It seems fitting that The Black Queen would be releasing a new album after the mostly expected hiatus of DEP and the way in which synthwave has infiltrated the underground music scene of late. Yet sophomore effort Infinite Games
doesn't sound like hasty return from Puciato's most alternative-sounding project, nor indeed does it present the idea of a musician grasping at creative straws. Instead, The Black Queen's return is merely the result of a band's collective members deciding when the time is right, and that's perhaps why Infinite Games
feels as close to the band's comfort zone as possible.Infinite Games
is an album that often comes across as a piece of work confident in its delivery, both musically and with regards to the current evolution of other bands wanting to take synthwave into as many different conflicting styles as humanly possible. You don't ever get the impression here that The Black Queen are faltering in their footsteps or afraid to venture down darker musical paths should the occasion seem fitting.
Opener "Even Still I want To" sets the scene by flinging the listener headfirst into a hazy dream of shoegaze and 80s inspired industrial beats, but if it's more of the unapologetic pop sensibilities that you're after, Infinite Games
gets going properly with leading single "Thrown into the Dark". The title suggests otherwise, but this song is simply accessible, pleasant stuff. The synthesizers stab at the recording but never seem to disturb Puciato's otherwise harmonic vocal work, and the same can be said for those brief albeit satisfying moments of ambiance towards the end of the track. "No Accusations" and "Spatial Boundaries" continue this foray into poppier territory, but the lack of over-indulgence and minimalist egoism is made up for by The Black Queen's inclusion of the right elements at the right time. With "Spatial Boundaries" for instance, you'll more than likely be feeling the urge to dance yet at the same time feeling spiky chills as Puciato's voice soars beyond the forthcoming synthwave elements, resulting in a very climactic feel.
It's been said before in this review that experimentation seems pretty rare, considering the musical direction The Black Queen have paved for themselves since day one. Yet if you are after versatility within Infinite Games
, you'll have to look pretty deep. "Your Move" at first sets the comfort zone for the listener, before featuring heart-stopping shrills from the synthwave elements, increasing the volume of the song's first minute tenfold. With this, Puciato amplifies his vocal prowess but even so, doesn't sound like anything other than a gentle soul. Of course at this point in the album the listener will have made up their minds whether to continue or want to hear something else (such is the harsh and abrasive usage of Infinite Games
' intended musical elements), but the experience for those intrigued gets even better. "Impossible Condition" is mostly cold and definitely the darkest cut of the album, but in its gradual progression towards a pretty abrupt end seems to explore ambient territory and then warp it into more disturbing moments of noise. Repetitive it may be, but its mesmerising qualities only become stronger with every growing minute and eventually it'll be hard not to hum the underlying beat in the background. Towards the end of Infinite Games
the songs seem to be a little scattered due to changes in length and a hard-to-pinpoint musical direction, a flipside effect to what has been going in the first half of the album. "100 to Zero" feels more like a tacked-on outro to any of the previous songs, although it's strongly redeemed by the sheer beauty of "Porcelain Veins" and the appropriate closure of "One Edge of Two".
is an album of intent, one which states that Puciato is anything but "done" with his career as a musician. Furthermore, it's a reassuring glance at the fact that The Black Queen are now more than just a mere side-project. The Dillinger Escape Plan didn't have to split up for this to happen, nor did Puciato have much thinking to do: Indeed, Infinite Games
has been a work in progress, active for longer than you'd expect. And on this album, it definitely shows.