Review Summary: Although Thomas Giles Rogers really attempts to let his colors shine, the general misdirection of "Pulse" keeps his first proper solo effort from being anything more than a novelty.
Thomas Giles Rogers (a.k.a. Tommy Rogers, ) of metalcore juggernaut Between the Buried and Me must often feel like the low man on the totem pole, as he’s typically regarded as the weakest member of the “prog-troupe.” However, it’s always been known that Rogers has consistently played a large part in group, adding not only his vocals and keyboard, but his composing skills as well. Well, the time has come for Rogers to strike out on his own, and tear down the presuppositions that he is just a mere vocalist.
If there’s one thing to take away from Tommy’s "pseudo-debut" solo record (his first effort being under the pseudonym "Giles), it’s that he is clearly a talented, creative young man. In fact, the term solo
has never been more apt, as Rogers is literally responsible for 100% of Pulse
, with everything from the vocals, songwriting, and production being done exclusively by himself. However, the album isn’t limited to a litany of metalcore inspired ditties, nor a handful of singer/songwriter-esque tunes, but instead, a wealth of implausibly diverse and varied songs. There are so many ideas bursting at Pulse
‘s seams, that it’s hard not to find something
remotely enjoyable within the album’s run time.
Yet even though the breadth of Pulse
is staggering, the depth is simply not there. This is where things get fairly disappointing, for the album just holds so much promise, and so many wonderful ideas, but it falls flat in its execution. It’s almost like there are too many
ideas, both unrefined and disorganized--as if Tommy needed a fresh pair of eyes to help put the pieces together a little better. And that’s kind of what caused me to come to the strange conclusion that Thomas Giles Rogers solo effort needed a little less Thomas Giles Rogers. It just feels like another's input would have aided in the product making a little more sense. Sure, the ambition of doing everything
is amiable, but Pulse
just needed a bit of something
else, something to make it a little more cohesive. There are hackneyed club beats and synths where they probably shouldn’t be, and awkward vocal passages point to some not so wise choices in listenability. From a purely stylistic direction, Pulse
seems like a patchwork of influences; form the 70’s prog to the modern day metal, it feels like Rogers got so wrapped up in his own aspirations, that he simply forgot to make the product actually work.
Well, the album does work
I suppose, in that it is a collection of enjoyable songs, with moderate length with a decent replay value. However, Pulse
simply doesn’t quite know what the hell it is. There’s a mixture of electronics, metal, progressive, alternative, and whatever else spewed forth from Rogers‘ mind. The off-the-wall mixture of styles and sounds are what make it distinguishable and interesting, however, but it’s so misguided. Instead of everything melding together and flowing seamlessly, the separate tracks feel like separate pockets of styles. For instance, “Mr. Bird” is a melancholy tune; a mournful piano flutters in the background and Rogers lightly croons with his airy tenor, singing of freedom and such. Yet the next song up is “Catch and Release,” a purely techno/industrial piece, full of robotic vocals and harsh screams, somewhat in the vein of a Nine Inch Nails song. The transition (as if there is one) is so jarring, that it erases any and all flow. But more so than that, it displays how stylistically choppy it all is, with segregated pieces scattered haphazardly about. Yet don’t think that instances such as this are few and far between--Pulse
is chock full of strange moments and ill-fitting shifts in sound and style.
Regardless of the flow (or lack thereof), Pulse
still has a lot to admire. As stated before, it’s incredibly impressive what he was able to accomplish as the sole influence on the record. While one, single aspect won’t do much to blow one’s mind, the fact that he can competently play so many instruments is rather incredible. His vocals are adequate, as are his guitar and drum skills, but the album is more than just the sum of its parts. Not only does he fancy himself as a one man band, but as a songwriter he confidently brings a lot to the table, as much of the album is quite well written. Nothing is really overused per se, and the keyboard (in the past, a gimmick of Rogers) is utilized to a tasteful degree. While the electronic elements in a couple selections become tiresome, the overall album features a tasteful amount, with many tracks benefiting from intriguing sounds and textures. The opener, and first single, “Sleep Shake,“ displays Pulse
when everything comes together just right. It’s catchy, fun, and full of refreshing and interesting moments. Other cool tracks include the pseudo-bluesy, prog-metal mash up, “Hamilton Anxiety Scale,” and the hauntingly trippy “Suspend the Death Watch.” .However, it’s when Rogers strips everything away that Pulse
finds its voice. Songs like “Armchair Travel” and “Mr. Bird” are stunningly simplistic, but ridiculously catchy and surprisingly beautiful. “Armchair Travel” uses a mere acoustic guitar, both subtle and quaint, but mixed with his vocal interplay, the song just becomes much more personal and intimate--something dearly lacking in much of the album.
Despite its glaring faults, Pulse
is a reasonably impressive debut. It stumbles--fairly regularly--but in the end, Thomas Giles really displays his strengths. It’s a diverse and varied excursion that lacks direction, which unfortunately does significant damage to the overall product. Regardless, this album has its charms, even if you have to dig a bit to find them.