Federal Prisoner Records
There is an idea, popularized in the 90’s and perpetuated in the late 2010’s, that rock is dead. It may have conceded the top spot in terms of public consciousness and influence to hip hop, but it most certainly is alive and kicking with lethal force: Enter Greg Puciato.
The former singer of incendiary hardcore and math metal icons Dillinger Escape Plan, Puciato branched out into a flourishing solo career in the wake of their demise. With 2020’s Child Soldier: Creator of God, the marker was laid down – this was not to be your typical solo work from a successful former lead vocalist, burdened with ego and whimsical indulgence. This is the rawest of emotion, refined to lean perfection.
It takes a rare mix of genius and insanity to pull off the career he did with DEP, who remained vital and potent by going left whenever a right turn was presented; As such they withstood trend after trend to become one of the best acts of the last 25 years. To attempt a solitary run after such acclaimed work is a daunting task, but in typical form, Puciato’s response is to climb to the jagged mountain top, and scream into the wind.
With his sophomore outing, the recently released Mirrorcell, a case is made that rock is as alive as one wants it to be – you just have to want it badly enough. That desire is at the core of rock itself – it’s a hunger, for catharsis, for emotional acknowledgement, and for a spirit of freedom, one sorely lacking in the genre for most of the last 20 years.
A seductive flourish of Deftones here, a spoonful of angry Soundgarden there, even a dash of reunion-era Alice In Chains – the influences are clear, but there’s no derivation here. Where so many failed by simply paying homage, and not following through with real force or original intent, Puciato lays it all on the line to the same extent as with DEP. The delivery is more direct and less frenzied, but there’s no lack of darkness or intensity. Good rock, especially hard rock like this, requires absolute conviction, and there’s no lack of it.
From the searing, unapologetic brilliance of ‘No More Lives To Go’ to the rolling escapism of closing track ‘All Waves To Nothing’, there is a sense of discovery, even reckless abandon to this album. Openly, consciously, it flies in the face of the paint-by-numbers popularity contest that is the modern music industry, and thus immediately gives the impression of a timeless work. It’s modern and forward thinking, but wouldn’t have felt out of place in the 90’s grunge era, or the Dillinger heyday of the mid-to-late 2000’s.
At the emotional core of the record is the amazing ‘Lowered’, featuring a brilliant guest turn from Code Orange’s Reba Myers. It is as good a hard rock song as I’ve heard in years, uncompromising in honesty and emotional heft; An incredible summit of generational hardcore icons at the table of pure hard rock – even as a huge Code Orange fan, it’s the best vocal work I’ve heard from Reba.
I could spew superlatives over this record all day, but sometimes less is more. If you love heavy rock music, do yourself a favour and check it out. Genre vitality is not a question of popularity or relevance (a word that’s lost it’s own relevance in the era of peak hype culture). It’s a matter of making new ideas from old, and being artistically honest from conception to execution.