Queens of the Stone Age, Villains | Album Review
Queens of the Stone Age returns strong with the utmost consistency on their compelling, hard rocking new album, ‘Villains.’
The rock darlings are back! Who? Why Queens of the Stone Age, who announced their new album, Villains, in June 2017. Villains arrives four years after the band scored a no. 1 album on the Billboard 200 with …Like Clockwork. Ahead of the nine-track effort, QOTSA dropped two thrilling singles, “The Way You Used to Do” and “The Evil Has Landed,” setting the tone. All in all, Villains, produced by standout Mark Ronson, impresses from start to finish.
“Feet Don’t Fail Me”
Villains gets off to a mysterious start thanks to “Feet Don’t Fail Me.” For nearly two minutes, the record has an unsettled quality, percolating little by little. Once it reaches a boil, “Feet Don’t Fail Me” is scalding hot. The riffs are jagged and the drums pummeling. Additionally, frontman Josh Homme sings with the utmost conviction. From start to finish, the opener is intriguing, setting the tone for the album.
From the jump, “The Way You Used to Do” sounds venomous, sporting a menacing bite. The guitars are gritty, with the distortion amplified to the nth degree. A couple of seconds in and the hellishness is real. Adding to the diabolical tone is the hard-rocking groove, where the syncopation exhibits the sensibilities of urban music. Ultimately, the listeners are blessed with radiant, ungodly, ear candy. It’s not all Mephistopheles – love is a theme of the record. Homme compares his love to a person with a bad reputation – an arsonist. Charming. All in all, Queens of the Stone Age have a gem on their hands, combining the grit of rock and the fun, groove of vintage pop and soul.
Following two juggernauts isn’t easy. Despite the arduous task, “Domesticated Animals” is up to it. “Domesticated Animals” retains the ferociousness that made the opening duo superb. The guitars continue to roar, while the presence of the bass adds to the darkness. Homme continues to sing with attitude, yet also, shows more tenderness when appropriate and applicable. Notably, “Domesticated Animals” has a throwback rock sound – the riffs are reminiscent of “Smoke on the Water.”
“Fortress” begins mysterious and unsettling, much like “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now.” Even so, “Fortress” doesn’t take nearly as long to settle in. Vocally, Homme showcases more of the beauty of his voice, particularly early on. While this record continues to rock, musically, it also has its beautiful moments, particularly the additional sounds (synths). Perhaps it doesn’t quite live up to the high watermark of the crème de la crème, but “Fortress” is definitely well executed.
“Head Like a Haunted House”
The spirit kicks up a notch on “Head Like a Haunted House.” The pace, along with the hard drums are what instantly stands out about the song. Kinder, gentler Josh Homme is gone – he’s “kicking ass and taking names” here. The energy is irresistible – infectious, infectious, INFECTIOUS.
“Head Like a Haunted House” should be tough to follow-up in theory, but “Un-Reborn Again” manages to trump it. Ambitious as it approaches seven minutes, this gem is worthy of its length. The use of synths creates an enigmatic quality, and initially, a sense of unpredictability. The guitars stabilize any uncertainty, packing an elephantine punch. The combination of synths and guitars proves thrilling. You know what else is thrilling? The personality that Homme shows throughout “Un-Reborn Again,” particularly on the chorus.
Now comes the letdown. “Hideaway” isn’t a bad song – there are NO bad songs on Villains. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel as aggressive or ambitious as the one-two punch of “Head Like a Haunted House” or “Un-Reborn Again.” Nonetheless, it’s respectable; sufficiently enjoyable.
“The Evil Has Landed”
“The Evil Has Landed” restores any lost glory. It’s ambitious in its length as well as its music. From the start, the intro sets a foreboding tone, foreshadowing the trip that is “The Evil Has Landed.” The guitars are ‘souped-up,’ characterized by a heavy, distorted tone. The guitar riffs have a bite, the drums pummel once more, undoubtedly anchoring the evil down. Vocally, Homme isn’t as evil as the instrumentation, providing a musical contrast with his more even-keel sound. A guitar solo, following the first bridge, marks one of the elite moments. The form of the record is a bit unpredictable, but keeps things fresh. Ultimately, this is a juggernaut.
“Villains of Circumstance” concludes Villains soundly. While it doesn’t reach the glory of “The Evil Has Landed,” the vibe and conception of the track are sound. The verses tend to pull back more, steeped in enigma, while the chorus is bolder and more pronounced.
All said and done, the villainy of Villains is awesome. So what if the sound is hellish – it’s hellishly great! Queens of the Stone have done it again, delivering another fine rock album. All nine of the songs prove to be worthwhile listens.
Gems: “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” “The Way You Used to Do,” “Un-Reborn Again” & “The Evil Has Landed”
Queens of the Stone Age • Villains • Matador • Release: 8.25.17
Photo Credit: Matador