I woke up to a bright, pristine, crystal morning on Friday, ready to spend a day listening to and ruminating over the panoply of new releases from groups such as Black Tusk, Grieved, and Chthe’ilist, three bands whose new albums have been on my anticipated list for a while now. One release I somehow entirely forgot about, though, was the debut album from The Black Queen. This is a new project involving Greg Puciato of mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan, something of which I had entirely deprived myself any prior knowledge, so that I could digest the whole album in a single sitting. The only previously contrived expectations I had allowed myself was that it would somehow involve the sometimes mellifluous, sometimes irascible strains of Greg’s voice. And man, am I glad I did this: Fever Daydream kicks ass and takes names, all while totally defying any expectations I had regarding Greg’s involvement here.
From the opening bars of instrumental intro “Now, When I’m This,” until the very end of closer “Apocalypse Morning”, the magic of this album held me entirely prisoner: lush, spacey synths and reverberating drumbeats combine to form black, chrome-plated soundscapes, neon-illuminated streets onto which rain the beautiful tones of Greg’s exclusively clean vocals, pattering down constantly, a drip of emotion flowing into the robotic and impersonal instrumentals, planting a seed of organic material into a world of blocky concrete and metal.
Greg’s ire works magic on Fever Daydream, his voice providing an emotional constant, one of melancholy and somber hesitation, and he gives the whole album a very slow, ponderous vibe, almost the exact opposite of his fast and intense work with Dillinger; the contrast between the two projects, the leaps and bounds between their emotive and musical qualities, showcase beautifully how talented and well-rounded of a musician and vocalist Greg is, and even here there’s an insane amount of diversity: “Strange Quark” gives him a chance to show off a more spectral approach to his vocals, and its immediate follow up, “That Death Cannot Touch,” has Greg dancing through a short, peppy track, replete with Michael Jackson-esque small vocal fills here and there. Every track feels custom made to show off a different facet of Greg’s vocal talent, exposing a different side of the emotional prism that Fever Daydream is.
That’s not to disparage the quality of the instrumentals themselves, though. The entirety of the album feels cohesive, yet no two tracks feel samey in terms of the sentiment and energy they convey; as all the synths work in tandem to create palpable environments, aided by the wonderfully minimal percussion, it’s hard to not get caught up in the retrofuturistic, Blade-Runner-esque fantasy of the package.
It’s always pleasing to hear that artists are pursuing different projects in favor of a more diverse form of creative expression, but rarely do they defy expectations and astound in the way The Black Queen does. As an avenue for Puciato and co’s desire to create something that is wholly different from what one would expect of the vocalist of a band like The Dillinger Escape Plan, this is not only a triumph of diversity in creation, but a triumph of musical talent as well. More than just an odd side project of someone involved in metal, Fever Daydream is the result of a group who are clearly committed to creating something totally novel, and on The Black Queen’s debut album, they have struck gold.