We’ve waited six long years for Queens Of The Stone Age to release a follow-up to Era Vulgaris, but the band’s return was delayed by guitarist/vocalist Josh Homme’s side-projects, and also a brush with death—Homme’s heart stopped temporarily during knee surgery. After months of recovery, Homme finally returned to the studio to deliver …Like Clockwork, a dark, bizarre, brooding record unlike anything else in the Queens repertoire. Opener “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” is driven by an ominous bassline, seductive drums and buzzing guitar squawks.

“Kalopsia” teases with a gentle melody, until punctured by a bruising chorus with riffs that recall ‘70s-era Bowie. Homme’s near-death experience seems to inform the introspective nature of the new songs. On gentle piano ballad “The Vampyre Of Time And Memory,” Homme sings “I want God to come/And take me home,” fully sounding like a man coming to terms with his mortality. It’s immediately evident that …Like Clockwork showcases a mellower QOTSA—many songs alternate between quiet passages and heavier choruses, and hard riffs are used more for accent than for constant barrage. “My God Is The Sun,” the closest thing here to vintage Queens, hypnotizes with a snarling lick and jackhammer drums.

A slew of guests appear on …Like Clockwork, including Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, wayward ex-bassist Nick Oliveri, Alex Turner and, surprisingly, Elton John. However, it’s really Homme’s show here, as he ups the ante for QOTSA in terms of songwriting and lyrical maturity, while still delivering brilliant guitar work. This is a dense record that may require several listens to fully appreciate. Though fans of the band’s earlier material might be put off a bit by the significant detour from heavier rock, those willing to go along for the ride are bound to feel rewarded by Homme’s experimentation.

In A Word: Ambitious

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