Periphery 2019

Update: The post has been updated on May 9th with the inclusion of Periphery’s 2019 album Periphery IV: Hail Stan.

Periphery started in 2005 as the recording project of guitarist and producer Misha Mansoor, who had already made a name for himself in the progressive metal community through his production abilities with his project Bulb. Over the course of almost 15 years, Periphery have shaped the modern Prog Metal scene, giving birth to — like it or not — the Djent genre.

Since 2010 Periphery released five (technically four) studio albums and toured all around the world. They are currently working on a new album which will be released later this year on in early 2019 through the band-owned label 3DOT Recordings.

While waiting for new music from the band, we’ve revisited their catalog and below is how we rank Periphery‘s studio albums based on our personal preferences. The team of five writers has rated each of the group’s albums, with records being rated from the lowest to the highest average rate.

06. Periphery (2010, Sumerian Records)

It’s pretty difficult to analyze Periphery when amorous fans have completely cloaked the 74-minute beast of an album in a pungent cloud of prog-lust. Yet for all the accolades Periphery received for their debut, few people seem to heed how unrefined Periphery really is. All things considered, Periphery has been half a decade in the making – many songs on the album have been available in fetal form online for years… shouldn’t Periphery properly culminate the time it took to create it?

First and foremost, Periphery is far too long. At an undeserved 74-minutes, Periphery is littered with tracks that are extended far beyond their potential. The band’s tendency to overindulge in track length is highlighted best on opening tracks “Insomnia” and “The Walk” – peppered with mechanic Meshuggah-esque polyrhythms, both tracks suffer incredible redundancy. Instead of having any semblance of dynamic or melody, the two songs prefer dabbling in rhythmically impressive but generally boring and redundant time signatures/riffing. The only instance in which said redundancy is completely omitted is during closer “Racecar.” Spencer Sotelo‘s harsh vocals here are peculiarly airy and seem to nearly soften the impact of the heavier parts (take “The Walk” for example), while his clean vocals range anywhere from unorthodoxly melodic (“Icarus Lives!”) to physically grating (“All New Materials”).

Periphery ends up being the most fun when the band just shamelessly presents their technical ability. Two of the best tracks on Periphery, “Buttersnips” and “Icarus Lives!,” lay back to back in the middle of the album. Acting as a one-two punch of down-tuned guitar wanking, the two songs give Mansoor and crew to flaunt their technical talent – the solo in “Icarus Lives!” is only barely eclipsed by the introduction and tapping sections of “Buttersnips.”

05. Periphery III: Select Difficulty (2016, Century Media)

Periphery III strikes almost immediately as another half-hearted flirtation with melody and a half-hearted attempt to maintain the band’s chaotic and polyrhythmic roots. Sure, maybe it’s another quarter inch of toe in the melody pool than its predecessors, but how much more can we really analyze the snail’s pace at which the band pursue the sound that, in my humble opinion, is their most appealing? When it’s counterbalanced by weighty, posturing tunes like “The Price is Wrong” and “Motormouth,” it’s hard to conjecture that the band are honing in on a specific sound. Instead, Periphery seem content to fold their arms at the crossroads of two distinct musical intersections and have a seat.

Not everything’s entirely stale, though. On the whole, the djent factor of the album is lower than most others (spare, perhaps, Juggernaut: Alpha) and the inclusion of orchestral elements throughout makes things feel a little more open, inviting, and intriguing. The use of a chorus on “Marigold” also proves a smart and effective way to change things up, while the digitized bitcrushing included on “Remain Indoors” puts a tasty spin on an effect that’s fairly common to the subgenre. Speaking of which, “Remain Indoors” is a strong fusion of Periphery‘s penchant for the heavy and prowess with catchy, more traditionally structured songs. I’d be keen to say that perhaps it’d make a good blueprint for the future.

04. Juggernaut: Alpha (2015, Sumerian Records)

After extensive touring following their sophomore release Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, the band announced that they began recording tracks for the conceptual dual-album project, Juggernauts Alpha and Omega, containing about 1½ hours worth of material between the two. Needless to say, two full albums worth of material is a lot to release at once, and the fact that its backed by years of hype only made the payoff that much more desirable. So the million-dollar question is, was it worth the wait? Well let’s put it this way: if you’ve been stuck with the band until then, chances are that you are not disappointed.

Of the two Juggernauts, Alpha is the radio-friendly brother. The eponymous track is the most flamboyantly poppy song they’ve ever done, and opens with an archaic keyboard lick that sounds like it was taken straight from a Gameboy Color. Songs like “Heavy Heart” and “Rainbow Gravity” are also vocally driven bangers with a bit more edge – infectious choruses, crunchy riffs, and a rhythm section that’s as abrasive as ever, reinforced by Nolly’s godlike production. Juggernaut also doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a concept album both musically and lyrically. Many motifs are repeated throughout the album, such as “The Scourge” being quoted in “Four Lights” and “Psychosphere,” and reprises of “A Black Minute” on Omega’s “Graveless” and “Stranger Things.”

03. Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (2012, Century Media)

The most noticeable of the improvements to the band’s sound on Periphery II, after the band’s 2010 debut, is Sotelo‘s vocals. When comparing his execution, style, and ability on this album to his performances found on the predecessor, the improvements in his vocal talent on Periphery II are remarkable. It’s apparent that he’s found himself within the band in the time that has passed, and has adjusted comfortably enough to develop and master a style that is unique to himself and works with the band, while also separating Periphery from the rest of the pack vocally. Sotelo‘s delivery here sees him more skilled in his range, and by being aware of his limitations he shows a better sense of control over the soaring melodies he impressively belts out without any pitch correction. He’s harmonious, and his roars are undoubtedly emphasized in more intensity and bold fury than first time.

The music of Periphery II is bursting at the seams with the layers of different sounds it has jam-packed into it. Periphery without question were aimed to go bigger, but they did actually manage to obtain their desired quantity without sacrificing quality. Even though the album is crammed, no aspect is expendable, and all are different and interesting inclusions. Delicate electronica interludes soothingly tinge the album into a well-rounded state, and make the transitions between songs so seamless that they are sometimes unnoticeable.

02. Juggernaut: Omega (2015, Sumerian Records)

Juggernaut: Alpha was a decent but ultimately unsatisfying experience, missing far more than it hit and packed with filler. With Juggernaut: Omega, however, Periphery managed to correct many of the mistakes they made on the first half of the album, as well as improve marginally over their previous work.

Going into Omega, the first thing you’ll pick up on is the production style. The guitars feel very compressed, and the vocals are often layered several times over. This can get quite annoying at some points, particularly on “Priestess,” but for the most part, it’s not too much of a problem. Most of the songs on here are far more impressive and memorable than those on Alpha, including “The Bad Thing,” “Stranger Things,” and the mammoth track “Omega.” There is some nice contrast between the more subtle moments, such as the brief piano/synth intro in “Omega,” and the chuggier, more heavy sections in songs such as “Hell Below.” The album as a whole feels a lot heavier and more aggressive than Alpha, which actually works out pretty well, since the poppier sections of Omega’s predecessor could become monotonous and, at their worst, downright cringe-worthy.

Truth be told, Omega won’t do much to impress anybody who disliked any of Periphery’s previous work. At the end of the day, though, it’s still a fun ride for those who are willing to look past its imperfections, and – arguably – the band’s best release to date.

Let us know how you rank Periphery albums in the comments.

01. Periphery IV: Hail Stan (2019, 3DOT Recordings)

What has been announced with Select Difficulty is fully realized on Hail Stan — the band has taken the time to create an album that is by far their most mature and well-thought release. The band has never sounded that confident, and this time with their own label they simply delivered a release that screams as powerful as Spencer Sotelo, shouting “we can do whatever we wish and while we are at it, we will make it exceptionally good.”

Kicking off and closing the album are two epics: “Reptile” clocking just under 17 minutes and “Satellites” under 10, these two pieces are yet another indicator of how many f*cks the band give with this one. Take in consideration the album title and picking arguably one of the least accessible songs as a lead single (“Blood Eagle”), and it’s easy to see how this whole experience of an album is a risk that proved worth taking.

Hail Stan seamlessly encompasses every beloved aspect of the band’s arsenal without even vaguely shying away from creativity and innovation, resulting in some of the finest material progressive metal has ever seen. And on an even more profound level, it once again highlights their ability to appease music fans of all persuasions whilst also exhibiting masterful, magical musicianship.

1 Comment

  1. Chalk

    February 17, 2019 at 1:29 am

    every album after the first is just a refined retread
    refining is good but it’s hard to care when they don’t do much to make it distinct

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