The Black Queen
29th January 2016 – Self-Released
01. Now, When I’m This
02. Ice To Never
03. The End Where We Start
04. Secret Scream
05. Maybe We Should/Non-Consent
07. Strange Quark
08. That Death Cannot Touch
09. Taman Shud
10. Apocalypse Morning
One of the main misconceptions about heavy music is that it breeds negative emotion. The commonly-propagated logical fallacy that it is unhealthy to express and expunge your pain and sorrow. Of course, most fans will tell you that heavy metal and its associated genres are actually wholly cathartic, and this is generally supported by various studies conducted over the years.
But what happens when that kind of catharsis isn’t enough?
This is the driving story behind electronic trio The Black Queen – at least for singer Greg Puciato. Better known as vocalist and human wrecking ball for Morris Plains mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan, Puciato found TDEP’s last album cycle insufficient to combat the demons of his recent past, and so found it necessary to pursue a different outlet to express his emotions. Enter Steven Alexander and Josh Eustis: one a tech for Dillinger and Nine Inch Nails, the other a sometimes member of Puscifer and NIN. The three lived together for a year in a roach-infested warehouse; Puciato paints the picture of a ‘dark night of the soul’ type of rebuilding period for all three, and the result is Fever Daydream.
As much as any contemporary electronic music, you feel like The Black Queen may have been influenced by cinema’s tendency towards ultra-cool, synth-heavy soundtracks – recalling the likes of Drive, The Guest and Only God Forgives - but equally, Fever Daydream is incredibly cinematic itself. Opener “Now, When I’m This” is Blade Runner-esque, dipping its toes into futuristic waters with moody bass synths and a reverberating piano line, all building up and serving as an introduction to the first ‘proper’ song, ”Ice To Never“.
It’s here where the record’s themes begin to show real colour; lyrically, this is just as cathartic as anything Puciato has bellowed on a Dillinger record, but the smooth, almost liquid quality of his voice is at such odds with much of what he’s done before that it’s almost revelatory. There’s a new facet here; a juxtaposition between the placid delivery and obviously angry lyrical content, which is mirrored in the catchy lead synth lines and menacing, bassy undercurrents. In this vein, the electronic skitter in “The End Where We Start” is particularly evocative, like the multitudinous legs of a nightmarish metallic spider pursuing you through your dreams.
These two are probably the tracks most will pick up on in the first couple of listens – both were pre-release singles, after all – but repeated listens unfold a wealth of depth. Electronic music can be difficult to decipher; the almost ‘fabricated’ quality of its sonic palate can cause the songs to blend together to an unfamiliar or inattentive ear, but isolated sections, melodies or beats will being to worm their way in to your ear and grab your attention when they appear on the next listen.
Despite being born in heat – from anger and even hopelessness – the record is also almost effortlessly cool. That’s one of the real strengths of the genre; it’s very accessible on a surface level, with tracks like the slick, ultra-poppy “That Death Cannot Touch” or the simplistic, beat-lead “Distanced” catchy, but also viewable from different angles, and the lens of perspective is important in getting as much as possible from the experience; Fever Daydream is chameleonic, showing different sides depending on your mood.
Much like the opening track, the scale of closer “Apocalypse Morning” is visually redolent, moving through several beautiful, palpable tones. It doesn’t so much as close the album, as drips it off an abyss; you can almost physically feel the gravity of it.
Under the cover of an electronic pop record, The Black Queen have hit upon an intelligent and emotionally resonant recipe of absolute quality. Catchy as it is, it’s the depth and scale that will keep listeners returning, again and again. Fever Daydream is a truly potent first outing for a trio driven to create it out of demanding circumstances, and it’s a rich vein well worth exploring further.