Springing from the intense darkness that was …Like Clockwork, Queens of The Stone Age reaches new heights like the mighty phoenix. The ashes and dark, more quizzical style of …Like Clockwork is abandoned and instead traded for something much more fruitful on Villains. It still has the raw cowboy grooves that Queens of The Stone Age embodies, but the actual style of their approach has become slightly varied. From each album, there is a significant adaptability behind their sound, whether it be the lyrical themes, the instruments used, or the very tone used behind the production. Villains is something new, not just in a time, but in a musical sense where it feels like a plastic-wrapped delight.
Kicking the door in with the very slow to rise, but eventually in perpetual motion, “Feet Don’t Fail Me” receives a shock to the system after a gradual rise in the spacious instrumental backing behind Josh Homme on guitar and vocals, Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, Dean Fertita on the keyboards and guitars, Michael Shuman on the bass guitar and vocals, and Jon Theodore on the percussion. The quintuplet brand of brawlers all join hands together to make Queens of The Stone Age one of the tightest bands on the planet. They can not just make dynamic music that shifts tempo, emotion, and range, but they can do so while making the listener feel like one of the Anti-Heroes. Queens of The Stone Age have always been a vivid band, their music can paint other worlds or a lonesome desert road; this has been the magic behind Queens music and the magic of Josh Homme’s talented songwriting. But it is also the musicians behind Queens of The Stone Age which are a catalyst for Josh Homme’s visions to see fruition. Especially on the following track, “Fortress” where the record takes a reflected journey and becomes a more intense, more liberating style of confession as Homme explains, “I don’t want to fail you, so I tell you the awful truth. Everyone faces darkness on their own, as I have done, so will you”. It is foreboding and recaptures the spirit of being personal in his lyrical progression, but this is also present for the other moments of Villains as well.
As the rather punk rock inspired, “Head Like A Haunted House” bursts into frame, Queens of The Stone Age become maniacal animals of rushed tom-slams and blitzing guitars. There are also moments where “Head Like A Haunted House” is a banshee’s dream as Homme and company let out screams of wonder before letting the hard drum fills take the band into a completely different spectrum with “Un-Reborn Again”. A quick synthesizer lead, which is then followed by rough percussion as the rest of the musicians from Queens of The Stone Age begin to flood in; making “Un-Reborn Again” a floating, almost transcendence style of track with this clash of authentic and synthetic instrumental pieces. In the same way that Homme delivers chilling lyrics throughout Villains, his delivery here is no different as he describes, “Frozen in pose, locked up in amber eternally. Buried so close to the fountain of youth, I can almost reach”. As the final rephrase from Homme leaves his lips, these odd and schizophrenic styled violin and string sections comes playing behind his voice, creating an orchestra of sound.
This is also the catalyst for the final track, “Villains Of Circumstance” a benign beginning that has a bass line similar to Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side”. Before reaching the apex of a track that feels like a teenage runaway embodiment. Queens of The Stone Age continually switch between a somber, and an overarching level of excitement that seems almost bi-polar. The way that the lyrics switch from “Close your eyes and dream me home, forever mine, I’ll be forever yours”, to the sudden shift where Homme lowers his voice, protruding more as a soft-spoken giant, and explains, “There’s no magic bullet, no cure for pain. What’s done is done, ‘til you do it again. Life in pursuit of a nameless prey I’ve been so close, I’m so far away”. It is during this shift that Homme becomes the victim of his lyrics. He becomes the hopeless character that the listener begins to feel sorry for, the one who channels their inner emotions toward himself. But Homme is never truly hopeless, and neither is Queens of The Stone Age for that matter.
With the what seems with hundreds of hours of publicity behind the musical juggernauts Queens of The Stone Age, it is apparent that they still have the spark that made successful all those years ago. There has been tweaks to the formula, a change on the slider of color, but Queens of The Stone Age is still a consistently incredibly band with emotion packed into each of their releases. With all the love in the world, people could use a little bit of villainy in their lives.