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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Deftones + The Contortionist at Bell Centre



Deftones + The Contortionist at Bell Centre

A REAL HUM-DINGER | SEAN ZUMBUSCH

The Deftones are a band that hold a certain personal significance with me. They were one of the bands that provided the soundtrack to my angst-ridden early teen years as they quite often had songs from their 90s output played on Much Music’s heavy metal (and related genres) music video program Loudand they have also had an impact on my later life as a musician.

I was in a band some years ago with a fellow who just an absolute true believer in the band; he would often compare our musical accomplishments with those of the Deftones, and he would make us all play their music during rehearsals. We must have jammed on every riff on White Pony as well as choice cuts from their other albums. As such, this was a show that I was really looking forward to seeing

The show itself was at Metropolis, which I would suppose could be categorized as a “large theatre” type of venue. The stage looks like a giant picture frame, and it is large enough to support some serious light shows. The venue is also large enough that it has balcony, and the floor is divided into two sections: the back is stepped separated from the front section by a railing. The crowd was huge; these kinds of shows are always interesting for the fact that you see so much more than the regular scene. Here, there are the people in the city that rarely go to shows, as well as the many out-of-towners. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were people here from New Brunswick or even Nova Scotia, as I have many memories of going on road trips from Alberta to go see shows in Vancouver over the years. At this point I should also mention that, among the people I have talked to about this venue, there seems to be an agreement that the sound isn’t totally amazing. It just feels like either the sound should be louder or certain instruments sound weak in the mix. It could just have something to do with the science of sound waves in that there are limitations in amplifying certain frequencies in a venue of that size, but I don’t really know. However, enough of that. The Contortionist were the first band to play.


If I were to use the current metal lingo to describe The Contortionist’s sound, I would describe them as a djent band. For all of you indie rock folks out there, djent is a subgenre of heavy metal that is largely focused on polyrhythmic guitar chugging. The Swedish band Meshuggah is considered to be the main founder of that particular sound, but in the last few years there has been an explosion of bands playing this style, with The Contortionist as one of the front runners. Unfortunately, while their playing was vice-grip tight, they suffered from the sound issues that I described earlier. I found that the guitars sounded really muddy in the mix, and this is a real problem for a band as guitar-centric as The Contortionist. Otherwise, their noodling guitars, competent bass, surgically precise drumming, and ambient synthesizer passages should be enough to please any enthusiast of progressive rock and metal music. The vocals are growled which might turn some people off, but this is metal. It comes with the territory. I did, however, find them boring to watch as all of the members just kind of stood in place on stage and didn’t move around a whole lot or have very much stage presence. After they finished, there was a break and the Deftones arrived.

The Deftones didn’t take much time to get down to business; they ripped straight into “Be Quiet and Drive,” a cut from their 1997 full-length, Around the Fur. Here, there was a band on stage that as energetic and lively as a band could be. Stephen Carpenter let loose his signature thick guitar riffs while Sergio Vega, a relative newcomer to the band after former member Chi Cheng’s tragic 2008 accident, thumped the bass with a look of great zeal. Abe Cunningham and Frank Delgado chilled in the back while expertly supplying beats and ambient noises, respectively, while Chino Moreno whipped the crowd into a frenzy and made the stage his own. Interestingly, they decided to split their set into mini-sets. They would play a set of songs from one album, and then move onto another one. I imagine it was done for the sake of reducing the number of instrument changeovers as all of their albums are played in different tunings, but it made it interesting as you would see each era of the band‘s music in its own context. Some of the songs that they played from their earlier albums were somewhat unexpected and yet welcome, like when they played “Digital Bath” during their White Pony segment. Overall, this was a very worthwhile show, and I recommend that you see them either later on this tour or on the next one as these guys still have the spark and passion for playing great music despite having been around for as long as they have. 
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