Greg Puciato, a man adored by many yet undoubtedly unknown to others due to the wildly idiosyncratic output of which he has been a part, has released what is surely another of the great albums of 2020 – a year blighted by social and physical ills but flowing with creative output. Expression, particularly of the darker variety can feed on suffering to some degree and coincidentally or not Puciato joins a long list of musical progenitors potentially fuelled by this year’s isolation or hardship or both.
Lovers of Puciato’s expression and voice will be familiar with his electronica via The Black Queen, but The Metal Wanderlust’s readers are more likely au fait with The Dillinger Escape Plan and/or Killer Be Killed and are thus informed as to the savage physicality and aggression for which he is better known. Whatever your past connection, “Child Soldier: Creator of God” is likely to sate those preconceived desires and more. With its enormous breadth of expression, from screeching, unnerving hostility to fulgent, floating, electronic beauty with innumerable stops along the way Puciato is certainly one to smell the roses – and/or actively participate in their accelerated decay – as he steers us through the busy byways of his burgeoning sonic streets.
The diversity of this release has the potential to alienate audiences of particular persuasions if they are limited in their musical proclivities. This may be a sad thing given that in the streaming world in which we live; there will be individual songs that deserve to take root in the myriad playlists that best suit them. It will take exploration for some listeners to determine which tracks to pluck for further listening but a very worthwhile exercise as there exists within this album a vast array of varied gold. From the synth-driven Pop of “A Pair of Questions” and “Temporary Object,” to the hard driving Metal of “Deep Set,” to the seething belligerence of “Fire for Water” and “Roach Hiss,” and the pounding Industrial magic of “Evacuation:” plunge in and discover what’s for you at the very least.
For those with wide open palettes, the extreme colour and vibrant textures will have this album on high rotation. As an immersive listen it truly is incredible. The precision of each sonic element and the exceptional mix clarity present each composition to its fullest potential. It beggars belief somewhat that such variety can exist in one artist yet each and every variant be aurally authentic.
Puciato’s voice is certainly his chief weapon and it is presented in spectacular fashion on this album. Working with producer Nick Rowe (everything from Lamb of God’s classic “Sturm and Drang” to Charli XCX to Brandon Flowers to The Vampire Weekend) ensures creative treatment of the highest order irrespective of the genre bent at play in each tune. Breathy, gentle, expressive ambience; sweet melodic Pop; searing, screeching truculence: a quite sensational array of flavour and each captured to tape at the highest of standards. As far as sonic highlights – and they are many – the pulsing synth and vocal harmony of “A Pair of Questions” evokes the most beautiful sensations of the 80’s in a very modern context, replete with a gorgeous guitar break. The synthesizer sounds in this one are just so damned meticulous in their cohabitation with the spacious low-mid bass sound and gossamer vocal. “Temporary Object” floats over very pretty guitar arpeggios, high clicks and hats with Puciato at his most striking. Again the guitar break here is stunning, not in its technicality but for its use as a singular appropriate element within a wider soundscape, displaying the maturity of the man’s song writing and arrangement.
Puciato plays all instruments on the album, with the exception of drum contributions by his current and former co-conspirators in Chris Pennie, Ben Koller and Chris Hornsbrook. Said drums are outstanding in both sound and performance. “Fire for Water” pounds tribal insistence all along its journey and sets the tone for the massive acoustic drum sound that permeates the heavier tracks. Mixed by Steve Evetts (with whom Puciato last worked on the final Dillinger Escape Plan album “Dissociation,” and for those Metal heads playing at home the producer and engineer on Incantation’s classic debut album “Onward to Golgotha.”) “Child Soldier: Creator of God” carries all the hallmarks of his style: dramatic clarity and soundstage, booming natural drums, bass that threatens to explode from the speakers… and of course the immaculate presentation of the sweet, snarling and passionate voice for which the price of admission is paid.
As far as highlights there are many, but for Your Grouchy Friend “Deep Set” is one of two songs on the album that are being spun violently loud at every opportunity. The bass and drums alone (sonically and stylistically) are enough to make one’s head nod of its own accord and the most contorted of stank-faces smear across one’s visage. Puciato then takes it up a notch with foreboding and edgy vocals, until… the drop – “I thought we were already dead” with trademark insidious viciousness. This is seriously good stuff and cruises along on its slamming drum and bass groove with inexorable cool.
The second of the two immediately addictive tracks is “Evacuation” – evoking the better of NIN’s work but unmistakeably Puciato. It drifts and lulls and lists and floats over its beat with minimalist synth and piano until… the mother of all drops – “Not gonna just leave!” This is moving stuff, undeniably emotional and wholly characteristic of Puciato’s musical past, present and future. “Evacuation” is getting better with each listen and serves as a great testament to the contributions of Messrs Rowe and Evetts if they weren’t clear enough from the album in its entirety.
On “Roach Hiss” our protagonist, to use an Australian sporting term really leaves it all on the park. It’s another tour de force of all that he has to offer – a sludgy dirge, with unhinged vocal muttering, yammering and shrieking and building to the seething refrain of “maybe grow a prick and go fuck yourself.” It is impossible not to reference Mike Patton here – that sense of the barest grip on sanity being lost as the vocal becomes wilder and wilder. It is beautiful and it is fucking heavy.
It is difficult to find fault in this album, and were such criticism to involve questioning its breadth of reach in terms of style and genre it probably wouldn’t be particularly valid. That said perfecting the track listing of the album was always going to be a challenge with such variety of form and there are a couple of flat spots during the full album listen that do recede as one immerses in the album but were nonetheless noticeable to begin with. Quite honestly, having gone the journey “cover to cover” through this album on countless occasions now, Your Grouchy Friend feels that small quibble recedes continually with each listen.
“Child Soldier: Creator of God” is a remarkable achievement by an artist reaching the peak of his powers. Greg Puciato takes the cream from each cake that has born his mark and fashions the mélange into a wondrous musical journey that is exquisite in its beauty, its malignancy and it’s purity of expression. Take the time with this one – its creator has: it was absolutely worth his effort and definitely worth yours.
Rating – 5/5