Greg Puciato Streamlines His Frenetic Impulses on 'Mirrorcell'
Published Jun 15, 2022Ex-Dillinger Escape Plan frontman Greg Puciato's debut solo effort Child Soldier: Creator of God was a chaotic palate of sounds with interesting ideas despite lacking a clear direction. It married Dillinger afterthoughts with more linear structures, and proved Puciato's instrumental skills to be well-rounded enough to expect stronger efforts going forward. Mirrorcell delivers on this potential in almost every way you could expect with a much trimmer tracklist, more consistent pace and an organized plan of attack.
The most notable difference between Puciato's debut and sophomore outings is the artist's array of influences and the unique ways in which he combines them, all while pushing his playing to a point that does them justice, and his voice to the threshold he is known for. The instrumentals draw from gems of the '90s and 2000s like Soundgarden's dystopian grunge to lead off "No More Lives To Go," the soaring vocal chops of Deftones' Chino Moreno channeled on "I, Eclipse" or the ominous vibes of Black Label Society channeled on "All Waves to Nothing." The guitar solos sound like Zakk Wylde and Kirk Hammett having a wah pedal competition, crossed with soulful phrasing similar to Slash.
More current influence is found on "Lowered," sporting the record's lone feature from Code Orange vocalist-guitarist Reba Meyers. Despite the aggressive tendencies of their past projects, Meyers and Puciato hit listeners with a change-up, bleeding their hearts out singing clean vocals. The rhythm section, led by a tight high-hat groove from drummer Chris Hornbrook, sits back and lets the duet breathe. Thought he waits until the final track, Puciato doesn't leave without going full Dillinger on "All Waves to Nothing," an near nine-minute epic with the record's most ferocious passages that bury you in the darkest abyss of hell.
However, not every influence hits its mark. On "Never Wanted That," a Puciato vocal passage is dubbed with so many effects that he sounds like Myles Kennedy talking through a drive-through speaker. That said, the track still offers some well-executed Alice in Chains worship, complete with simmering drums, thick overdriven guitars and bass and smokey vocals.
Lyrically, Puciato dives deep into themes of internal conflict. Songs "In This Hell You Find Yourself" and "Reality Spiral," like their titles, don't mince words and pull you into a musical underworld. On the latter, Puciato's vocals rise and fall from anthemic resistance to despairing, vein-popping screams, with lines like, "My own voice becomes my lover, but it still lets me down."
"Rainbows Underground" adds to this narrative by tackling vulnerability, impermanence and the anxiety that comes from being unsure of whether you're making the most of your time on Earth, with painful, sad lines like, "You can lie but your acts reveal your true intention / You can love but your thoughts are too corrupt to mention." "I, Eclipse" cuts the deepest with the refrain, "I'm the eclipse in the middle of my day," the most encapsulating statement of this combative internal dialogue.
On "We," the LP's calmest momen,, Puciato's lyrics feature a few too many cliches like, "We act like monsters sometimes" and "I'm sleeping every morning away locked inside my room." It's just not as poetic as similar passages in his previous work, like the chorus of "Farewell, Mona Lisa" or the verses on "One of Us is the Killer."
As a whole, Mirrorcell delivers a vast improvement from its predecessor in performance, songwriting and album construction, leaving fans of Puciato's previous outfits reason to keep his future solo efforts on their radar going forward. (Federal Prisoner)