Release Date: 28/09/2018
Describing the sound of The Black Queen almost verges on the realms of impossibility. Even after endless listening to their 2016 debut Fever Daydream, explaining to anyone that Greg Puciato – of now defunct mathcore legends The Dillinger Escape Plan– fronts a synthwave pop band as his main job sounds a little ludacris the more you consider it. However, anyone with prior experience to Greg’s vocal ability might agree it somewhat makes sense. Not to mention Telefon Tel Aviv’s Joshua Eustis providing the soundtrack to the music, alongside Greg’s pal and long-time band tech Steven Alexander, things might start to feel a little more comfortable.
The band’s sophomore record Infinite Games is a 45 minute offering of ice cold synthwave, melded by gothic undertones that provide the only fragile link between the band’s sound and the alternative world they originated from. The difference between this record and their debut, is the focus seems to have taken a marginal shift towards evolving a specific mood and atmosphere, more so than dovetailing intricacies on hooks, melody and accessibility. The Black Queen aren’t too distant from a ‘frostier’ version of Depeche Mode, playing on 80’s pop influences but enveloped by modernised, slick production and a silky smooth vocal approach from Puciato. Sounds good eh?
I enjoyed the band’s debut record, perhaps even more so than Infinite Games, but I’m still at odds as to what stops me being completely sold on The Black Queen. Perhaps my source material to identifying their key influences is painfully brief and basic, or that I often find myself appreciating the artistry behind the music as opposed to the music itself. The Black Queen seductively tease my musical boundaries, but don’t quite do enough to unconditionally reel me in, but I’m fine with that.
Back in 2016, ‘Ice To Never’ was the band’s lead single on the approach to releasing their debut, Infinite Games doesn’t offer anything comparatively accessible until around the halfway mark with ‘Lies About You’ and ‘Spatial Boundaries’, both of which are lead by thudding drum beats well worthy of your dancing shoes. But The Black Queen still can’t help themselves, while ‘Lies About You’ is arguably one of their most instantaneous tracks, it still simmers into a near two minute ending of delicate ambience to conclude. It’s clear Infinite Games is seeped in influences that belong solely to popular culture, but its approach often comes off as far too technical and ambitious to fully grab the attention of mainstream audiences.
Sometimes you have to appreciate good music even if it doesn’t really belong anywhere near the pages of Mind Noise Network. After two records, I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that The Black Queen simply aren’t a band for everyone, and sometimes that even includes me. Sonically, Infinite Games is a beautifully crafted record, and it’s essential to consider the mood, journey and atmosphere as an entire piece of work more so than cherry picking any individual moment. It’ll take months to truly grasp, but if absconding from the typical walls of rock and metal is a beguiling challenge that sounds up your street, you could do far worse than pouring your time into this.
Infinite Games is out now, and available to order via BandCamp
Recommended Track: Spatial Boundaries