Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator of God
Released: October 9th, 2020
Following the dissolution of The Dillinger Escape Plan (TDEP) and with The Black Queen in between projects, singer Greg Puciato has taken time to write, record and produce a solo album bearing his name. Mixing the beats and synths of The Black Queen with some of the left of centre aggression of TDEP, Puciato has created a masterpiece that captures the isolation, desperation and hostility of 2020 in just over an hour.
‘Heaven of Stone’ opens the album with acoustic guitar and quiet whisper, a great mellow misdirection given what to come. You’d be forgiven for thinking Puciato is going to go all Ben Harper on you, but then comes the beat for ‘Creator of God’. Actually, it’s a short, escalating series of beats, culminating in drums as he comes in with lyrics about murder. It’s moody, with vocals drenched in effects, a barrier to the listener, leaving him detached before the song peaks and everything is drowned in noise. It comes to a screeching halt, segueing into pre-release track ‘Fire for Water’, with double bass kicks and Puciato erupting in screams. It’s violent, it’s heavy and TDEP fans are in for a treat.
‘Deep Set’ has also been released already and well, it’s here that the Nine Inch Nails comparisons become apt. I’m not saying it lives up to the likes of ‘Closer’, but it’s that kind of moment. It’s a dirty bassline, mixing shoegaze distortion with Marilyn Manson style gothic rock and sharp screams. It’s dark, it’s sexy and it’ll get stuck in your head. It could have come from NIN’s Pretty Hate Machine, it’s both synthetic and raw. People are going to fuck to this song and I think he knows it.
‘Temporary Object’ starts with synths, closer to The Black Queen this time, with Puciato’s falsetto on the chorus soaring over the 80s pop beats. The lyrics: “We’re temporary, I never wanted to leave, but now it feels like I’m coming home”, are hopelessly romantic with a guitar solo to match. He’s clearly got stories to tell and a bunch of different ways to tell them. ‘Fireflies’ is a case in point. The synth is slower, darker pierced by a single snare hit, Puciato crooning over it. The finale picks up tempo, before fading away. ‘Do You Need Me to Remind You’ starts with disjointed guitar feedback before the riff comes in. He speaks now of violence, before screaming “You’re nothing. No one.” It’s a headbanger too, with the closing moments featuring Puciato screaming alone into an abyss. ‘Roach Hiss’ immediately follows and ups the heaviness with punk energy as he repeats the refrain again and again, all bile and venom, before it collapses into a slow drone.
‘Down When I’m Not’ is another banger, real drums and an up tempo riff you can hum along with. It’s more optimistic lyrically, and the best riff and keys really create a great palette of pop punk colours with an industrial edge. It’s single material for sure. ‘You Know I Do’ is a slower, more contemplative ballad, with echoey spaced out vocals. The contrast between each track works as Puciato moves the mood and tone from one emotional point to another. ‘Through the Walls’ is another slow ballad, though uses angelic backing vocals before a synth interlude that might induce meditation, such is the dreamy nature of the instrumentation. The tempo picks up again with the pop keys of ‘A Pair of Questions’, with an understated chorus and the synth punctuated by guitar and percussion. The reverb on the solo is used to great effect too. ‘Evacuation’ starts with a layered acapella vocal, a demonic effect that is aided by beats and piano, with the synth creating a feeling of dread that Puciato unleashes with a wail on the chorus, mourning a lost relationship. It is a slab of mid-90s industrial/goth at its best, his own take on the subgenre popularised by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson.
‘Heartfree’ sounds like a deeply personal song, part dream-part nightmare, as he sings “you tear my heart free” before the toms kick in and we are back in shoegaze mode. It is really a showcase for his vocal ability as he modulates leading into the guitar solo. The guitar work isn’t flashy but suits the desolate atmosphere of the song, with his desperate shriek on the verse complementing the music. There is even a lullaby piano solo. The finale is ‘September City’, a slow building piano track that goes up a gear when the guitar comes in and soars in contrast to the whispered vocals. It evolves into an uptempo rock track with live drums as the lyrics become more intense and Puciato’s singing gives way to screaming to match. It is an appropriate ending to the musical collage of the preceding tracks, offering a sample of everything that has come before and leaving the reader drowned in quick feedback, a sudden ending to a sublime experience.
Child Soldier: Creator of God is a standout release, combining everything Greg Puciato has been as a band member and is right now as a solo artist. Considering he still has a Killer Be Killed record to come, Puciato has two bites at the Best Album of 2020 apple and man he is close with this debut. A dark, twisted triumph.
Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator of God tracklisting:
- Heaven of Stone
- Creator of God
- Fire for Water
- Deep Set
- Temporary Object
- Do You Need Me to Remind You?
- Roach Hiss
- Down When I’m Not
- You Know I Do
- Through the Walls
- A Pair of Questions
- September City