A new Queens Of The Stone Age album and a new cast of characters helping to flesh out the supportive roles, Par for the course? Not so much... for where "Lullabies To Paralyze" was definitely an album undermined by the departure of bassist and sometimes vocalist Nick Oliveri; "Era Vulgaris" is the effort that truly feels like a new beginning. Sharp songs, sharp wit and crisp instrumentation with little bong-addled dalliances.
As cliche as it is to say, "Era Vulgaris" is a rather progressive outing for the Queens. Frontman and band nucleus Josh Homme often steps outside himself, avoiding his trademark falsetto warbles in favor of out of character melodies and vocal structuring that extends beyond his comfort zone. In turn, the songs also feel less born of the well-trodden desert rock and more of sentimentalism and a detached, almost cynical viewpoint of today.
Angular, yet colorful riffs, clearly punctuated timing and the lingering feeling of broken analog electronics all create an initially challenging, though ultimately enjoyable listen. The songs generally remain quite basic on the surface, but pack enough subtle nuances to bring the listener back for more - especially through the doubled harmonies and deeply layered harmonic flourishes. A primarily guitar-driven record, there's a snarky, raucous energy to much of what is included here and while admittedly somewhat mechanical in design, it still manages to connect.
But where "Era Vulgaris" truly shines is that it represents a band striving to avoid falling into what they've been known for. Sure there are ties back to various albums from their past, especially with "Make It Wit Chu" being resurrected from a previous "Desert Sessions" release. But through it all, there's a refreshing scope to this album that is both forward thinking and appreciative of their back catalogue. Undoubtedly some songs shine brighter than others here, but all in all Homme and co. seem to have found the inner stability they lacked on their last release. Odd enough it is then that it took an era as turbulent as this to find it.
(4.5 / 5)