Album of the year: Queens Of The Stone Age
Era Vulgaris (Interscope)
Happy New Year - the Queens of the Stone Age are heading for Northern Ireland...
The US masters of sound have rarely had an annus horribilus.
And in 2007, 16 years on from their inception, the Queens have finally delivered an annus mirabilis (a miracle year) with the release of their new album Era Vulgaris
It was their Ok Computer, Nevermind, Sgt Peppers moment, if you like ? and it leaves even big-selling outstanding predecessors, such as Songs For The Deaf and Lullabies to Paralyze, in its wake. Roll on 2008 when the Queens hit Belfast for what could be gig of the year!
Era Vulgaris is one of those records which, like a good book, is hard to put down until completion.
The odd skip moment creeping into previous material is missing.
Fans can lap up the unconventional rock style which has always singled out band leader Josh Homme's labours.
The album begins as it means to go on with an uncompromising pneumatic drill-like toxic squall of power rock produced by fuzzed up bludgeon guitar-playing and feverish drums.
The musicianship is faultless as the group powers through a dozen stomping tracks. These include two dazzling singles, Sick Sick Sick and 3s and 7s.
But Battery Acid and Make It Wit Chu are on a par in the quality stakes.
Like all Queens' records there is an important brooding element - and there is a definite uneasy, almost sinister feeling throughout.
After the commercially successful Songs For The Deaf, fans must have thought the band would be tempted to take the soft rock option and write easy-on-the-ear stadium fillers.
But there is nothing anodyne about Era Vulgaris.
Of all the outstanding albums of the year this is the runaway winner.