It's been a long time coming, but with Songs for the Deaf – surely the title of the year – heavy metal finally gets the album that could rehabilitate the moribund genre and elevate it beyond the measly adolescent whinings of Limp Bizkit and their ilk. It's certainly the most mature, commanding work of its kind in years, probably since Metallica's self-titled black album, and it deserves to effect a comparable transformation of Queens of the Stone Age's career. A large part of its success is down to the collaborators that the Qotsa duo Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri have picked for the project, notably Dave Grohl, a majestic, Bonham-esque presence behind the drums, and the former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan, whose solo albums revealed the kind of blues affinity that was once crucial to the genre but has been glaringly absent in recent nu-metal releases. Check out the way Lanegan's vocal sways against the riff of "Hangin' Tree" like a body dangling from a noose, or the way Grohl's bass-drum flurry tumbles like an avalanche through "Song for the Dead", and you'll wonder why they didn't come together sooner. Driven along by Homme's punchy "robot rock" riffing, and graced with Oliveri's guitar arabesques, the album forces heavy metal into strange new territory: the lolloping Glitter Band stomp of "Do It Again", the exoticism of "Another Love Song" and "The Sky Is Fallin'", and, most impressively, "Mosquito Song", whose scope recalls Radiohead rather than any hard-rock peers. A landmark album that knows just how dumb rock'n'roll is, and how smart it can be.
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