Artist: The Black Queen
Album: Fever Daydream
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: 29th January 2016
Dillinger Escape Plan front-man joins forces with electronic luminaries for an album of dark, stunning proportions
The sense of community that exists between Metal fans and bands alike has always been perhaps the genre's most culturally favourable rationale, and in 2016 it's pleasing to detect that all-encompassing spirit crossing over into musical territory as well as in terms of people. The Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato is one man who has been a constant reminder of the joys of eclecticism via his day-job's artful approach to chaos. A bit like the untouchable Mike Patton he's earned the right to experiment in almost any way tangible, so the fact that his new project The Black Queen has far more in common with '80's synth-pop than anything rock-orientated doesn't ring many alarm bells, if any. The one way to prove that, of course, would be to a release a staggeringly solid beauty of a record, and Fever Daydream is, within its realm, near-perfect.
Completed by sole Telefon Tel Aviv member Joshua Eustis and fellow musician Steven Alexander, the obvious reference points of influence are Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails, but the depth and swirling texture at every turn here suggests a far more open-minded pallet and vision. Reportedly worked on steadily over the past four years, whether it's dealing in always brilliantly judged spaciousness or industrial-tinged bangers it carries itself with a meticulous grace that forms a nuanced wholesomeness.
Instrumental opener 'Now, When I'm This' sets the sub-zero, 3am in an abandoned warehouse vibe to be adhered to but also consistently uprooted. 'Ice To Never' balances its pounding, tribal sense of rhythm with gorgeous restraint in the synths, leaving Puciato's voice plenty of room to soar. 'The End Where We Start' is a fractured glimpse into an other-worldly lucid dream. Central point 'Maybe We Should/Non-Consent' sees some of Puciato's poetic and (whisper it) romantic lyricisms shoved warmly into the fore as the track becomes a slow-burning anthem around him, before it descends into two minutes of mechanic and eerie low-end rumble and synthetic clatter.
Greg's voice becomes almost siren-like over the Boards of Canada-esque glitchy dystopia of 'Strange Quark', and is chopped and looped to become part of the music on 'Taman Shud', whose mid-section convulses in to an off-kilter pool of skittering electronics and fuzzy, organic bass rattles as Puciato croons of love cryptically ("I know that we're buried, innocent and true").
By the time magnificent 7-minute closer 'Apocalypse Morning' draws to a close it may take the listener a few moments of silence to feel the full impact of the hand they've just been dealt. Given the little fanfare that Fever Daydream was expressed by before arrival, expectations were probably rather scatter-brained and it's possible that nobody thought it would be as well-structured, focused and detailed as this. In fact, everything folds together to form an almost transcendental mirage; it's the kind of creativity that suits Greg & his band mates to a T.
Key Tracks: 'Ice To Never', 'The End Where We Start', 'Maybe We Should/ Non-Consent', 'Apocalypse Morning'
For Fans Of: Depeche Mode, Junior Boys