Album Review: Fever Daydream – The Black Queen

Album Review: Fever Daydream – The Black Queen

Artist: The Black Queen
Album: Fever Daydream
Genre: Electro-pop/Synthpop
Date of Release: 29/01/2016
Location: Los Angeles
Reviewer: Benjamin Muir
For Fans Of: Dillinger Escape Plan, Blakq Audio, Side-Projects

Track Listing:
1. ‘Now When I’m This’ (2:45)
2. ‘The Ice to Never’ (4:46)
3. ‘The End Where We Start’ (4:02)
4. ‘Secret Scream’ (3:21)
5. ‘Maybe We Should/Non-Consent’ (5:37)
6. ‘Distanced’ (4:55)
7. ‘Strange Quark’ (2:28)
8. ‘That Death Cannot Touch’ (3:50)
9. ‘Taman Shud’ (5:25)
10. ‘Apocalypse Morning’ (6:46)

I have been sitting on this review for a very long time. Amidst university assignments for the semester and my own band, I have had very little time to review others. After weeks of strictly formatted essays, I was looking forward to being able to put forward a more-or-less stream of consciousness review while giving some new music a proper listen. A few months ago Chris asked me if I would review The Black Queen’s Fever Daydream. Being a fan of The Dillinger Escape Plan, I agreed happily. Let me preface by stating, I was really hoping that I would be able to fairly and objectively review this release without reference to Dillinger, to whom The Black Queen is more or less “the singer’s side project” (and fuck me, is it ever that), but I found myself singularly unable to do so in spite of my best efforts. By having noisy interesting stuff in the first few bars then not for the rest of the album, that first into is the equivalent of mathcore nerd coitus interruptus. It’s bullshit.

With the feedback-based intro track, I had, if only for a brief moment, high hopes for this being something other than hackneyed and self-indulgent side-project electro-pop; maybe even something interestingly dissonant, but as I heard the modulation effects on the drum machines roll in on the second track recalling all the worst parts of 80’s production, I knew that this was not going to be Dillinger, and not in the good creative way in which a side project is unlike it’s lineal progenitor – I mean in the sense that Dillinger is good and this is average.

Let me start off by saying that the production is by no means as average as the album is as a whole. In fact, it’s absolutely masterful. It manages to bring retro synth aesthetics into crisp high-definition recording. What is lacking is the songwriting. In between songs that seem like a cross between another certain other electro-pop side-project, (AFI side project Blaqk Audio) every shitty drum machine from the eighties and my fucking nightmares because I hate the sound of reverb-drenched 80’s digital drums, even when they’re this nicely put together. Indeed, aside from the occasional creative synth counter-melody, this is kind of a musically uninteresting album. There are lashings of cool writing every now and then, but they present as cool lines or dynamic shifts – never once is there a memorable melody, which for an album this poppy is fairly hard to swallow.

There are long, monophonic synth interludes in between tracks every now and then that add absolutely nothing to what already amounts to a somewhat monotonous album. There is a lot of textural variation that still is not enough to save it, so much so it’s almost bizarre how much thought has been put into the dynamics of the composition to try and make it interesting. In spite of these efforts, however, it fails to present any memorable tracks while the songwriting itself almost put me to sleep.

I guess that is the point in the vein I have been working towards. It’s fucking boring. There’s a huge range of synth textures, and yet they all sound like they were sampled off the same eighties-themed plugin. There are a few cool lines here and there, but they stand out because they’re cool lines in an otherwise soupy composition. Some of the vocal harmonies are nice but it just doesn’t make the album any more memorable. I listened to this album twice, months apart and found that I remembered only the absolute highlights, which as I stated before presented themselves in the occasional cool line rather than the occasional cool song. In fact, the penultimate highlight of the album is the section towards the end of the second-last track where just once the chord progression presents an unpredictable, dissonant variation. It’s such a predictable, boring side-project in contrast to the unpredictable, dynamic project from which it stemmed.

Vocally, it’s a solid performance and it shows that old mate from Dillinger does in fact have serious chops even outside of his native genre, especially in the falsetto sections, but this, much like the mix and master is a positive point that ultimately is outweighed by the fairly weak overall musical composition throughout. Unless The Black Queen want to completely change directions and attempt to carve out a new niche, they should probably go back to their main projects. There’s nothing to see here, folks. Move along. Let the dust settle on this mediocre footnote as the diversion it is. I am however going to download it; in spite of how meh the writing is the textures are really good to fall asleep to. That’s not a criticism or anything, that’s literally the best use for this album.

Vocals: 7/10
Lyrics: 4/10
Guitar: absent/10
Bass: 5/10
Percussion: 2/10
Songwriting: 0/10
Production: 8/10
Personal Enjoyment: 2/10
Overall IPHYB Rating: 4/10

Album Review: Fever Daydream – The Black Queen
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