By Gavin Tracey | Sep 28 2017Queens of the Stone Age have returned with their seventh studio album. Villains is the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2013 release …Like Clockwork. In typical QOTSA fashion they have come back with gusto.Mark Ronson’s (of Amy Winehouse and ‘Uptown Funk’ fame) influence is evident throughout the album. For the most part, the production is stellar, with crunchy, raw guitars, sour synthesisers, and Homme’s distinctive vocals. Album opener, ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me’ starts off with mournful, plaintive whispers, before giving way to a punchy guitar riff that is difficult not to move to. Homme has a distinct skill for songwriting: familiar phrases are alluded to and altered with a supple, clever twist. In particular, ‘Fortress’ is an excellent showcase of his writing abilities.However, the album is not without its flaws. The sustain-heavy guitar from Songs for the Deaf or Rated R has largely been abandoned, and replaced with a dry, tight sound, like all the air has been sucked out. This can at times make the mix sound flat or muddled. Furthermore, Villains can feel a little unbalanced. Despite its strong start, it loses its lustre as it continues, eventually ending in a somewhat dull manner with ‘The Evil Has Landed’ and ‘Villains of Circumstance’.In a nutshell: A strong album, well worth a listen, but it fails to reach the heights of QOTSA’s best work.