REVIEW: THE BLACK QUEEN – “Fever Daydream”
Greg Puciato’s name is quite well-known within the metal community, best recognized for his vocal work with mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan. Already a fan of his projects, I was very interested in hearing his latest endeavor, The Black Queen. However, as my knowledge of his previous bands built up a certain expectation, my initial reaction wasn’t too positive. But I was wrong to judge so quickly, for this is not Dillinger, it’s not even Killer Be Killed – The Black Queen is Puciato’s way of branching out and exploring new sounds, and creative versatility is more valuable than staying in your comfort zone.
The Black Queen’s debut album, entitled ‘Fever Daydream’, begins with a short, atmospheric intro, reminiscent of a 1980’s horror movie. This pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the album, as the entire thing sounds very dated. Ordinarily that might not be a good thing, but it’s actually fascinating how well they pulled off achieving that sound, seeing as it was made three decades later. Which brings me to the second (and best) track, “Ice To Never”: a perfect example of that 80’s dance party feel that appears so often on ‘Fever Daydream’. Even the music video for it is true to the style of the 80s. I’m not a fan of electronic music, but “Ice To Never” won me over fairly quickly, and I just can’t get enough of it.
Combining both of the aforementioned 80s horror movie and dance party styles, “Secret Scream” is my second favourite song on the album, sounding like something off of The Lost Boys soundtrack. “Secret Scream”, along with “Distanced”, posses a sort of industrial pop quality, which is likely due to the other two thirds of The Black Queen, Joshua Eustis and Steven Alexander, both of whom have previously worked with Nine Inch Nails.
Then there are the more hip-hop type of programmed beats, such as in the third track, “End Where We Start”. I tend to skip over songs like this, as the lack of real instruments is the most prominent feature. “Apocalypse Morning” and “Maybe We Should” are also guilty of this, however the latter would be a decent song if the electronic beat was replaced with an actual drummer half way through to beef it up. In the midst of the programmed beats and the cliché synth, an impressive element of ‘Fever Daydream’ lies within Puciato’s vocal performance. His cleans are almost unrecognizable when compared to his early Dillinger days, and his more controlled vibrato really stood out to me throughout the whole record. His melodies are simple yet powerful, and of course, quite catchy, breathing life into otherwise generic and redundant electronic beats.
Overall, what The Black Queen has achieved with ‘Fever Daydream’ is something that grows on you with each listen, something that brings both fans of the electronic and metal worlds together. They really nailed that classic 1980s feel, providing nostalgia to those who have experienced the culture of the 80s first hand, while simultaneously adding something new and fresh where you would least expect it. While strange and unexpected at first, it’s best to approach The Black Queen with an open mind, and to accept it for what it is.