When I was 15, I remember thinking Korn was the greatest band on the face of the earth. I was angry. I was rebellious. I felt alienated just like Jonathan Davis. But in all fairness, Limp Bizkit was a close second. And while bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit refused to change their nu-metal riffs, and their "Are you ready?" and "Get the fuck up!" lyrics, the Deftones completely revamped themselves in 2000 when they released White Pony. Not so angry, not so rebellious, but completely beautiful, charming, and original.
What was so magnificent about White Pony was the Deftones' fearless venture into soft, spacey electronica. This completely new side to the band was so powerful and inspiring, that singer Chino Moreno announced his new side project to the public in the form of Team Sleep. Originally, the Team was Moreno, childhood friend and guitarist Todd Wilkinson, and DJ Crook. This was nearly five years ago.
After scrapping a complete album due to a notorious Internet leak circa 2002, Team Sleep went back to work, writing new material with the additions of drummer Zach Hill of Hella, and bassist Rick Verrett. And now, finally, five years later, Team Sleep presents: Team Sleep.
Team Sleep opens magnificently with "Ataraxia," and Moreno's love for Massive Attack comes to the forefront with a thick, rumbling, warm bass line. To describe the track in one word: it's warm. Thick, atmospheric layers, not dissimilar to White Pony, create the Team Sleep sound that we have all come to expect over the years.
The following track, "Ever (Foreign Flag)," is the one of the few to make it from the scrapped album to the current, final release. Previously named "Cambodia," the song slowly builds in intensity before ending rather abruptly. Hill, while no Abe Cunningham, powerfully and fluidly leads the buildup on "Ever."
"Princeton Review" is a highly recommended track that features San Diego musician Rob Crow on vocals. Crow so perfectly performs the song, you might start wondering why he isn't the vocalist for Team Sleep. His vocals, matched up with Hill's drumming and Verrett's bass line, create a dark, eerie vibe on the track. It's one of those tracks that when you hear it, you say, "Gee-golly, that'd be a great track for a movie." Sure, maybe a drug movie, but the point is, "Princeton Review" is definitely one of the album's high points.
The following track is "Blvd. Dreams." While still in Team Sleep fashion, the track seems slightly out of place. It being a "heavy track" for Team Sleep, it sounds damn near a "light track" for the Deftones. Wilkinson's guitar not only sounds exactly like Stephen Carpenter's style, but Wilkinson plays it like Carpenter as well. Again, expect an abrupt ending to the song.
Unfortunately for Moreno, another fantastic song does not feature him on the track. "Tomb of Liega" features Helium singer/guitarist Mary Timony on vocals. This track is almost too amazing for me to review it, but hey, it's my job so I'll give it a shot. With the opening lyrics, "In 1969, I killed a man of mine," the music fits the mood - somber, dreary, and heartbreaking. "Tomb of Liega," like "Princeton Review," is extremely eerie, reminiscing Massive Attack and Radiohead strongly.
But don't be mistaken, just because Moreno isn't the vocalist on the album's two best tracks, doesn't mean he doesn't get the job done. In fact, Moreno sounds exceptional on Team Sleep. His lazy, breathy style adds to the always-dense atmosphere of the album. On "Ever Since WWI," Moreno croons so radiantly, the track could not have been better by anyone else - even Crow or Timony.
Since I've been raving about this album from sentence one, I figure I should probably throw in the downsides of the album. First off, it has "King Diamond" on it. No, not the band but the track that desperately attempts to be something creative, experimental, and Matrix-like-whoa. But in reality, it nearly ruins this album for me. It's so obscure, out of place, and desperate that you have to wonder why the band included it in the album. Plus Moreno's vocals sound like what Fred Durst would consider prog-rock.
And since Team Sleep has been five years in the making, the first question that I considered was, is it five years good? Sure, it's a great, no make that an amazing album, but does it really represent five years worth of effort? Sure, Moreno had to make time to release the god-awful Deftones in 2003, but how much energy did that really soak up? The conclusion to all of these queries is, no, this album is not five years good. Three, maybe four years good, but it shouldn't have taken nearly this long. Given the hindering Internet leak of their first album, Team Sleep still should've been released at most, a year ago. I was beginning to think it was going to be a who's-going-to-release-their-highly-regarded-highly-anticipated-album-first race between Team Sleep and Guns n' Roses. But that was unfair. I apologize to Team Sleep for the GNR comparison.
In as short a phrase as I can possibly say, because this review is long enough, Team Sleep is an awesome album. Even though I personally wish they would have extended most of their tracks beyond the four minute range, they successfully create a dreamy, beautiful record. It's most definitely one of the best albums in this somewhat forgettable first half of 2005.
8.8 / 10
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