Thomas Giles - Pulse (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Thomas Giles

Pulse (2011)

Metal Blade

Between the Buried and Me are an interesting band. Over the course of their career they've become more ambitious and experimental, So it makes sense that their main songwriter, vocalist Tommy Rogers, would want to expand his musical horizons beyond the technical metal BtBaM have perfected on their last few albums. That's exactly what he does on Pulse, his second solo project and first under the name Thomas Giles. My initial reaction to Pulse was that it was "Between the Buried and Me without the heavy," but after a few more listens I started to realize that it is indeed its own animal.

When discussing any project Rogers is involved in, the abbreviated word "prog" tends to get thrown around a lot, but here it's a bit of a misnomer. There's hints of it present, but there's also nods to folk and dance music that would make most aging prog-rock aficionados scratch their heads. Stylistically, Rogers has chosen to go all over the map, and for the most part it works, but it doesn't make for the most cohesive album. At times it almost feels like you're listening to a mixtape.

Even though most of the tracks feel like they could have been culled from several different albums, they're all pretty consistent in quality. The only real skipper here is "Catch and Release". He was probably aiming for a dance-metal vibe à la Nachtmystium's "No Funeral", but the electronic beats combined with harsh vocals (one of the very few times they're present on Pulse) comes dangerously close to crunkcore territory.

"Medic", which comes late in the album, is the closest thing to Rogers' work with Between the Buried and Me, but even there his vocals are much less abrasive than what you'll find on a typical BtBaM track. It's a solid song, and adds to the "everything but the kitchen sink" feel of Pulse.

Some of the album's best moments actually come when we're left with just Rogers and his guitar, such as in "Scared" and the first half of "Hypoxia". He's got a great voice, and does his part to dispel the myth that "metal vocalists only scream because they don't know how to sing." It also helps that the guitar tones sound incredible on Pulse, a fact that can be easily forgotten when there's 10 layers of keyboards and assorted noises on top of them.

One minor concern is that some of these songs seem to build up and build up, heightening tension, and then just end, never really going anywhere, leaving us with what feel like extended intros to Between the Buried and Me songs.

Nitpicking aside, Pulse is a great collection of songs, although it can be a confusing and, frankly, exhausting listen from start to finish. It should be a no-brainer for fans of Rogers' past work, although it has an appeal that should transcend that audience.