“Villains” From Stone Age Keeping Modern Rock Alive

By Kohan Eybergen

 

An Album Review

On August 25th, 2017, modern rock veterans Queens Of The Stone Age released their seventh studio album titled “Villains”, their first album since 2013. As modern rock has been on a downward spiral towards soft alternative-folk-pop crap since Mumford and his bearded Sons released their first album, Queens Of The Stone Age have been one of the few bands still keeping the spirit of rock & roll in alternative music.  Their 2013 album “Like Clockwork” hit hard with tracks like “My God Is The Sun” and “Smooth Sailing”, songs that remind listeners of frontman and guitarist Josh Homme’s stoner desert rock past. However, QOTSA’s latest release “Villains” goes in another direction for the band, yet is still recognizably an album with their style and flavour all over it.

Track 1: Feet Don’t Fail Me   

The first track on the album begins with a slow and ominous intro. The first noises heard are faint strange scraping guitar sounds followed by eerie synth and Josh Homme’s ambient vocals, which effectively sets the dark tone of the album. The intro is then followed by a fast-paced dance-like bass line and metronomic drums. The synth continues in the background of the song, maintaining the eerie feeling of the track. The quiet bridge contrasts drastically to the quicker paced groove of the rest of the song, while Homme’s vocals are almost Bowie smooth. This is an excellent beginning track to kick off an album.

Track 2: Like The Way You Used To Do

As the band’s first single off of the album, this track really kicks a lot of ass for a radio-friendly tune. Beginning abruptly with the main guitar riff, this song lets the listener know early on that they’re in for a ride. About halfway through the track, the instruments go into a syncopation that instills unease and anticipation. Closer to the end of the song, there is what I can only describe as a classic QOTSA silent instrument pause, followed by a very cool guitar burst. The track then ends with the driving guitar riff, and a strange synth outro that leads into the next song.

Track 3: Domesticated Animals

A short, unsettling intro kicks this one off, shortly followed by Josh Homme’s somewhat staggered lyrics. The irregular time signature of the song (7/8 I believe) further reinforces the eeriness of the album, and Homme’s haunting vocals add to the feel as well; an excellent yet unique song.

 

Track 4: Fortress

This song also is preceded by an otherworldly synth intro. By far the slowest and calmest track on the album, it is definitely one of the best ones with some of the most meaningful lyrics, in my opinion: “If your fortress is under siege, you can always run to me”, “If ever your fortress caves, you’re always safe in mine”, Homme assures. This is certainly a vocal based track on an album full of quicker tempo songs.

Track 5: Head Like A Haunted House

  Speaking of faster tempo songs, Head Like A Haunted House is by far the shortest and fastest on the album. With lightning-quick lyrics that display Homme’s immense vocal prowess, this track certainly packs a punch. Throughout this number, the ever-present synth maintains the sinister tone. This is perhaps the best song on the album, but who can say for sure?

Track 6: Un-Reborn Again

This track certainly contains a trademark Queens Of The Stone Age bass groove that is omnipresent throughout. With strange, surreal lyrics and the use of horn instruments towards the end, this makes for an interesting song.

Track 7: Hideaway  

This is the second slower paced song on the album, however it doesn’t quite hold up to “Fortress” in my opinion. It accomplishes to uphold the dark vibe of the rest of the tracks, but on the whole is a bit boring next to the rest of the pieces on the album.

Track 8: The Evil Has Landed

Oh boy does this song rock. As the second single on “Villains” this song definitely holds up when put side by side with “Like The Way You Used To Do”. Methodical and driven, it’s easy to tell that this song is headed somewhere spectacular, and it certainly is. Between Homme’s vocals and short guitar solos the song is held tightly together by the drums and bass. And then right as it seems like the song has come to an end Josh Homme slowly announces, “here we come.” The band then launches into a twenty second high tempo burst to a completion that is reminiscent of “No One Loves Me, And Neither Do I” by Them Crooked Vultures, another one of Homme’s musical endeavors including John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters: an absolutely sublime ending to this track.  

Track 9: Villains of Circumstance  

The beginning of the final track focuses mainly on the vocals and simplistic guitar that both maintain the surreal and eerie “emerging out of a fog” ambiance. The song then picks up as more instruments are introduced, and the chorus feels almost like it could be out of a Muse song (not a bad thing) while still maintaining a distinct QOTSA flavour. The ending of the song turns quite dark, ominous, and theatrical sounding, extremely similar to the majority of the final tracks on their other albums such as “The Mosquito Song” from “Songs For The Deaf.”

Overall, this is a great album that effectively maintains a common feel throughout the entirety of the song selection, and a record that holds up extremely well compared to the rest of Queens Of The Stone Age’s previous titles. It’s probably a 7/10 rating from me.   

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