One year after the death of Deftones bassist Chi Cheng, the group’s frontman Chino Moreno has honored Cheng’s memory by releasing “Smile,” one of the last songs the group recorded with him. Throughout most of 2008, the alt-metal group had been recording the shelved album Eros, which “Smile” is taken from, with a planned 2009 release, but halted production when Cheng was in a car collision in November 2008. He was in a comatose state until his death in April 2013.
While Cheng was comatose, Moreno said in interviews that he was not ready to release Eros. Instead, the band scrapped the album and brought in bassist Sergio Vega, with whom it has recorded two albums so far, 2010’s Diamond Eyes and 2012’s Koi No Yokan. “We still have yet to even sit down as a band and listen to where [Eros] was left,” Moreno told Billboard in 2011. “There’s a lot of great music on it, I know that, but. . . there’s a lot of emotion and stuff around it, obviously. It’ll be something we’ll put out just out of the blue, when we feel the time is right, but I don’t think that will be anytime soon.”
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The melancholy track “Smile” finds Deftones dwelling in a twilight realm of positivity and sadness. “Smile, you’re born again,” Moreno sings, and later, “Do you feel love?” The music is slow and plodding, sparse then suddenly lush. Moreno shared the song with a tweet that said, “Chi, We miss you today and every day. -deftones.”
“He’ll always be thought about on a day-to-day basis. It’s not something that goes away, obviously,” Moreno told Rolling Stone in February. “I think that when he did pass, it was very hard. It was five years where he was in a state where he couldn’t speak. He was existing, but not existing. He was here, but not here. It was very hard on us and it was really hard on him.
“I feel like with his passing, not to get back into the supernatural, he is more with us now then he was in the five years when he was stuck in that sort of in-between space. It’s a little bit of a relief because I know that he’s not suffering. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him.”