Into the Pit: 191: The Black Queen – Live at Oslo Hackney – 05-February 2016

This was one of those gigs that I took a while to make a call on. The Black Queen is a new side-project very, very different from the “parent” band (Greg Puciato, the vocalist of The Dillinger Escape Plan has formed this with Joshua Eustis, a former touring member of Nine Inch Nails and Puscifer, and Steven Alexander, a tech of DEP among others), their newly released album Fever Daydream took a couple of listens to get hooks into my brain and I finally decided to get a ticket the morning of the show.

The Black Queen
Drab Majesty

Oslo, E8
05-February 2016

Good thing I did – it sold out hours later. Only their second gig, too, after a first (also sold-out) show in Los Angeles last week, they also brought the same support over.

This was Drab Majesty, a solo project that had a few notable features. First off, the opening few moments saw what I can only describe as a mime act to ambient drones – and the artist was dressed as such. This left me rather cold (I tend to take a similar view on mimes to Vetinari), while the clown-esque/mime/goth outfit got a certain Weebl and Bob sketch in my head, and it just wouldn’t budge.

Musically, there was clearly a very large debt to classic Cure. There were chiming guitars (with tons of effects), Simon Gallup-esque basslines, and vocals drenched in reverb, but once it got going it was quite enjoyable – it just for me needed more of an individual sound. Maybe that will come.

Already by the time Drab Majesty had begun, there was a large crowd already there (full marks to whoever made sure that word got out that the sets were relatively early, less marks to the management of the venue who chose to leave one poor barman on his own with a large queue for some time) – and a bit of people-watching had me thinking. What I thought really interesting was the crowd that the show attracted. There were quite a few curious Dillinger fans (metal/hardcore fans are usually fairly conspicuous, and that was the case here), but much of the rest of the crowd was very much not metal fans, and indicates perhaps that The Black Queen has a much wider appeal.

So it should, too. The sultry, smoke-clad electronics of the album were replicated nicely here, with the extreme volume (seriously, this was loud down the front) and floor-shaking bass doing much to convince that the live environment may well be the best way to enjoy this album.

This is why: as good as the album is, at points it kinda drifts into the background (Distanced being a case in point), but here, Greg’s presence ensured that didn’t happen. The best moments, though, came from the more up-tempo songs. Ice To Never in particular absolutely sparkled, its 80s-esque soul-funk rhythms adding glamour to a room that I didn’t even realise needed it – and you know what? I think we already had an idea that this was the case, but when Puciato isn’t screaming his way through Dillinger’s heavier, schizoid moments, he’s got a hell of a singing voice and he uses it to brilliant effect in these songs.

The Black Queen setlist:
Strange Quark
Ice to Never
The End Where We Start
Secret Scream
Maybe We Should/Non-Consent
Taman Shud
Now, When I’m This
Apocalypse Morning

Secret Scream isn’t far behind – with light-touch industrial rhythms and frankly fucking glorious chorus (those backing vocals!), and with Greg picking out some of the über-fans down the front to sing the chorus just to them (which resulted in some happy squeals audible a few rows back), this is just begging to be a dancefloor hit somewhere, and I suspect it won’t just be in industrial clubs.

It’s still a shock – even after I’ve listened to the song countless times – to hear him croon through The End Where We Start (by miles the pick of the ballads). Really, I shouldn’t pigeonhole his work, but really, this is light years from what he has done before and the shock is perhaps just how well it works. The same with Maybe We Should/Non-Consent, a curious title but apt for a song that is dripping with carnal desire, with a sleaze of a beat to drive it forward.

The final takeaway? Who knew fronting the most progressive, forward-thinking hardcore-metal band – that pretty much explore whatever sound and style they damned well feel like – could be not enough for Greg Puciato. He finally has an outlet for his poppier influences, and judging on the ecstatic reaction to this, only their second show – there was audible disappointment in the (sold-out, packed) room when there was no return for an encore – I don’t think that it is a stretch to suggest that this is a project that has a bright, bright future.

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