The last album by the Queens of the Stone Age was "Songs for the Deaf," a frenetic collection of the hardest kind of rock. It was a thrilling, visceral experience, not one soon forgotten. Then nude bassist Nick Oliveri departed from the band, taking the wilder edge of the band with him. Oh, what would become of the Queens of the Stone Age?
Well, if "Lullabies to Paralyze" is any indication, then they are doing fine. This album relies on Josh Homme, and it's stripped down to... well, not down to the bare bones, but some very strong, lean sinew. The albums opens with a little acoustic ballad, "Lullaby," which starts things off on a strong footing.
From there on, things get stranger -- fast paced songs that just keep speeding up, ominous buildups, and nightmarish undertones. There are moments of quieter catchiness -- "Little Sister" seems perfect for the album's first single. And a few tracks feel a bit like filler. But overall, "Lullabies" is very much in the flavour of the Queens' second album, "Rated R." Only darker and somehow more whimsical.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Josh Homme gets to rule in this one. Truth be told, he ruled all through the Desert Sessions, Kyuss, and now he sits in the middle of the Queens of the Stone Age, like a sinister-but-not-evil mastermind. Oliveri's manic style and gimmicks are gone, and in their place is steady, dark rock'n'roll that takes strange and unexpected twists.
It's not a concept album, but it feels that way -- the mood gets generally creepier as "Lullabies" goes on. Fuzzy guitars, dark metallic riffs, and eerie harmonies get a few unusual flourishes, such as that broken music box. And Homme's vocals blend into the songs like another instrument -- great stuff. It only emphasizes how central he is to the band's unique sound.
Queens of the Stone Age seemed to be endangered when Oliveri departed, but "Lullabies to Paralyze" shows that the band is just fine. Not quite perfect, but a solid creation.