manner.

"I would never stop him from doing something, based on how someone would interpret it," Date said.

Moreno said the Deftones will take the holidays off while he goes to Mexico to write lyrics for nearly a dozen tracks. The band plans to regroup in January to finish the album.