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Bangalore Band 'The Pulse Theory' Refine Their Prog Chops On Their Safe, Risk-Free New Album

6.7

album Reviews Sep 08, 05:58pm

‘Coming Back Home’ will be plenty satisfying to fans of the genre, but…

Progressive rock or metal in its ‘modern’ form has a particular set of requirements to appeal to its listeners. It’s got to have an emotional core, it has to have a balance between relatively catchy sections and heavier bits, it should hide its technical excellence behind strong hooks and melodic lead parts… the list goes on and on.

If you’re looking closely, you might spot something interesting; these ideas haven’t essentially changed in, literally, years. There probably are a million theories as to why, but this genre has stayed almost exactly the same since the 2000s. So, when you hear a genuinely good album like ‘Coming Back Home’ from Bangalore outfit The Pulse Theory, you get a sense of genuine nostalgia even though it came out just a couple weeks back. Strange, isn’t it?

Let’s talk about the album in a vacuum first. The Pulse Theory is a five-piece band and they take full advantage of it, so the songs here have quite a lot of diversity in tone and vibe. Yes, they’re all in the context of a punch mix (from Keshav Dhar), but that helps each sound find its place. This helps the writing mostly hold up over what is quite a long listen by today’s standards; 8 tracks over about 47 minutes. The opener ‘Seconds Before The Storm’ is not an opener in that it’s a short ambient intro, but it’s a surprisingly epic little piece with some synth, strings and guitars (heavy movie OST vibes here). ‘Memories Divine’ follows it up with the classic prog template of odd-time riffs, accessible chords and eminently sing-able vocals. The required-by-law breakdown makes an appearance halfway through; it’s followed by a required-by-law melodic section. Then, there’s a solo. It’s possible the song drags a bit, but it more than fulfils its objectives.

 

 

‘The Vanquished The Victor’ is piano-led until interrupted by a riff, synth and vocals that are right out of symphonic metal and old-school melodic speed metal (y’all remember bands like Stratovarius?), which actually sounds pretty fresh even in this day and age. ‘The Far Beyond’ takes the same idea in a slightly more angular direction (notwithstanding a rather questionable and plinky keyboard sound).

‘Everytime’ is perhaps the purest representation of what the band attempts on the previous two songs and is therefore an album highlight. The vocals are really catchy, the riffs are performed with energy, the groove has that galloping, pounding edge to it we all like, and even the solo is exactly fit for purpose. This track makes 6 minutes feel like 3, and that’s an achievement. The title track ‘Coming Back Home’ leans on its keys and clean guitars quite a bit, and it does end up helping. There are some great melodies to be found here. ‘Troubled Child’ is your classic prog ballad; drama, ample time to breathe, and big moments of resolution. The album ends with ‘Fallacy Of Mind’, which combines the album’s most ferocious guitar playing with its strangest clean sections. It’s jarring at times, but it fits the vibe.

 

 

So, yes, overall, ‘Coming Back Home’ is a well-executed album for what it is. But therein also lies the main thing about it that you might not gravitate towards; ‘what it is’. The band lists Porcupine Tree and Opeth and Tesseract and Dream Theater as influences… the same set of names has been bouncing around for ages now. The same ideas of angst or heavy-handed fiction are still used in the same way, with the same approach today. Not that it’s a bad thing, though. You can look at it in two ways, right?

1. Prog has its solid, established sound. It’s a bottomless well, and you get some emotion out of it every single time. If that's you, you will love The Pulse Theory and this album; it’s well made, it’s comfortable, and it’s familiar while being new. Literally. You will get many a listen out of this.

2. The last decades have seen every single release in this genre feel like a new page of the telephone directory. Yes, there are semantic changes once in a while, but every ‘new’ thing is largely the same information; the same essence. If this is you, ‘Coming Back Home’, at best, might interest you as a chance to revisit a sound you once cared for and see if you’re still into it.

 

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