Back in 1999, I saw The Dillinger Escape Plan on tour with Mr. Bungle with their first singer, Dimitri Minikakis. But when I heard their 2004 album Miss Machine, which was vocalist Greg Puciato’s debut with the band, it was apparent that the tour with Mr. Bungle had a major impact on the band. Puciato’s vocals bridged the gap between hardcore screaming and the more manic stylings of Mike Patton, with whom the group had also collaborated during the transitional period. At the time, The Dillinger Escape Plan tended to be lumped into the post-Victory era MySpace hardcore, even though they were darker, more aggressive and far weirder than most other heavy bands at the time. Since going solo after the group’s breakup, however, Puciato has taken on a more wildly divergent direction from that of his band.
On new album Mirrorcell, Puciato’s vocals still retain a manic edge, shifting registers smoothly. But rather than imitating Mike Patton, he serves up a love letter to ’90s alternative hard rock. The grunge ditty it opens with derives influence from bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains; “No More Lives to Go” is more driving and intense than what dominates the radio today, but aligned with alt-rock standard bearers like Filter. “Never Wanted That” relaxes into a darker style of alternative rock, with a cool, drifting single-note guitar line that floats through the song. It’s not the first time he has flirted with new wave sounds in his solo work, but this is a more effective direction for Puciato as it’s strips down the influences he’s worn on his sleeves and instead showcases who he really is.
“Lowered” proved to be one of the most interesting moments going into this album, due to the appearance of Reba Meyers from Code Orange, whose voice has grown stronger. The ’90s goth aesthetic to this song is fitting for her, reminiscent of dark shoegazers Curve. It’s not the only song that leans into heavier electronics, as “We” sonically lies on the brighter side of the same street. The atmosphere is more subdued and introspective, and by the time it reaches the chorus builds into the futurepop side of darkwave.
“I Eclipse ” pretty much hovers in Deftones’ sonic backyard, but becomes more distinctive as it builds. Puciato shows a more distinctive side with “Rainbows Underground,” which works off the soft-to-loud dynamic that became big in the ’90s, but is one of the more convincing moments here. “All Waves to Nothing” carries a rowdy noise rock vibe, perhaps not as rough around the edges as Amphetamine Reptile in its prime, but driving in the same zip code.
Mirrorcell feels like the next logical step for Puciato as a solo performer. He pulls off this transition into more melodic hard rock, even if more often than not it sonically splits the difference between Deftones and Alice In Chains. He shines as a songwriter, and I appreciate the singer he’s grown into. And while I didn’t buy anything the last time I went into Hot Topic, I can’t help but shake the feeling that he and I probably both eyed the same Depeche Mode shirt.
Label: Federal Prisoner