Review: The Black Queen – Fever Daydream (USA, 2016)

Greg Puciato. Joshua Eustis. Steven Alexander. AKA respectively from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Telefon Tel Aviv, and (ex) Nine Inch Nails.
Just to briefly let you ask yourself if you could possibly go wrong.

Enough with the drama, let’s get to the content.
Apparently, Mr. Puciato got sick of always having to put up with his one-faceted, Dillinger-established role of “a giant ball of aggression”, in his own words, and wanted to step away from that. He needed a new, cathartic side project to release his more mellow, emotional side.
The Black Queen was in the works since 2011, and it’s not a casualty it was started in about the same years in which Puciato got to feel more confident in his use of clean singing with Dillinger. The three musicians worked and lived together for an extended period of time and delivered the product in a completely independent way.

You can call Fever Daydream synth-pop, electro R&B, trip-hop or whatever. For sure it has a strong 80s vibe, but with a modern and dark twist to it. In my opinion, imagine blending the best elements of Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and Tears For Fears, adding a bit of NIN, and icing the cake with a dark atmosphere and even better vocal lines.
The instrumentation is very minimal and spacious with the use of plenty of ambience effects, but let’s get to the vocals.
We all know Mr. Greg is one of the most abrasive sounding screamers in his business, but he definitely has potential in his clean singing too, delivering interesting lines which don’t hide an admiration for the work of Mike Patton.
He also admits he had a soft spot for R&B-style singing in his youth. Well, here he makes that passion and “singing potential” shine, free from any kind of “heaviness-required” arrangement restrictions. Vocal lines are per se simple, so don’t blame me if you expected virtuoso showoffs after this statement of mine, but Puciato brings out so much expressiveness and taste in his phrasings, putting his falsetto to good use and greatly complementing the tunes’ moods. I won’t be hesitant in saying this is probably one of his best vocal performances to date.

This album is overall really catchy, and you’ll be able to tell if you like it from the very first listens.
Still, it’s one of that kind of growers. The more you listen to it, the more you can give depth to the experience and sink into the feel. At least, that was the case for me.
I had to listen to this album so many times before I could internalize it, and that’s for two reasons. First, it is so relaxing, calming and chilling I had a hard time not falling asleep any single time I listened to it, and that was for the first handful of times (also, doing it while lying in bed wad not the best idea) so I had to count for some listens before I finished one straight session consciously. Not joking!
Second reason is what I mentioned earlier. Listening to this album is indeed cathartic, quite a spiritual experience. Try to let yourself sink in the mood and identify with the lyrics, get past mere music and you’ll feel something for sure.

Musically, the tracks are sort of variations on a theme. Again, the 80s vibe is there, but every track has its own spin to the electronic canvas.
The gently echoing synth of the opener “Now, When I’m This” carries us in another chilling dimension, introducing to the minimalist and uplifting “Ice to Never” and its catchy refrain.
“The End Where We Start” is probably the most modern sounding track with its subtle glitches\stutters and its anthemic guitar lick.
“Secret Scream” is a very 80s, dancey track and the follower “Maybe We Should/Non-Consent”  brings a slightly more intimate, R&B vibe.
From Distanced towards the end we get in my opinion progressively darker and more intimate. This one has such good vocal phrases, probably my standout track.
The filler “Strange Quark” is another moody one, with distant vocals drowned in reverb. We get again poppy and dancey with “That Death Cannot Touch” and “Taman Shud”.
Closing the experience, Apocalypse Morning is a very intimate, pensive and soothing piece, and would probably make for another selected track of mine.
As you can see, I really have not many words to spend on the elaborateness of the content, although I advise you to simply have some good listens.

The album was promoted smartly, with some clever “hype campaigns” and cross-pollinating advertisement between the respective artists’ social pages. Also, given the fact that every one of them is well known in their respective niche, it’s no surprise the album instantly sold out in all formats shortly after its release.
Luckily, I’m not talking bollocks. The quality is there and being a 100% independent release, I’m glad the guys are getting some return.
Thankfully, I managed to buy my CD copy not long ago, at yet the first reprint!
I rambled too much already. As you can guess, I really enjoyed it and it was a breath of fresh air for me. Highly recommended!


 

Label:  Self-released
Links: Official Website | Facebook | BandCamp
Release Date: January 29, 2016
Reviewed By Rizzo

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About Andrea "Rizzo" Rizzieri 39 Articles
TSL co-founder, co-owner, editor, and in charge of everything-that-comes-with-that. Born 1992, I always had the vocation to learn everything I could later never accomplish to save my own life. I am indeed a failed guitarist, drummer and so much more! Er, I’d better write about music I like for the time being. Although my musical past has been firmly rooted in rock, punk and metal, I appreciate any kind of music as long as I find it artistically interesting. I have a split personality by which part of me likes anything musically forward-thinking, inventive or just of general “good taste”, and part of me likes being blasted by all-out intensity and dissonance.

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