The start of an already excellent solo career for multi-instrumentalist math-metal icon
Child Soldier: Creator of God (2020) is hard to define, with no exception for the man behind it. Greg Puciato, best-known as the frontman/vocalist for math-metal icons The Dillinger Escape Plan after replacing original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis, has also made waves with his goth-rock band The Black Queen, as well as with the metal supergroup Killer Be Killed. Since The Dillinger Escape Plan’s farewell show in late December of 2017, Puciato was still to release his own solo material, and that day has arrived with the iconic and genre-bending Child Soldier: Creator of God.
Lengthy solo releases, let alone debut ones at that, are bold. Really bold. Yet the album’s hour-long runtime does not overstay its welcome in any way. Puciato enlists the help of only three drummers–Chris Hornbrook (Poison The Well), Chris Pennie (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Coheed and Cambria) and Ben Koller (Converge, Mutoid Man, Forcefedglass)–while he plays all other instruments. The album crosses a threshold for genre tags, with its defining, spastically drastic style-change nature interweaving between unrelated genres, sometimes in the same song.
The acoustic intro “Heaven of Stone” creates the illusion for unsuspecting listeners that this might just be another acoustic singer-songwriter release before being completely obliterated by the noisy-as-hell title track, “Creator of God.” The latter actually reverts back to an Aphex Twin-esque ambient break before again completely shattering eardrums with some classic feedback and noise, transitioning into the next song “Fire For Water” with tribal metal drumming and riffage. Harsh vocalist elitists need not worry, as Greg’s oh-so-beautiful screaming is back and arguably better than ever, tapping into some dizzying math-core through odd time signatures and dissonant guitar stabs. Speaking of elitists, guitar tone snobs, check out the tremendously tectonic-shifting bass tone that accompanies the screaming and ethereal piano soundscapes.
However, not all the songs have such drastic shifts; tracks such as “Deep Set,” “Down When I’m Not” and “Evacuation” all share a fairly linear and normal (or as normal as this album can be) song structure that encapsulate Puciato’s admiration for a good riff, exemplified through his work in Killer Be Killed, where he plays guitar. Honestly, “Down When I’m Not” could be an obscure Foo Fighters B-side with a little My Bloody Valentine thrown in there. Meanwhile, songs like “Temporary Object,” “You Know I Do” and “Heartfree” border on shoegaze and slowcore, all sharing swirling synths and shimmering guitar lines that support Puciato’s highly impassioned vocals and lyricism.
“Fireflies” becomes one of the main indicators (not exactly the first, definitely not the last) of Puciato’s love for pop music and his sheer curiosity to blend it with other styles, this time with post-punk. This love for pop is soon deserted by the following two tracks “Do You Need Me To Remind You?,” focusing on high-energy gothic metal and a gorgeous post-rock finale, and “Roach Hiss,” a supremely dark take at industrial metal.
“Through The Walls” starts off with some confessional lyrics, guitar strumming and keyboard lines, with the latter half floating on a juicy analog synth pad, before going into a ’70s half yacht-rock, half contemporary lo-fi section. The proceeding song, “A Pair of Questions,” might as well be a radio-friendly pop song with a few adjustments here and there, the chorus tapping into some pure 1980s goth rock. This continues, of course, briefly, on “Evacuation,” with some fast-chugging guitar riffs that somehow fit perfectly with airy vocals and synthesizers. There’s even a “Prancer” reference for TDEP fans, so keep your ears open during the chorus.
“September City” (headphones strongly recommended) initially envelops the listener in a clear cloud of ambience, but when the grit finally hits, the powerful drumming and heavy guitar riffs accent Puciato’s vocals particularly well before eventually withering away, closing out his debut solo album.
Turn off all expectations and turn on a good pair of speakers or headphones, as Child Soldier: Creator of God so brilliantly defines and captures the feel of a chaotically hectic year, yet provides a genuine sense of hope for what the future has to bring, especially for the musical endeavors of Greg J. Puciato.