Regarding the recording, Abe Cunningham said, "At the time we did the first record – which I really like and think is good – you can tell the band was really young. We'd been playing most of those songs for quite a while, and we were just so happy to be making a record that we didn't really think a whole lot about making the songs better." Moreno felt that Adrenaline was recorded "really fast" and performed all his vocals live with the band in the room using a hand-held Shure SM58 microphone.
Daniel Gioffre stated in the Allmusic review: "Unlike many of their contemporaries, Deftones are very controlled even in the midst of chaos." He added: "Throw Abe Cunningham's surprisingly sophisticated drumming into the mix, and you have a band that possesses a far greater degree of nuance than most others that work in the genre." He also noted that "there is a bit of sameness in Chino Moreno's whispered vocal melodies, which drags the record down a bit."
While the album was initially unsuccessful, extensive touring and word-of-mouth promotion built the band a dedicated fanbase and helped Adrenaline to sell over 220,000 copies. Asked to what he attributed the album's success, Cheng responded, "One word: perseverance. We've been together for almost eight years, on the road for two and we do it with honesty and integrity – and the kids can tell." The album was certified gold by the RIAA on July 7, 1999 in recognition of 500,000 units sold. It was eventually certified platinum on September 23, 2008 in recognition of 1,000,000 units sold.