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Queens' inventive, more
accessible hard rock

Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris
(Interscope Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 18, 2007
Queens of the Stone Age

Review by Tony Bonyata

On their fifth full-length release, Era Vulgaris, the core of Queens of the Stone Age has been reduced to its three key members but, besides a couple of guest appearances, the sounds that emanate from it are some the fullest, most polished and accessible hard rock the band has created since forming a decade ago.

Although frontman Josh Homme chose the Latin title because he thought it sounded like "Vulgar Era," the actual translation is "Common Era," referring to the Christian Era beginning with Year One of the Gregorian calendar. And as it turns out, with songs that have honest-to-goodness pop sensibilities like the dreamy "Into The Hollow," "Misfit Love" and the irresistible funk of "Make It Wit Chu," this description of these more advanced, forward-thinking times seems more appropriate than Home's own misinterpretation of the title, not to mention some of the band's own Neanderthal metal leanings of the past.

That's not to say that this effort will have fans of their more prehistoric crunch heading for the hills, as there are still many moments of bludgeoning metal mayhem on it. The first single from the album, "Sick, Sick, Sick," is a relentless rocker with howling guitars that sound as if they're trapped in a tarpit with the accompanying apocalyptic rhythms only pulling them down deeper, while The Strokes' frontman Julian Casablancas also lends his vocals for the song's taunting chorus. "Battery Acid" opens up with some plundering, primordial sludge, before the tempo takes off - even if the song itself never does, and despite the hard rocking nature of the closing track "Run, Pig, Run," there's more form than function to it. Luckily the heavy opener "Turnin' on the Screw" is a delightfully decadent heavy rocker propelled by its inescapable groove, while the artful prog-rock of "Suture Up Your Future" and the loosely-wound, corkscrew track "I'm Designer" gives this album a nice crosspollination of varying styles, while never fully abandoning their core sound.

While neither common nor truly vulgar, Era Vulgaris manages to hit just hard enough while also showing a more accessible side to this enigmatic band.

Queens of the Stone Age will be opening for Rage Against The Machine Fri. Aug. 24th at Alpine Valley Music Theater in East Troy, WI.

Watch Queens of the Stone Age - "Sick Sick Sick" video

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