Greg Puciato staved off the post-Dillinger blues by diving headlong into a raft of existing and new musical endeavors. Whether it be mainstream metal supergroup Killer Be Killed, electro project The Black Queen, lending a helping hand on Jerry Cantrell‘s recent solo album, or pursuing his versatile musical realms under his own name. Puciato’s 2020 debut, Child Soldier: Creator of God, marked an ambitious, sprawling start to his solo career. While it contained some great material, it suffered from bloat and uneven writing across fifteen songs and over an hour’s worth of material. Nevertheless, Puciato’s diverse influences, killer vocals and versatile writing skills showed the man has what it takes to excel in the solo arena. On sophomore album Mirrorcell, Puciato is joined by Poison the Well drummer Chris Hornbrook, while Code Orange vocalist Reba Meyers makes a guest appearance. Otherwise Mirrorcell is Puciato’s baby through and through.
Straight off the bat, it is refreshing to find Puciato exercised restraint and self-editing, unleashing a leaner, tighter collection of nine tunes, allowing for some extra refinement and punch. However, Puciato is a creatively restless soul, and as such, Mirrorcell covers significant territory musically. It’s an emotive, catchy, introspective offering, boasting plenty of crossover potential, evidenced on the collaborative single “Lowered,” where Puciato trades off with Meyers in a hook-laden, poppy slab of infectious alt-rock. Mirrorcell covers diverse ground, from grungy ’90s flavored alternative rock, post-metal, synth-pop, sludge, doom, and metallic-tinged heavy rock. It’s not quite as heavy or noisy as the debut, but the ambition behind Puciato’s writing makes for a colorful journey, as familiar elements intertwine with stylistic surprises and Puciato’s endlessly adventurous songwriting spirit and ferocious, passionate vocals.
Opener “Is This Hell You Find Yourself” lasts less than 90 seconds, yet effectively sets an ominous, edgy tone, avoiding the usual skip-worthy pitfalls of introduction pieces. The song provides a perfect segway into the grinding riffs and wicked sludge rock stylings of “Reality Spiral,” featuring nods to Seattle legends Soundgarden and Alice in Chains, spiked with a modern twist and excellent vocal performance. Keeping with the heavier, riffy trend of the album’s opening throes, the bruising “No More Lives to Go” is another monster cut, a tidy showcase of Puciato’s sharp writing and melodic, hooky and explosive vocal turns. The chorus is fucking huge as well. Mirrorcell‘s first half is particularly tight, packed with infectious hooks and dynamic writing. There are also brighter melodies and poppy sensibilities (aforementioned “Lowered” and anthemic, melancholic, “Never Wanted That”) sitting alongside the more rugged and propulsive writing. On later album cut, “Rainbows Underground,” Puciato dabbles in multi-faceted elements of Mirrorcell‘s sound with solid results, shifting between delicate restraint, driving rock, and swelling bouts of bubbling intensity.
You can never doubt the authenticity and emotion bleeding from every note and lyric in Puciato’s work, however, the album strikes a firm barrier on synth-pop tune, “We.” It’s an unfortunate momentum killer, where Puciato’s lyrics are heartfelt but a little clunky, while he uses a breathy, whiny vocal style that sits uneasily with me. Of course, it doesn’t help when the song drags on for nearly six minutes, standing out like a sore thumb. Thankfully it’s the only misstep on an album that hits the target far more often than not. Pleasingly, Mirrorcell finishes with a colossal nearly nine-minute epic, that at least vocally, will have Dillinger fans salivating. No, it doesn’t revisit the schizoid mathcore of his former band, however, the song packs a hellish sludge-doom punch, replete with crushing riffs, deft dynamic shifts, and a terrific, unhinged vocal performance
Mirrorcell is a confident stride forward from Puciato’s promising debut, offering a far leaner, meaner and more focused selection of tunes, featuring numerous highlights, slick, earworm hooks and an emotive, gritty heavy rock edge. The one significant misstep and slightly weaker second half are the only elements holding Mirrorcell back from a higher grade, though I don’t anticipate getting tired of spinning this any time soon. Puciato’s solo career is edging closer to achieving greatness and I look forward to the next step in his creative evolution.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Federal Prisoner Records
Websites: gregpuciato.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/gregpuciatoofficial
Releases Worldwide: July 1st, 2022