Los Angeles rockers Queens of the Stone Age are back with a musical vengeance. Released on Aug. 25, 2017, “Villains” is the seventh full-length album by the band. This release seals a four-year gap, gracing the music community with their first new material since 2013’s “…Like Clockwork.”
The nine-track LP was produced by DJ and artist Mark Ronson, famous for his productions and collaborations with artists such as Adele, Bruno Mars, and Amy Winehouse.
Though the band uses several session players throughout the album, they do not feature any guest musicians. This is perhaps the most notable production change from their past. Throughout nearly two decades of making music, Queens of the Stone Age has featured numerous other famous musicians. These range from timeless pop icons such as Sir Elton John to 1990s mainstays such as Mark Lanegan (The Screaming Trees), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), and Dave Grohl (The Foo Fighters, Nirvana).
“Villains” opens with “Feet Don’t Fail Me,” beginning the album with haunting synth hooks that melt away into a steady four-beat groove. The next track, “The Way You Used to Do,” takes the band in yet another new direction. Never shying away from experimentation, the band creates a danceable yet in-your-face swing tune that was released as the first single prior to the album.
According to a July interview, there was a definite swing influence behind the composition. During this interview, lead guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen told Rolling Stone that the song was “like [Cab] Calloway on speed.”
This successful experiment of a track is followed by the intense, crunching “Domesticated Animals.” Charged lyrics and a smack of double guitar directly in your face match the consistent attitude of the band, accentuated perfectly by greased hair and tattooed knuckles.
The album continues with the heartfelt “Fortress,” a mellow tune full of keyboard, but still not a break for the ears. The following track, “Head Like a Haunted House,” picks back up with speed and hard rock determination that is reminiscent of “Era Vulgaris,” the band’s 2007 album.
Following this are the tracks “Un-Reborn Again” and “Hideaway,” two mainstream tracks that move along but lack the artistry found in the rest of the album. Though average in sound and creativity, there is still no doubt that they belong to Queens of the Stone Age.
Up next is the second single heard prior to release, “The Evil Has Landed.” Nearly seven minutes of conjunct guitar riffs and trance-like vocals keep the album moving right along, bringing “Villains” closer to climax.
The ninth and final song is the melancholy “Villains of Circumstance,” which brings the album to a peaceful yet uncomfortable close. Dark yet soulful and full of guitar and keyboard, this track is a near-perfect end to an album that iTunes describes as sounding “like a nightmare rendered as a cartoon.”
Overall, “Villains” is a successful and engaging album, detailed yet punishing. Though new musical steps were taken to distinguish it from previous releases, Queens of the Stone Age owes their success yet again to a not-so-secret ingredient: the lyrical genius and musicianship of frontman Josh Homme.
“Villains” is not only one of the better albums from Queens of the Stone Age but a standout on the current rock scene. Odds are that it will stand as such for years to come.