When put alongside Greg Puciato’s other musical projects, The Black Queen sticks out like a sore thumb, a world away from the mind-bending insanity of The Dillinger Escape Plan, or Killer Be Killed’s slamming thrash assault. Instead, Fever Daydream is an album of sleek, industrial electronica that makes a lot of sense when the other members are revealed to be Joshua Eustis of electronica duo Telefon Tel Aviv and former Nine Inch Nails tech Steven Alexander. It’s an odd pairing to say the least – a guy whose outspokenness and to-the-bone attitude have earned him infamy in his own right, lending his vocals to an ambient, generally reserved electronica record with barely a guitar in sight. But despite all of this, Fever Daydream works. Very well.
Unlike a number of side-projects, The Black Queen feels more like its own separate band thanks to the wide pool of influences and reference points that run throughout Fever Daydream. Across these ten tracks there are hints of Depeche Mode’s glittery goth, the more accessible passages of Nine Inch Nails and even parts of The Weeknd’s bleak, nihilism-hedonism trade-off, culminating in a bleak, deeply powerful album. It’s the more club-ready, darkwave-style tracks that stand out the most – Secret Scream‘s throbbing drum machine marries with the minimalist synths and Puciato’s half vulnerable, half sexually charged vocals for an infectious piece of electro-sleaze, while the frigid, frosty crunch and powerhouse chorus of Ice To Never make for one of the best songs of 2016 so far. It’s most definitely not rock music, but maintains the drive and interest that separates The Black Queen from other electronic acts, even in the IDM scene that Fever Daydream occasionally verges on.
The rest of the album, however, is a lot more expansive and thought-provoking. It’s a real headphone album, with more and more meticulous details revealing themselves with each listen in its power to engulf. It comes in the like of Distanced and The End Is Where We Start, simple on the face of things but unfurl themselves into wonderously expansive soundscapes, the former especially with its hushed, almost whispered vocals and hypnotic looped beat. It’s as compelling as it is unconventional, drawing the listener in more and more with each beat until you reach the nearly seven minute long closer Apocalypse Morning, a track that, while slightly creaking under the weight of its own composition, compiles together everything that makes Fever Daydream great – skittering electronics, a clattering beat that builds until a seismic crescendo, and Greg Puciato’s tender, featherweight vocals, nothing like those of his day job.
Because it is Puciatio that ties this album together. There’s no hint of the same man consistently purging at the head of The Dillinger Escape Plan here – he oozes soul and breathy characterisation that gives this album a poppy touch that elevates it from above the electronic underground, but it still manages to have a swirling darkness and malevolence that keeps it out of the mainstream’s reach. It’s certainly an impressive achievement – for a project that had been delayed for years, as well as some skepticism due to the identity of its members, The Black Queen have yielded a particularly strong first offering with Fever Daydream, an album with as much depth and engrossing capabilities as you’re likely to hear all year.
For fans of: Crosses, Nine Inch Nails, Crystal Castles
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Fever Daydream’ by The Black Queen is out now.