Review Summary: "Don't you and I belong?"
After redefining the boundaries of metal with The Dillinger Escape Plan and reveling in his softer, synth-orientated tastes with The Black Queen, Greg Puciato has combined the two aspects of his musical persona with Child Soldier: Creator of God. The album features some of his most spacious and abrasively emotional songs in his entire career, with Puciato effortlessly gliding between contrasting moods. Child Soldier is the most comprehensive collection of everything Puciato has excelled at for his entire career, and fans of both The Dillinger Escape Plan and The Black Queen would be hard-pressed not to check this out.
One aspect of Child Soldier that might prove divisive is how this album jumps between synth-pop and metal, with both styles serving as their own entity rather than interacting with each other. It should be noted that, except for “A Pair of Questions”, the singles paint the album as more of a guitar-driven affair than what the full album entails. The singles make up most of the heavier songs on the album, with the rest of the album owing more to the electronica of The Black Queen, albeit in a moodier form. Depending on what parts of Puciato’s career you’re more invested in, you might favor one style significantly more than the other. But while these tonal shifts can make the album sound a bit disjointed, Child Soldier still manages to be a remarkably cohesive release due to the album’s brilliant structure. When taken as a whole, the songs tell a moving story of a protagonist falling back on something they’ve disavowed (“Fire for Water”), realizing why they loved it in the first place (“Deep Set”, “Temporary Object”), resorting back to the person they tried to move away from (“Do You Need Me to Remind You?”, “Roach Hiss”), removing themselves of the situation with a sense of both longing and regret (“A Pair of Questions”, “Evacuation”), then in the end wondering if they can do it all over again (“Heartfree”, “September City”). The album is a hefty 64 minutes, and it feels like it in the best possible way. Child Soldier is an album that patiently unveils its ambitions as it moves along, which gives every song and every shift in tone a sense of weight.
Without a doubt the biggest selling point of Child Soldier is Greg Puciato’s voice. None of this would work without a vocalist even half as versatile as Puciato. While it’s one thing to be able to do both harsh and soft vocals, it’s another thing entirely to sell it, and Puciato performs every song with complete conviction. It’s a joy hearing him tackle metal untethered to Ben Weinman’s distinct songcraft, as he goes completely unhinged on songs like “Fire for Water”, “Do You Need Me to Remind You?”, and “Roach Hiss” while maintaining a menacing ambience that hadn't really been explored with The Dillinger Escape Plan. Theres a sexy swagger to songs like the grungy “Deep Set” and the alluring “Fireflies” that imbues them with a romantic charisma. When the more vulnerable moments hit, like with “Through the Walls” and “Heartfree”, you can hear him welling up and giving in to his emotions. When Puciato ambiguously asks to “wander against the light” at the end of “September City”, you can’t help but be tempted by his offer.