Black Queen
The Directress

I usually dismiss the press sheet that comes with a promo out of hand; I don’t need no PR dweeb filling my brain with their hyperbole, before I create my own hyperbole to fill all of yours with. But for once, the press sheet describing Black Queen as “Witch Metal” is pretty apropos. Even the name and album title connotes a band in touch with a feminine energy, which is more concerned with being dark than being extreme. Temper that feminine, occultic vibe with a very masculine and muscular burl, and you have some pretty compelling music on your hands.

Black Queen make use of a lot of the ingredients of traditional American power metal exemplified by a band like Hammers of Misfortune or early (Lord Weird)Slough Feg, and a touch of primordial black thrash ala Celtic Frost, Venom, or Aura Noir. Add some measured black metal elements, utilized in a similar manner to bands like Weakling and Ludicra.

Ironically I mention a lot of bands on the Northwest coast, because that was my impression prior to learning that Black Queen are somewhat peripheral to that whole scene of musicians. So in light of that, their sound makes sense all the more. Not saying that Black Queen are derivative; moreso that there seems like Black Queen draws from the same well of influences as those other bands.

Keyboards are used to great effect on The Directress. Dig the John Carpenter-esque Creepy Crawl leading into the very aggro and atmospheric “3rd Key”, the whirling of phantasmic blades on “The Name of Snakes”, or how the bouncy and jubilant Hammond organ takes some of the grim po’face out of the proceedings on “Forever Daggers”. Add to that some less readily recognizable samples, and the “Gaillo/Grindhouse horror” vibe Black Queen strives for is a success. Think Necrophagia or Deceased’s Blueprints of Madness levels of creepy.

One of my favorite elements of The Directress are the layered choral melodies, which again bring to mind Ludicra; who were a huge favorite of mine. Just in general, the vocal performances on The Directress are rad as fuck, and add a ton of color and character to this album. I hear there is a whole slew of guest vocalists on this; I couldn’t tell you who did what on what track, but I’d put money Wrest is the dude on final track “The Directress” doing his impression of Garm doing his best Gregorian Monk impression.

(And then he does an impression of an ogre vomiting up his lungs. Good Times!)

Black Queen succeeds on so many levels by taking the narrow path; strong songwriting over flash, and sidestepping the whole “extremity for extremity’s sake” arms race, to direct their energy to playing towards their strengths and personal development of their own sound.

Like so much of what I review on here, I hardly will write a lick about it before I’ve listened enough to be able to hum it in the shower. That’s really the only way I’m able to give an album a fair shot. And a lot of times something will surprise me; albums that flash bright and immediately grab me are the easiest to forget, and the ones that initially underwhelm are the ones that become the most meaningful.

That was definitely the case with The Directress. I went to “meh…” to “huh…”, to “this album is pretty phenomenal” over the space of a month. The Directress might even be a top ten pick for this year.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Timothy D White
August 26th, 2015

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