Josh Homme's Queens of the Stone Age have risen above the generally sound-alike stoner rock genre by virtue of their clever, intricate songwriting and virtuoso musicianship. Hanging out and recording at Rancho de la Luna Studio in Joshua Tree, CA, Homme and various musical pals have also released a series of Desert Sessions, which rely on neither the kitschy '70s references nor the recycled Sabbath riffs that their stoner rock brethren venerate. Instead, Homme and pals concoct a varied group of rich, elaborate compositions which conjure up an exotic world of gem-loaded desert caravans and opium-smoke-filled harems. Among Desert Sessions, Vol. 7-8's many fine moments is an appearance from Mark Lanegan singing on "Hanging Tree," a top-notch rock tune benefiting from Lanegan's grunge-era voice and some hypnotizing background effects. Another great smoke-out tune is "The Idiot's Guide," where Homme's whispered falsetto is particularly effective. This song wanders around like an acid casualty lost in the desert after a rave. But it's the caravan-like marching tunes that really stick out, "Don't Drink Poison" and "Up in Hell," which feature an orchestra of Eastern-style guitars, tribal drums, and chanting lunatics for an ornate, Arabian Nights vibe. The album's humorous finale, "Ending," is the rock band's frenzied last song cliché taken way over the top with "thank yous," "good nights," and solos and drums that won't end. Even better than Queens of the Stone Age's last record, R, these sessions are a wild, uninhibited orgy of magnificent, tweaked-out music.