Review Summary: Era Vulgaris is like a really good fake diamond on first glance; after a few minutes of admiring it, you realize it's not amazing, but still great.
Joshua Homme, the mastermind behind of the critically-acclaimed band Queens of the Stone Age, knows that you can’t survive for your whole career riding the same sound throughout your band's lifespan. Sure, if Homme produced another Songs for the Deaf
the band may be international rock stars; but for musical integrity, you’ve got to grow amongst yourself and produce solid new sounds with each new album and consistently push the boundaries. With the departure of the bassist Nick Oliveri, the band's revolving door of members continued, but Homme’s visionary musical style was still in tact, and Lullabies to Paralyze
, the follow-up to the hugely successful Songs for the Deaf
proves that Queens of the Stone Age will guarantee you an album unlike anything ever released before.
Despite the label ‘stoner rock’, the band is at heart a Psychedelic Hard Rock band. The music is heavy, crunchy, and dark. The messy, and confusing Lullabies to Paralyze was the transition record, moving away from the perfected mainstream sound of Rated R
and Songs for the Deaf, in favor for a disturbing, dark, and overcomingly bleak psychedelic atmosphere. Each song pounds the guitar to the floor and makes sound effects with Homme’s guitar that guitar mastermind Tom Morello hasn’t yet grasped. It’s a very ‘crunchy’ sounding guitar-driven rock record that sounds very much like a rock-hard live album as you listen to Homme pound on his guitar’s tremolo bar and strum the chords on his guitar, breaking down into some truly amazing riffs and solos. While the band has taken a strong turn away from the mainstream, the band pushes forward towards a more experimental, progressive side of their genre and sound. This is what Homme was trying to perfect with Lullabies to Paralyze, the band’s definite transition record.
Homme’s songwriting skills are at a high on this album-each song has his traditional cynical, comedic lyrical style mixed with some astonishing, technical riffs that quickly shifts into Homme’s stand-out choruses and solos. This makes the songs on Era Vulgaris
fast, sudden, and harsh yet melodic; showing their mainstream mentality while keeping their resurgence to more experimental sides of the spectrum. Where Lullabies to Paralyze was tough and tightly-wound, this album is loose and very vibrantly dark (if that’s possible). Some songs have a very flamboyant feel to them and set off psychedelic colors in your mind like Turnin’ on the Screw
and Sick, Sick, Sick
while some quietly dull you off to sleep and take you towards ultimate night-driving tracks like the rhythmic and moving Make it With Chu
and the beat-driven Suture Up Your Future
. Or the random brilliance of tracks like the equally odd but fun I’m Designer
and Battery Acid
also makes the album seem a dulled brilliance sparked by Homme’s unorthodox song structures.
Unfortunately, Era Vulgaris is quite far from perfect. It’s great and a step up from the transition record Lullabies to Paralyze, but the album dies fairly quickly after the fun, enjoyable wankery of 3’s & 7’s
. Suture Up Your Future is a good night-driving, rhythmic track, but really doesn’t have a climax or at least get interesting, and feels quite boring. River in the Road
goes nowhere just like Suture Up Your Future and is an overwhelmingly haunting, messy, and complete overdose of the Era Vulgaris psychedelia. And for the most part, Run Pig Run
seems to be a test of how much sound you can tolerate without going mad; Homme wails quietly over heavy distorted, shifting and crunchy guitars into a track that seems to have no rhyme nor reason; no better than a filler track. Needless to say, the album doesn’t end ‘with a bang’, just ends ‘with a lot of noise’.
The album itself features a worthwhile listen of astonishingly great tracks, crunchy and highly addicting; just it lags a bit at the end. There’s not enough to keep me interested after 3’s and 7’s, and that just kills the flow Era Vulgaris had going. At the core though, it’s a dark, flashy, and psychedelic work of art that yields a new ‘Era’ of creativity for Homme, as showcased by the multitude of excellent B-Sides, one of which is amazing (the title track). The crunchy, rough, and edgy style showcases a band with creativity and ready to grace the world with excellent originality and talent. All in all, Era Vulgaris is close to excellence with about eight amazing tracks, but unfortunately becomes irritating at the end and loses all of it’s momentum by the end. At the end of the day, rock fans of all ages and Queens fans alike can’t afford to pass up Era Vulgaris.