Over the last 4 years, Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan has been a busy, busy bee. Aside from constant touring with his main band, and the incredible release of their 2013 work One of Us is the Killer, he somehow found time to form the supergroup Killer Be Killed with Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Nailbomb, Soulfly), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and Ben Koller (Converge, Mars Volta), and release THEIR self-titled album to pretty strong critical reception. All the while, however, he was writing and piecing together material for something completely different, absolutely outside of the metal genre. I’m talking, of course, about The Black Queen, whose debut album Fever Daydream was released on January 29th of this year.
Where do I start? This may quite possibly be the greatest recent inclusion to the Darkwave genre. It’s just that good. Imagine, if you will, a glorious ménage-a-trois between Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, and Nine Inch Nails. That description alone could go in so many different directions, and yet, Puciato (along with Joshua Eustis and Steven Alexander) have created something simultaneously haunting and emotionally uplifting that probably would have fallen flat if anyone else had made an attempt. I’m sure it helps that Puciato (a lifelong Nine Inch Nails fan) and his cohorts have all shared the stage with musical demi-god Trent Reznor at some point in their careers, but that influence is still fairly minor compared to the incredible 80s darkwave synths that seep and ooze out of every corner of this record.
The music alone is fantastic, but it is Puciato’s voice and skillful writing that help elevate Fever Daydream to a near epic status. Take a song like “The End Where We Start”: while utilizing beat production that sounds reminiscent to most witch house genres, it utilizes classic 80s synth layers in the background coupled with haunting vocal harmonies to create a soulful and peering gaze into the depths of the human heart. Its fluidity only makes the lyrics sink in further: “We are consumed/I found out it was you/And our hearts run true/With what we’re meant to do.” What exactly “we’re meant to do” is never truly answered, but that’s the kind of ambiguity that I like about Puciato’s lyricism. On top of this, he uses his voice to augment the music as another instrument in the overall synchronicity of the composition.
This structure is most present in “Maybe We Should/Non-Consent” amongst others. The words lead into a musical breakdown: “Leave all your shame behind the door/somethings just can’t last forever/Because the shadow wants to hide/but you can’t escape my eyes/when I see you move/the silence comes alive/Leave all your shame behind the door/maybe we should just, maybe we should just…” Suddenly the stream is broken, like a rock thrown into in the middle of a still pond, and it comes back together in pieces roaring into rapids. This onslaught is then followed by “Distanced”, a subdued song with a quiet intensity the album continues its journey emotionally stripping itself bare.
It’s hard to pick just one song over others because they are all that good. It’s splits a modest difference between the subdued emotional exploration of songs “The End Where We Start,” “Maybe We Should/Non-Consent,” and “Distanced”, with heavy, synth-banging dance numbers like “Ice to Never,” “Secret Scream,” “That Death Cannot Touch,” and “Taman Shud” culminating in a beautiful contemplation in “Apocalypse Morning.” Fever Daydream is a rare example of an album that creates an infinite flow. It’s designed in such a way that the ending can blend back into the beginning and the whole cycle can repeat itself for endless enjoyment. After all is said and done, I can’t stop listening to this record. I want turn all the lights off and turn the bass up, and yell obscenities when the neighbors start thumping on the ceiling. The album is on Bandcamp, and believe me: it’s worth every penny.