Album Review: Puscifer – Existential Reckoning

Arizona oddities Puscifer return as mysteriously brilliant as ever on Existential Reckoning…

Album Review: Puscifer – Existential Reckoning
Nick Ruskell

It’s perhaps a mark of how interesting the times in which we live are that rationality and normality have started to appear in clothes that previously appeared bizarre. As welcome a surprise as the announcement of a new Puscifer album was, the fact that said news came as an apparently leaked, top-secret bit of security intel regarding the disappearance of previous Puscifer creation Billy D actually came as something quite reassuring: Puscifer are still reliably Puscifer.

Last seen with a bottle of wine and “a mysterious briefcase”, the document outlined the search efforts for the errant man by agents Mat Mitchell, Carina Round and Maynard James Keenan, believing him to possibly have been taken by aliens. “We hypothesized the only way to locate the subject was to [REDACTED] construct traversable bridges between intuition and technology, requiring us to explore the metaphorical mycelium between Math and Passion, Art and Order, and Hope and Proof. Through these methods redacted we are able to pinpoint the exact location of both Billy D and the mysterious briefcase.”

But such playful nonsense hides a far more prescient heart to Existential Reckoning. Speaking to Kerrang! last month, Maynard described Billy D as “representative of the people in the middle who remember that we’re not each other’s enemies. Of the divisive nature of the interweb, as it were, where every conversation starts with an argument. Anybody who wears that hat is Billy D. We exist; we co-exist, and are trying to figure out a way to navigate this whole thing. We know there are monsters in the world, but what does that have to do with this conversation I’m having with you right now? That’s the attitude.” In a time where ‘the interweb’ has boiled discussion down to a series of yeses and nos – exploited to awful perfection by Donald Trump, as but one example – though dressed up very bizarrely, the vibe of Puscifer here remains a positive one of unity and engaging brain before mouth or fist.

Throughout, synth abounds, atmospheric, driving, occasionally knowingly cheesy. Songs like opener Bread And Circus and The Underwhelming are brilliant electro-pop works, with the latter mixing robotic, Human League-ish keys with a seedy, greasy guitar one moment, before switching for a more languid groove, and then back again. It’s cool, difficult not to get caught up in, as spacious and open as the Arizona desert in which it was born. It’s a vibe that continues through Grey Area, in which Maynard sings of ‘An age of confusion’, which, in honesty, could be talking about almost any time, but coming when it does, it feels especially haunting.

But the beauty of Puscifer is that they can be taken any way you like depending on how you look at them. It is more than enough that the music on Existential Reckoning is superb. But should you attempt to get under the skin and solve the puzzles within, there are vast riches to be had. You’ll never totally figure them out, but Puscifer remain a truly delightful mystery that is, in some ways, best left unsolved.

Verdict: 4/5

For Fans Of: Ulver, A Perfect Circle, Nine Inch Nails

Existential Reckoning is out now via Alchemy Recordings/Puscifer Entertainment/BMG.

READ THIS: Maynard James Keenan: "If you're going to put on make-up and wear stupid wigs, you have to understand the 'wanker' comments are coming

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