The Black Queen are a Los Angeles synth pop trio fronted by Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan fame, with synth player and producer Joshua Eustis and guitarist Steve Alexander beside him. They formed as somewhat of a side project for Puciato, whilst TDEP were still active, but since their disbandment The Black Queen could now be seen as Puciato’s main project. Fortunately their sophomore album ‘Infinite Games’ is an even bolder leap forward than the trio’s debut album, and a sold out crowd in Manchester tonight have come to share that excitement.
The Black Queen open confidently with low key number ‘Looking Glass War’, with Puciato’s falsetto being pushed on its soaring chorus. The prominent low end of the bass provided from Eustis’ electronics threatens to engulf everything in the room, so much so that the beats, the guitars, and even Puciato’s vocals sound a little drowned out in places. The harder and more pulsing cuts like ‘Thrown Into the Dark’ suit the sound tonight much better, where the bass and pounding kick-drums feel more welcome.
Throughout the set it becomes clear that there is a disconnect between the three performers. Surprisingly for Puciato – a man who we usually see screaming his head off and crawling over the crowds, exploding in a ball of energy – he comes across a little awkward and lacking in confidence tonight. In the moments where he stops singing to have a little dance, his body looks tensed and rigid. This sometimes extends to his vocal performance, where some of those high notes end up losing pitch. There are a few times throughout the set tonight where Puciato is gesturing to the sound engineer. Perhaps it is a lack of consistent sound levelling, tour fatigue or an off day, but it is clear that The Black Queen aren’t completely in the moment tonight. A ten minute mid-set break where the band huddle together to have a team talk, and then tell the sound engineer and the crowd that “we’ve lost the subs” seems to confirm this.
After an awkward break, The Black Queen do manage to carry on with the show, though it takes a while for the momentum to rebuild. Thankfully they do seem to let loose and unwind on the last few tracks, finding their feet and confidence. The Black Queen are a fascinating band, especially when you consider the context their music is coming from; after already conquering metal and hardcore music, independently taking on synth pop and electronic music, taking in influences of Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and Prince. Though there are plenty of enjoyable moments tonight, lovely glossy and icy synths, and some sensual vocals from Puciato, ultimately it’s a lopsided performance where the trio don’t always come across as passionately enthused, or completely in sync with one another.
The Black Queen performed at the Deaf Institute on Tuesday 9th October 2018. Words by Chris “Frenchie” French.