In the grand scope of progressive extreme music, Tommy Rogers has about as much visibility as one can hope achieve. After fronting modern prog-whatever frontrunners Between the Buried and Me for more than a decade thus far, Rogers has honed a distinct style as the voice of a truly unique band, and become an icon and favorite in the hearts of many heavy music fans. Every once in a while, though, Rogers finds it in himself to write some tunes that stray a bit from the path him and his bandmates typically tread.
‘Modern Noise‘ is Tommy Rogers’ second solo offering under the moniker Thomas Giles and can best be described as a polished, spacey rock record. Opening track ‘Wise and Silent’ is an electronic instrumental track with an atmosphere belonging on the title screen of a sci-fi video game, and this sets the thematic stage for the rest of the record. The next track, ‘Mutilated World,’ is a tom-driven, mid-paced rock tune that, despite being on the simplistic side of things, turns out to be one of the more enjoyable tracks on Modern Noise, as well as a precise hint at what is to come in the near future, save for a few curveballs. ‘Mutilated World” also introduces the listener to a sound based on a band that is arguably the most obvious inspiration for the record: later-era Cynic.
Following ‘Mutilated World”, ‘Siphon the Bad Blood” presents itself as one of the most basic, rock-oriented tracks on Modern Noise, as well as the record’s clearly weakest link. Overly repetitious and dynamically uninteresting, this track’s rhythmic base reeks of mainstream fist-pumpers and adds nothing remotely noteworthy to the sonic mosaic of Modern Noise.
Luckily, ‘I Appear Disappear’ turns things around in an instant. Beginning with cleaner guitars and the ever-present spacey atmosphere, the fourth track bursts into full speed around the two minute park, closing out with a remarkably tasteful solo courtesy of Between the Buried and Me guitarist Paul Waggoner.
For the most part, Modern Noise continues on in the vein of the first few tracks. There is no hint of the progressive complexity that is present in Between the Buried and Me‘s discography – not that anything of this nature is meant to be found on a solo record – and repeat listening will not reveal much more depth than can be gleaned from first listen.
Sure, there are a few more notable tracks on the record. ‘Blueberry Queen’ is the true oddball on Modern Noise, a short jazz track hearkening back to the days when the big-band sound was all the rage. Though quaint to an extent, the track seems altogether pointless when compared to its counterpart tracks. ‘Devil Net’ and ‘Modern Noise’ are two stronger tracks that are well suited to finishing out the record, the former encompassed by eerie but easy-on-the-ears pop instrumentation, and the latter eventually segueing that poppiness into an impressively big-sounding conclusion.
But altogether, Modern Noise just doesn’t offer that much to sink one’s teeth into. A catchy chorus here and there and some colorful keyboards can only engage a listener so much before getting old, even for the most die-hard Rogers fan. Also to be taken into consideration is the fact that Tommy Rogers has never been a terribly interesting clean vocalist in the first place, with his Masvidal-esque Modern Noise performance doing nothing to change this.
The most apt summary of this record came from Rogers himself when he spoke with Guitar World before the release of “I Appear Disappear” as a single: “I took a more rock approach and really focused on writing simple yet dynamic songs”, Rogers told the interviewer. “Modern Noise is basically just saying this is my current noise on the earth.”
And really, that is all that can be said for the record. Modern Noise is one artist crafting something that is wholly his, and while there is some solid material here, Thomas Giles’ second LP is unlikely to be anything other than an easy listening timekiller to anyone besides the artist himself.
FFO: Aeon Spoke, Porcupine Tree, Crosses