Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘… Like Clockwork’ is the best hard rock album in years. We may be late to the party, but at least we’re making an emphatic entrance.

To stick our neck on the chopping board even further, we are going to argue that it is the best hard rock – a genre we shall describe as beginning at too-heavy-for-radio and ending just short of metal – since Nine Inch Nails’ 2005 effort ‘With Teeth’. While that is a testament to a fantastic album we have here, it is also an indictment of a genre that has been underrepresented since people wore plaid in Seattle in the early ‘90s.

And there are comparisons to be drawn between the two albums. Both came six years after an album which thoroughly underwhelmed both fans and critics. Both are essentially the work of one man and a band of friends – yes Troy Van Leeuwen, Dean Fertita and Michael Shuman, we are sidelining your contributions. Both had a certain Mr. Grohl contributing the banging of sticks against things. Both were dramatic returns to form… though not necessarily the best released the groups have made. Both are more accessible than what the bands had produced before.

For any Queens of the Stone Age fan, a new album will automatically bear comparison with ‘Songs for the Deaf’. That is the yardstick. It is the yardstick for the band and the yardstick for the genre. ‘…Like Clockwork’ probably doesn’t reach the mark left by its predecessor. Neither, though, does it follow the same path. Where ‘Songs…’ was a glorious assault of off beat drums, heavy riffing guitars and vocals dragged across miles of broken glass, ‘… Like Clockwork’ is calmer, more tuneful and a hell of a lot sexier. It is the cannabis to its predecessor’s cocaine (don’t do drugs kids, they’re bad).

In typical Queens’ fashion, the first taster offered from the album is a misdirect. My God Is The Sun sits no better with the album’s mood than Make it Wit Chu, Little Sister or Feel Good Hit of the Summer did on previous albums. Each is fine in itself. None are indicative of what we should expect.

The rest of the album is ever-so sweet, but with a hard edge; a musical Sour Patch Kid. I Sat By The Ocean, If I Had a Tail and Smooth Sailing are sleazy, funky and a whole lot more. The Vampyre of Time and Memory is borderline emotional… for Queens of the Stone Age. Kalopsia is reflective lament right up to the point the feedback kicks in.

Perhaps it’s the best example of Josh Homme’s tongue-in-cheek nature, but there’s just something fantastic about drafting in mates including Elton John, Trent Reznor, Mark Lanegan, Brody Dalle, (*takes a breath) Nick Oliveri and Dave Grohl for a song and call it Fairweather Friends. It speaks volumes that the song lives up to its contributors.

The album’s peak though is undoubtedly I Appear Missing. A meandering six minute epic that never feels its length, the song is everything that the album stands for. It’s soft, with Homme’s impressive higher register finer than it’s ever been before. It’s powerful, with Grohl’s drums and Van Leeuwen’s guitar not giving the listener a moments rest. It’s thoroughly engrossing and engaging throughout.

‘…Like Clockwork’ is a giant in its genre and an essential album for fans of rock music. It doesn’t bring Queens of the Stone Age to a new level, but reaffirms their position as the kings of their craft. It is simply fantastic.

“It’s only falling in love because you hit the ground,” Homme sings on I Appear Missing. Well we’ve fallen, Josh, but there’s not impact in sight.

If you’re a fan of Queens of the Stone Age then we think you’d like Irish band Jogging. Check ’em out below.