Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris
Review by Jack Foley
QUEENS Of The Stone Age return with their fifth studio album Era Vulgaris, an epic effort that finds the band returning to their deepest, darkest roots.
From opening effort Turning On The Screw to final track Run Pig Run this is a mostly heavy, pounding record that’s designed to appeal to the most ardent rock ‘n’ roll fans. As such, it delivers some pretty exhilarating highs, even if there are times when you might be seeking a breather.
What is notable, however, is Josh Homme’s relentless determination to stretch himself and his band in new ways without ever seeming as though he feels more important than he is. Queens of the Stone Age are more about entertaining than message making and that only adds to their appeal.
So, what of the good stuff. Turning On The Screw pretty much emerges as a powerhouse starting point – a drum loop paving the way for some clipped riffing and a footstomping grind that flirts with glam-rock without ever committing to it totally; Homme’s haunted vocals making sure of that.
Sick, Sick, Sick, meanwhile, cheekily references both their own back catalogue and the hardest sound of the Foo Fighters, whilst dropping in a surprise vocal contribution from The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas.
I’m Designer plays up the warped riffs and puts Homme through the vocal wringer but stays the right side of impressive with its views on consumerism and glitz, while Into The Hollow mixes disco with metal to funky effect, showcasing Homme’s ability to soundcheck musical inspirations in surprising ways. The riffs, in particular, stand out.
Elsewhere, Misfit Love is dirty, foreboding and downright indecent, careering head first into Battery Acid, a sweaty and unrelenting effort that marks one of the weaker offerings).
But just when you think it’s all about the headrush, Homme drops Make It Witchu, a re-recording of the Desert Session favourite, which replaces Mark Lanegan’s vocals with his own. Come the layered vocal chorus (which hint at the falsetto style of The Charlatans and early Rolling Stones), you’ll be totally mesmerised and hailing an inspired, even romantic, change of pace. It’s one of the albums standout moments.
Former single 3’s & 7’s picks up the energy once again with some swaggering riffs and all manner of tempo changes, just to ensure listeners are keeping up, before Suture Up Your Future brings things back down to moody, even poignant effect. It’s evidence of the band’s diversity.
River In The Road and Run Pig Run put the pedal back down – the former impressively, the latter not so – before organs take centre stage for bonus track Running Joke, another surprise change of pace that once again serves notice of the band’s ability to continually change and experiment with new sounds.
And then title track Era Vulgaris brings things to a terrifically rousing close, complete with guest vocals from Nine Inch Nails maestro Trent Reznor. It serves final notice, as if any were needed, of Homme’s immeasurable talent and ever higher standing within the industry.
In short, Era Vulgaris is a rock ‘n’ roll monster of epic proportions that shakes, rattles and completely bowls you over. It’s everything fans could wish for – and then some.
*Download picks: Turning On The Screw, Sick Sick Sick, Into The Hollow, Make It Witchu, 3’s & 7’s, Era Vulgaris