Puscifer 'Existential Reckoning' Review: Maynard James Keenan and co push boundaries of electro-rock on 4th LP
Electro-rock band Puscifer has released three full-length studio albums to date. These are 'V is for Vagina' (2007), 'Conditions of My Parole' (2011), and 'Money Shot' (2015). The band, which consists of the trio Maynard James Keenan (vocals), Mat Mitchell (guitar and production), and Carina Round (vocals and songwriting), is all set to release 'Existential Reckoning', their fourth full-length studio album. James Keenan, who just last year released Tool's chart-topping 'Fear Inoculum', is back with a new Puscifer record much earlier than anticipated. 'Existential Reckoning', which consists of 12 tracks, is scheduled to release worldwide on October 30, 2021.
The record opens with 'Bread And Circus' which starts off with disconcerting and abstract synthesizers before James Keenan's familiar voice kicks in. A slow-burn track with consistent bass kick-drumming and atmospheric keyboards, it directly gets into the experimental nature of the album. Like the previous Puscifer records, this track, too, is full of cyclic electronic beats. A promising opener, 'Bread And Circus' makes you want to listen to the rest of the record that, as you listen further, goes constantly against your expectations (in a great way). The next track, titled 'Apocalyptical', starts off with Round's vocals. It goes from ominous to strangely bouncy and sways from electronic beats to wavy rock guitar riffs. A fun electro-rock track, 'Apocalyptical' whips up a mood that you can actually dance to.
The third track, titled 'The Underwhelming' (contrary to its name), consists a multitude of layers and unexpected instrumentals. It is, actually, overwhelming in parts, and, coupled with Maynard's high-pitched singing, the production on this track is glossy and extremely engaging. 'Grey Area 5.1', on the other hand, gives the feeling of the album blending into one long track, but, once again, in the best way possible. The transition here is effortless, and the distressing nature of the record is kept intact. Its haunting lo-fi melodies gel with the high-definition production in a near-perfect manner to create the signature Puscifer sonic experience. 'Theorem', the following track, sounds like an experimental hip-hop album, but without the convoluted raps. Its measured drumming and scratchy background noises give it a highly settling quality. Similarly, on 'UPGrade', the disorienting drone sounds and basic drum beats continue to defy expectations. The robust thumping bass melds with the eclectic electronic passages creating the most interesting track on the record.
Next up, 'Bullet Train to Iowa', is the closer to something A Perfect Circle, James Keenan's other band, would do. More rock-influenced than the rest of the record, its dreary, airy passages seem to slowly boil into an Earth-shattering crescendo, but never really do (another example of the record defying the listeners' expectations). 'Personal Prometheus', the track over seven minutes in length, displays Puscifer's vast prowess over multiple genres. With its scattered, modern rousing melodies, 'Personal Prometheus' takes you to a calm and restful place. By the time the song nears its end, you don't even realize that it's been almost seven minutes since you've been listening to the track. This song is, without a doubt, a true sonic journey much like the rest of the album.
The following four tracks -- 'A Singularity', 'Postulous', 'Fake Affront', and 'Bedlamite' -- continue that band's experimentation that impresses and continually surprises the listener. James Keenan's voice harmonizes with Round's in a way that truly commands the listener's total emotional attention. All in all, 'Existential Reckoning' is a masterful record that only pushes further the boundaries of electro-rock and creates some of the most interesting music out there in the genre.