By Amy Priest
It’s not common for a band to still be going strong after nearly two decades, but the alt-rock masters Queens of the Stone Age defy the stereotype “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This band always seems to exceed even their fan base’s unusually high expectations through and through. Those who have listened to Queens of the Stone Age since the beginning are more than used to the band’s signature sound they have presented since they released their self-titled album in 1998. They would release two more albums under their original lineup, utilizing their original sound. In 2004, though, their bassist and backup vocalist, Nick Oliveri, left the band. Oliveri was a huge contributing member to the “signature sound” of the band. This loss shook up the group, pushed them out of their comfort level and made way for a period of experimentation and a massive shift in sound. This period has continued with every subsequent album. On August 25, Queens of the Stone Age released this, their seventh album, entitled Villains.
The album opens with “Feet Don’t Fail Me.” This song provides a strong intro for the album, exhibiting an almost “dance music” vibe; but Josh Homme’s bluesy vocal quality shines through, distinguishing the song, and truly the whole album, from being just “radio music.” The album develops throughout with these bluesy vocals, along with strong and well-placed backup vocals, rhythmic guitar and bass runs, a punchy drum beat and prominent use of synth. The second song on the album, “The Way You Used to Do,” features this same vibe and the same strong instrumentals. Besides, we all know that every album needs a song with a catchy hand-clapping bit. This song delivers.
“Domesticated Animals,” the next song, starts with a very dissonant beginning. The lyrical concept of this song is fresh, featuring strong lines such as “Get right up, kneel and bow, where’s your revolution now?”
“Fortress”, the fourth song, has a slow and incremental entrance, building up to an almost psychedelic feel. The next song, “Head Like A Haunted House,” has a prominent bassline. This song is fast-paced and has a lot of sound effects. “Un-Reborn Again”, the sixth song, has a strong drum intro, and this song fades out slowly at the end.
“Hideaway” is a lot more rhythmic and slow. It is less bluesy than the previous songs, and Homme’s vocals are slightly more straightforward. This song seems to be a turning point for the album, leading the album into a slower mood. “The Evil Has Landed” makes good use of guitar distortion during the intro. Homme’s vocals in this song seem to be slightly less prominent and center-stage, giving a chance for the lead guitar to shine.
The closing song of the album, “Villains of Circumstance,” is slow and makes use of softer vocals and pinch-harmonics-style guitar playing.
This album, overall, met expectations. Queens of the Stone Age, though they lost a member a few years back, have managed to provide a new sound for us with every album since, including Villains. The only critique I can provide for this album is that when you’re listening to upbeat dance music with tons of synth for every song, it starts to blend together and all sound alike. This album didn’t seem to have any variations in genre until the last three songs. This led to the album feeling sort of over-produced, with a focus more on the theatrics (synth and effects-like distortion) of the songs rather than the songs themselves. I would have liked to see more variety within this album. Aside from that, though, the instrumentals were exceptional. Every instrument had a chance to stand out within the album. Josh Homme’s deep, bluesy vocals did not disappoint either (but then again, they never do).