I have always had a love/hate relationship with progressive metal prodigies Periphery. When the word “djent” started permeating metal forums and boards everywhere, its spawning scene was regularly ridiculed for being incredible passé with the existing progressive and technical metal fanbases – despite the term itself actually sparking widespread debate within itself from fans alike claiming it’s one thing when it isn’t. To cut an incredible long and arduous story short, Periphery are the forerunners of everything to do with “djent”, and the whole scene envelopes itself when it comes to the scene’s biggest talking point. Their new double album Juggernaut is no different.
However, this is a review site and I try not to delve too deep within issues that aren’t really important to the music I am graced with. So to find arguments for or against using the word “djent” go look somewhere else.
As I was saying, I have always had a love/hate relationship with Periphery. When they started making serious headway with their innovative sound that didn’t quite take legitimately everything that Meshuggah did several years ago, they actually produced several awesome songs on their debut self-titled album Periphery. Their follow-up Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (genuine album name), still had its fair share of bangers, and separated itself nicely from the first album, showing some musical evolution in the right doses.
Following a brief excursion into proper experimental town with their EP Clear that saw each member of the band fully composing and directing their own track which personally never fully grew on me, the band have now released their third full-length album in the form of Juggernaut. The album is split into two parts; Alpha and Omega – both with their own particular strengths that actually had Devin Townsend praising the band on Twitter.
Alpha has the higher percentage of tracks and the vast majority of them retaining that punchy, heavy excellence that Periphery successfully engage from all musical fronts. Their imperative edge by bringing elements of metalcore and pop music whilst retaining their prog-metalcore ambience is still on show. The band bring their surplus of energetic and lethargic downtuned riffs that provide a nice counterpart to some more experimental atmospheres that pop fans will enjoy and maybe even bounce along to.
As mentioned, the heavy riffs and crunchy beatdowns are all there creatively acting as more than just simply transitional material or just something to throw on the end of the song because it’s metalcore. Periphery have cleverly crafted their heavier elements to tie in really thoroughly to portions of songs where vocalist Spencer Sotelo is howling away like the iron-lunged devil he can be. Undoubtedly fans of Periphery II will be satisfied with Spencer’s efforts here – and from a casual fan’s perspective, I can vouch that he is simply phenomenal at times. His singing was always great, but his growling has drastically improved since the days of “The Walk”.
At times, the dense nature of Alpha will have listeners doing a myriad of things – be it furiously groove their head to everything (“Four Lights”) or find their inner pop appreciation come full circle (“Alpha”). Either way, yours truly had a brilliant time. Even though portions of Alpha left me a bit muddled – no progressive metalcore record has ever been perfect from start to finish since TesseracT’s One – for what Alpha is, it’s enjoyable enough as a whole to be considered a good release. It may take the so-called hardcore tech fans more than one listen to thoroughly appreciate; maybe after they’ve gotten over their bash-everything-Periphery phase if they’re a part of that minute fraction.
Once Alpha reaches its conclusion, I’m genuinely left wondering what the reason for separating Juggernaut into its second half Omega actually was. It’s puzzling at first, as the question running through my head at this point is: “what could Periphery do that is thoroughly different than what their fans have literally just listened to a few minutes ago?”
Well the answer, judging from opener – “Reprise” is everything that “A Black Minute” did but with a softer edge. Literally, it’s the same song. Whilst a good rendition, it doesn’t fill me with an excess of confidence that Omega will be vastly different.
Even as “The Bad Thing” purges with its hail-Satan heaviness and groove, it’s still very similar to one or two riff passages from Alpha and the vocals don’t possess any different qualities to those on Alpha. So I’m still wondering why the band have felt it necessary to split an album other than to suggest that the greek alphabet is still a new unique idea for two chapters in an album. Nonetheless, “The Bad Thing” from Omega is still par for the course in the prog-metalcore terrain, and so far, has all the tools to be an absolute belter live.
Oh, and the transition from “Graveless” to “Hell Below” is the most disgusting thing you will hear all day. Hands down.
Periphery always seem to pull out all the stops when it comes to their releases, and at times it may seem that they try too hard to be one thing as well as another thing entirely opposite. At times their music can sound messy and confusing. But their talent is incontestable and there is nothing to suggest they haven’t got the right tools in place. The whole “djent” community is either bowing at their feet or slating them left, right and centre. They may be unable to please everyone, but they still produce excellent songs and that’s important.
So with Juggernaut as a whole, it continues the tradition that Periphery can produce masterpieces in between filler material. In this instance, they have evolved to showing capability of producing more belters than usual, and that is reason enough. I feel that I will listen to Juggernaut (or at least portions of it) again and again, but it’s a question of whether others are willing to do the same.
1. A Black Minute
2. MK Ultra
3. Heavy Heart
4. The Event
5. The Scourge
7. 22 Faces
8. Rainbow Gravity
9. Four Lights
2. The Bad Thing
5. Hell Below
7. Stranger Things
Spencer Sotelo – vocals
Misha Mansoor – guitar
Jake Bowen – guitar
Mark Holcomb – guitar
Adam “Nolly” Getgood – bass
Matt Halpern – drums