Ever since I first heard ‘No One Knows’, I was in love with Queens of the Stone Age. Their driving riffs were in perfect harmony with notorious frontman Josh Homme’s eerily melodic voice. They created a musical catalogue any rock band would be proud of, and they have done it whilst straddling the line between true gritty, guitar-rock, and a sort of cabaret parody of itself. 2013’s. ‘Like Clockwork’ was, for me, their masterpiece. Following that, therefore was always going to be a tall order.
‘Villains’ starts with three driving rock songs. The riffs for all three are simple, matched with Homme’s typically droning, ghoulish lyrics, you end up with pop songs with rock sensibilities. The opening track swells in and kicks off into a truly instantly gratifying groove, and the breakdown shows Homme’s voice at its ethereal best. The single, The Way You Used to Do, is an Era Vulgaris-esque headbanger, truly dissolving the line between guitars and synthesiser. The chorus is what makes this song special – a flourish of rich chords in an otherwise musically simple jam. Domesticated Animals is in the same vein, with a 7/8 time signature that will make you feel like you were tripping on your own feet.
The rest of the album is quintessentially QOTSA. Hideaway is a personal favourite: Homme sounds like a choir-boy over raucous, roaring chords, and a hazy drumbeat. What makes the song, however, is the synth line, which washes over cleaning all your wounds from the earlier pace of the album.
‘Villains’, then, is both typically QOTSA, but still an example of them at their punchy and fresh best. However, it can never match the emotional depths or musical variety of its predecessors and can only be considered as one of their ‘very good’ albums, and no more.