Founded in 1996 by vocalist and guitarist Joshua Homme, Queens of the Stone Age first broke through with their second studio album Rated R–released in June 2000 through Interscope Records. They would go on to achieve international success just two years later with the gold-certified follow-up Songs For The Deaf, featuring guest contributions from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes (both of whom would later collaborate with Homme again as part of the supergroup Them Crooked Vultures).

I first became aware of the band in 2008, when their song “3’s & 7’s” from Era Vulgaris (2007) was featured in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock.  Peripheral-based rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises were a pop culture phenomenon at this time–every kid in the neighborhood had their own plastic guitar controller, uniquely adorned with stickers–though their popularity would fade in just a few years’ time. 

I quickly grew obsessed with the game’s soundtrack, which slotted rock classics from prior decades like Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Welcome To The Jungle” and Pearl Jam’s “Even Flow” alongside then-contemporary hits like like Muse’s “Knights Of Cydonia.” “3’s & 7’s” was one of the most difficult tracks to ace in the game–I can still remember the cramps in my 10-year-old fingers from trying to play it through without missing a note on ‘expert’ difficulty.

Following a long period of inactivity–during which Homme recorded and toured with Them Crooked Vultures–the band re-emerged in 2013 with …Like Clockwork, newly signed to Matador Records. 2017’s Villains saw them collaborate with in-demand pop producer Mark Ronson, marking yet another interesting evolution in tone. June 2023’s In Times New Roman…, their latest studio release, marks the thrilling culmination of a loose trilogy that began a decade prior.

Self-produced by Queens of the Stone Age and mixed by Grammy-nominated producer/engineer Mark Rankin (Spoon, Iggy Pop, etc), In Times New Roman… is more of a ‘back-to-basics’ affair that sees the band returning to their no-frills hard rock roots. It’s also their first release to receive an immersive mix, much to the joy of audiophile fans like myself who’ve long waited for them to embrace the format.

Though the Dolby Atmos mix of In Times New Roman… has been available to stream since June 2023, we at IAA are thrilled to now offer the album as an exclusive immersive digital download through our online shop!

Queens Stone Age Times New Roman Dolby Atmos MKV TrueHD IAA

I imagine that mixing a raw-sounding heavy rock record like In Times New Roman… in Dolby Atmos proved to be a difficult task, as spreading out the individual components too much could dilute the overall impact of the band. One could certainly argue that the prior album Villains, a more-polished production that saw Queens' core sound augmented with synthesizers and other electronic elements, might have been better-suited for the immersive treatment. 

While not the last word in channel separation, the Atmos mix does effectively parse out some of the instrumentation in an effective manner without sacrificing the ‘punch’ and sonic impact of the stereo soundstage. Listeners with a 9.1.4 setup will find that the front wide speakers are an integral part of the immersive presentation, perhaps more so than in any other Atmos mix I’ve encountered to date (those with a 7.1.4 or lesser array will hear these elements imaged between the front and side speakers).

Queens Stone Age Times New Roman Dolby Atmos MKV TrueHD IAA

A phasey guitar blast from the wides opens “Obscenery,” with a second set of guitars answering from the front channels. Homme’s vocal uses the ‘phantom’ center rather than the physical center speaker, thought his voice extends outwards a bit towards the side and front height speakers. During the chorus, falsetto background vocals appear largely in the side surrounds.

Some elements, such as the harmony vocals and rhythm guitar isolated in the wide speakers throughout "Paper Machete," clearly expose limitations within the 768 kbps Dolby Digital Plus/JOC codec used for immersive streaming. As shown in the short samples below (wide channels only), the detail and clarity is much better preserved for home listeners with lossless Dolby TrueHD.

Dolby TrueHD (IAA Digital Download)

Dolby Digital+/JOC (Streaming)

“Paper Machete” starts off as more of an ambient presentation, but background vocals and some lead guitar flourishes soon appear isolated in the wides. “Negative Space” continues to feature the heavy guitars in the wides, with a second guitar popping up the sides during the chorus. There’s a particularly fun moment at around the one minute mark into “Time & Place,” where the feedback effect leading into the second verse slides across the rear speakers.

“Carnavoyeur” is undoubtedly the most impressive track from an immersive standpoint. It begins with the menacing distorted guitar gradually rising from the sides, eventually giving way to Homme’s vocal upfront. Backing vocals (“Free fall from the nest, then glide to the left…”) appear largely from behind, with more guitar swells popping up in the sides after the two-minute mark.

Guitar and keys battle it out front-to-back throughout “What The Peephole Say,” while the cavernous echo on Homme’s voice at key moments (“tonight…is the night”) travels up to the rear height speakers. “Emotion Sickness” again keeps the heavy rhythm guitars confined to the wides, with the harmony vocals during the chorus (“Don't care for me…”) popping up from behind. The nearly 10-minute-long epic closing track “Straight Jacket Fitting” is another highlight, showcasing the demonic lower-register backing vocals in the side surrounds and room-filling strings.

Following the release of Spoon's Lucifer On The Sofa earlier this month, In Times New Roman… is the second entry in an ongoing series of high-resolution immersive digital downloads from IAA and Beggars Group. One of the world's largest and most-respected independent label groups, Beggars Group is home to 4AD, Matador Records, Rough Trade, XL Recordings and Young, as well as a growing publishing wing (Beggars Music) and a successful catalog imprint (Beggars Arkive).

Many new album releases from Beggars Group are already available to stream in Dolby Atmos, including key titles from landmark artists such as The National, FKA Twigs, Water From Your Eyes, The Libertines, Interpol, and more. Over the coming months, we plan to make more of this fantastic immersive catalog available in hi-res downloadable form through our online shop.

Purchase In Times New Roman… in the IAA Shop!

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About the Author
Jonathan is an audio engineering enthusiast from New York with a passion for immersive audio, having amassed a formidable collection of multichannel optical discs and quadraphonic vinyl. He earned his undergraduate degree in Television-Radio from Ithaca College and is currently enrolled in a Master’s Program in Audio Technology.