Album Review: The Black Queen – Infinite Games (2018 LP)

Experimental metallers The Dillinger Escape Plan rarely ventured below a heart-attack inducing pace. During their 20 year reign, the band played intricate and frantic shredding while unhinged frontman Greg Puciato shredded his throat screaming threats.

Infinite Games is Puciato’s second album with The Black Queen and first release since Dillinger split up, and it’s a complete about-turn from his defining project. With Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv) and Steven Alexander – both of whom have worked with Nine Inch Nails – the trio have crafted a pleasant collection of 80s-influenced synthpop

The album opens with the sparse “Even Still I Want To”. Beats are absent, filled only with ghostly whispers of synths and an autotuned Pucaito croaking “I love you so much”. The song builds to include crickets and stabbed synth chords before a thumping beat emerges, artfully seguing into “Thrown Into The Dark”. Songs seamlessly bleed into the next throughout the album, giving the impression of it being a thematic whole rather than a collection of songs.

A dour mood and synths clouded in layers of reverb span across the entire album, while beats travel at around 120 beats-per-minute and are aimed at the dancefloor instead of the mosh pit. The sounds are lush and pleasant, but absent are strong hooks to make songs stand out from the others. Instead, certain sounds catch attention: the crunching Nine Inch Nails beat on “No Accusations”; the bass that snaps like a rubber band in “Lies About You”; and the bright chirps in “Spatial Boundaries”. The most interesting of all of these instruments is Puciato’s voice.

Puciato has always been an adept vocalist, able to rise from a croon to a scream in seconds. On Infinite Games he mostly croons, but hits a sweet spot when he cries out on the choruses of tracks like “Thrown In The Dark” and closer “One Edge Of Two”. When his voice soars, the songs rise from the ether and reach for the band’s high ambitions. However, the most effective chorus is that of “No Accusations”; the synths drop out, leaving just the beat and Puciato speak-singing. It’s simple, but that moment of restraint makes for a solid hook.

THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Infinite Games is out now via Federal Prisoner.

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