One of the most memorable quotes from my early years working came via one of my first bosses who said, “work your way out of a job, and by expanding the scope of your work, you create your own role”. While it may have sounded like some kind of authoritarian hyperbole to many, the wisdom of it resonated within me and prodigiously helped me in the years to come. That same wisdom can be applied to the case of one Greg Puciato, a singer whose perennial hard work has been evidenced by the doors of opportunity, not to mention accolades, that have happened for him since taking the initial plunge into the surreal world of the music business.
That plunge came in the year 2001 when the Baltimore native auditioned for one of the most exhilarating bands making serious waves within the underground, Dillinger Escape Plan. His overwhelmingly promising skill lit a fire for the band, one known for being one of the most experimental, if not volatile. In fact, that vanguard experimentation that fueled the band’s rise only multiplied exponentially with Puciato fronting them. Over the course of sixteen years, the band practically rewrote the rules by tossing out the book. Five albums were released, each expanding the parameters of their sound and incorporating elements as seemingly disparate as Metal, Jazz, Industrial, and Prog, but in 2017, riding high on both critical and live success, the band decided to call it quits maintaining their career had reached its zenith. Greg Puciato, however, has remained active with his electronic band The Black Queen and the supergroup Killer Be Killed among other projects.
Now, the singer has released his first solo album, Child Soldier: Creator of God via his own label, Federal Prisoner. First, it must be noted that with the exception of drums, Puciato wrote and performed all instrumental parts on the album. The immediate impression after listening to the album is that it is very much its own animal sharing little in common with his other projects, to include Dillinger Escape Plan. Drum duties are shared by three more than capable percussionists Chris Hornbrook (Poison the Well), Chris Pennie (Coheed & Cambria, Dillinger Escape Plan), and Ben Koller (Converge, Killer Be Killed).
“Heaven of Stone” starts things off, a very somber if not sedating acoustic track just under a minute and a half. The curious shift to the title track that follows is indicative of the album as a whole with its electronic basis serving as a stark contrast from the first track; however, as erratic as it may seem, it works. In fact, there are so very many styles incorporated within that not only does the album defy categorization, but it also mandates its own pacing resulting from its inherent originality.
Patient listeners eagerly awaiting the heaviness will be rewarded with the third track, “Fire for Water”. This third track has a compelling insanity reflected in the juxtaposition of clean vocals and lacerating schemes along with dissonant chords and a steady distorted sub frequency running underneath. For someone considered the preeminent singer in extreme circles, Puciato also surprises with some killer riffs and an unconventional approach to songwriting that truly works. The fifth track, “Temporary Object,” has a hypnotizing, dreamy feel coupled with a Pop (!!) sensibility recalling ‘80s giants like Tears for Fears. Essentially, it is an ode to the days when music made for mass consumption still retained a high degree of creativity, vision, and experimentation. It may sound shocking at first, but it truly entrances and serves as a proper lead into the following track, “Fireflies” with its decisively catchy construction highlighted by overwhelming waves of synth-led emotion. Another highlight includes the rage-fueled, maniacal eighth track, “Roach Hiss,” with its supremely grungy distorted bass and raving screams of madness; however, even on the heavier tracks as such, there is ample melody satisfying the peaks and valleys that lend to the true success of this album. The following track, “Down When I’m Not,” has a highly infectious blend of Punk-ish Metal not unlike a track like “From Out of Nowhere” by Faith No More especially in the way the keyboards expand the melody created by the heavy guitars. Yet again, Puciato expands the scope of the project with a truly inventive approach.
While the fifteen-track length of the album may cause one to have a bit of trepidation initially, once the listening process has begun, it is impossible not to become transfixed. While already well-versed in his plentiful discography, I cannot deny being shocked by not only the diversity on the album but even more so by the readily apparent strength of the material itself. Were someone to inform me of an album featuring influences as varying and expansive as Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Faith No More, ‘80s Pop, Funk, ‘90s Grunge, and Extreme Metal, the proposition would seem too vast an undertaking yet somehow Puciato makes it work. The secret to the album’s success, though, is the deeply personal nature of the material. Clearly, this was a labor of love, an outpouring of creativity welled up inside. Ultimately, it is the listener who reaps the rewards of Greg Puciato’s demons being exorcised in the form of one of the most solid, creatively impressive records to drop this year.