Off-Key with Eric D.

Eric D’Orazio

Metal is back. Over the past few years there has been an apparent resurgence of the once-decadent genre that hailed headbanging and more hair than one could handle. However, nowadays metal has become more calculated, more fiery, and sadly, more commercialized. Recently, bands like System Of A Down and Queens Of The Stone Age have taken metal to the masses. Yet whereas SOAD became radio’s metal band of choice by garnering endless airplay, the Queens have managed to keep their underground credibility by not conforming to the mainstream. Though it has gained a great following due to its 2000 sophomore effort, “Rated R,” the band remains relatively unseen in pop culture today. And with its new album, “Songs For The Deaf,” it intends to stay that way.

From the first second, one may hear that “Songs For The Deaf” is completely different from anything found today. Not to say that it isn’t suitable for radio, but it literally is radio. Amidst the 14 tracks that comprise the album, there are numerous mock radio shows, all set to display the foolishness of a music industry bent on hearing the next single. Yet contrary to their nonconformity, the Queens serve up such a worthy single in the form of “No One Knows.”

Though it is actually more of an alternative song than metal, “No One Knows” stands out as being one of the only love-oriented songs on this seemingly angry record. Acting something like “The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret,” the band’s breakthrough hit, the current single reflects upon the frustrations that love can induce, and what those frustrations can do to one’s life. As the lyrics put it, “What you do to me, no one knows.”

Having already touched upon the album’s first love song, its next highlight turns out to be its second track. Aptly titled “Another Love Song,” it deals with the ever-popular subject of a break-up, only this time from the person who carried it out. Stating “It’s never easy, it’s not hard,” the song focuses on the aggravation of such a split, and its ’70s punk sound and simple musicianship make the situation even surlier.

By far the best song on “Songs For The Deaf” is its last track, “Mosquito Song.” Being a hidden bonus track, this grand finale of sorts is a bombastic mix of classical and art-rock that can only be moderately described as early ’90s Metallica-meets-Tenacious D. Its lyrics delve into the idea that all of us are living food for mosquitoes, and all we can do is allow them to eat us away. Put this to the fact that the band members did not play their respective instruments on the song and its morbid overtone is fully complete.

Blasting through one hour of sheer power, “Songs For The Deaf” proves itself to be the best piece of work Queens Of The Stone Age has ever produced. Yet the pivotal reason why the album is so great can be summed up in two words: Dave Grohl. The band recruited the lead Foo Fighter and former Nirvana drummer to put a special twist on the songs for the new record. And oh, how he did so. Unleashing a percussion skill not seen since his Nirvana days, Grohl gave “Songs For The Deaf” an extra element of outstanding power, so much so that the album seems to flow better than its 2000 predecessor. Altogether the album is just one giant, nonstop revolution against conformity, in which the band plays what it wants while fans want what it plays. In truth, “Songs For The Deaf” will most likely be heard.