Amidst personal turmoil, and declining spaces for hard rock in the public consciousness, Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme entered the creation of ‘In Times New Roman’ with a selfish mission. “We’re going to make something that sounds as brutal as it feels to be alive right now,” Homme recently told NME about their eighth album’s genesis. “I think on this [part of the] journey there’s no armour left. It’s only about walking deeper into the darkness. That’s the way it should be.”
There’s been a fair share of upheaval in their world in the six years since 2017’s ‘Villains’. Homme has been embroiled in a legal battle with Brody Dalle, his ex-wife and front person of The Distillers, where accusations of violence and restraining orders have been traded during a lengthy custody battle of their three children. Elsewhere, Homme revealed this week he’s been treated for cancer, and been rocked by the deaths of key collaborators and friends, including Mark Lanegan, chef and travel broadcaster Anthony Bourdain, and Homme’s best pal, Treme actor Rio Hackford.
If there’s anything to emerge from the mire, it’s that QOTSA find themselves where a lot of fans want them: back in the sludge. ‘In Times New Roman’ is a grotty listen, using pain to encourage a rawness in their sound that’s been absent since 2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’. Speaking to NME, Homme described lead single ‘Emotional Sickness’ as “a Frankenstein’s monster of a song”, where disparate melodies and lyrics furiously stitched together; here, they’ve done little to hide the stitches, and allowed the messiness to ooze out of the suture.
Aside from the groan-inducing puns that litter the tracklist – ‘What The Peephole Say’, for one – almost no light breaks through on these compositions. ‘Made To Parade’ has the same swagger as Iggy Pop’s Homme-assisted record ‘Post Pop Depression’, but taps into the post-pandemic malaise: “I did not notice the weight of the chains til they were cut from me/How’d I drag them for so long?” he wails. It is relentless and, at times, exhausting. On ‘Carnavoyeur’ he’s “hanging by a nail in this life” and likens himself to a vulture. ‘Paper Machete’ is drenched in bitterness and spite: “Truth is, face to face, you’re a coward”, he says, adding “you speak lioness and damsel in distress so fluently”.
‘In Times New Roman’ is unlikely to win over those perched on the fence, though all-encompassing adoration perhaps doesn’t fit a period that has left so many deep scars. They’ve pitched their comeback between an emotional exorcism for Homme, but with enough fan-service for the die-hards; this is up there with their darkest, knottiest material to date, and will be appreciated all the more for it.
- Release date: June 16, 2023
- Record label: Matador