I was initially going to write about “Songs for the Deaf” (SftD) when I realized that “Era Vulgaris” gets scrutinized for not being SftD. I will not argue with the fact that SftD one of my favourite albums of all time, but I really feel like Era Vulgaris is still fantastic.
Let’s start with a dissection of why SftD is so amazing.
No, that’s not fair. To hold an album as the pinnacle of a band’s career based on the efforts by one member inclusion is shallow. Though, it is true that Mr. Grohl does some amazing work on this album. I mean, just listen to the opening track and you can see what you’re in for. Once you get passed the mock-radio intro you are hit by a wave of pure Metal-Awesome. Track two was a fantastic single when it was released, and was my introduction to this band.
Track three, First It Giveth, is by far my favourite on the album. The punishing and driving beat over the corus mixed with the polyrhythmic verse drumline make it one of the more interesting endeavours I have ever witnessed in music. Then, track four, probably the coolest excuse for an extended drum solo ever.
My analysis of the first three songs on this album are what lead me to believe that it should not be held as high as it is in the QotSA catalogue. I mean, every instrument does amazing things all through this album. It feels like the “Dave Grohl” album we needed, instead of the Foo Fighters. Due to this fact, I refuse to give it the “QotSA best album” lable.
Then, the forgotten (and hated*) sequel, Era Vulgaris.
*it might not be as hated as I read into the discussion, but it was not received as well.
I feel bad for this album. It had to follow up one of the most interesting releases in “metal” that we have heard since “Destroy, Erase, Improve“. It got so many things right, it just could never live up to SftD produced.
It had a much more polished sound, and played it safer by being both accessible and radio-friendly. It focuses more on Josh Homme’s guitar playing. The lyrics are more whimsicle, the bass much chunkier, and the drums are more conventional. Still bloody intricate, but less head-‘splody ridiculous.
The first single, “Sick, Sick, Sick“, focuses on more of a traditional song structure that QotSA have moved on from. More of journey as opposed to a song, the orchestration of layers and subtle changes leave the listener waiting to see what comes next. SftD was this strange combination of floaty-and-whimsical and brain-punch.
I know that I am making up words and phrases, but listening to these albums you quickly notice that my adjectives are apt.