The band Periphery has been around since 2005, but the only real recognition they received was through guitarist Misha Mansoor (aka Bulb) whose regularly updated Soundclick account was flooded with underground attention. This all changed in 2010 when Periphery exploded onto the metal scene with their self-titled debut via Sumerian Records. It brought the elements of technicality, heaviness, and melody together in a way they had never met before and tied them together with a Meshuggah-esque “djent” guitar tone. The song styles were wide open from the tech heavy “Zyglrox” to the more melodic “All New Materials” allowing the band to go in whatever direction they pleased. This fresh progressive take on heavy music influenced countless bands and acted as a cornerstone of what would become the “djent” scene which is loved and hated by many (including the word djent itself). I personally think of Periphery as progressive metal, but to each their own. A year later they released the follow up “Icarus EP” which featured both new songs and revamped/remixed versions of old ones. By this time, expectations were high for the next full length Periphery album.
After what some considered a long 2 years, fans are finally able to sink their brains into “Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal”. But does it live up to the hype? Did listeners get what they expected, possibly even more? Depending on your personal tastes these answers may vary. The way I see it, Periphery delivers. They transitioned from a bunch of guys playing awesome, yet rehashed Bulb demos into an elite musical unit. Every band member, including the new ones, practiced and developed their craft obsessively after the original release and it really shows. The writing is beautifully complex and expands on and beyond the ideas of previous work. The playing field is still wide open, ranging from heavy hitting tracks like “Ragnarok” and “Make Total Destroy” to the lighter side with “Erised” and the second half of “Luck as a Constant”. All the guitarists, including new member Mark Holocomb (previously of Haunted Shores), contributed inspired songs, blistering solos, carpal tunnel worthy riffs, and mind bending rhythmic patterns. Certain parts of the album feel as if life itself was injected into the music, such as the first half of “Masamune” (Titled after Final Fantasy. Composer Nobou Uematsu is a big influence on this band). Three amazing guest solos are also featured on this album. The legendary John Petrucci of Dream Theater (uncle of Periphery’s Jake Bowen) wrote a powerful solo to end the song “Erised”. Guthrie Govan, whom I absolutely admire, contributes a solo of pure awesome in “Have a Blast”. And finally, guitar beast and new addition to The Faceless, Wes Hauch absolutely shreds it in “Mile Zero”. Matt Halpern is a tank behind the drum kit, playing complex polyrhythms like they’re nothing and providing several awesome drum solos. He lays in the grooves and plays so many ghost notes you swear the albums haunted. It’s also important to mention Adam “Nolly” Getgood, guitarist of Red Seas Fire and new bassist of Periphery, who did all the bass work before he was officially in the band. He slaps out several great moments throughout the record. The biggest improvement of this album has to be Spencer Sotelo’s vocal work, which has improved tenfold. Vocally, parts of the original release felt stale. Now they are filled to the brim with powerful conviction, allowing you to feel the emotion ranging from love to hate. Great examples being the next level singing performance of “Scarlet” and the emotionally charged tribute to a dead friend “Mile Zero” which actually ends with the sound of him smashing his headphones on the ground. Hell, Spencer even wrote “Facepalm Mute” in its entirety. You can listen below.
Though this album feels great in my ears it probably might not sit well with everyone. Moments such as the quirky video game feel in the beginnings of “Have a Blast” and “Ragnarok” could throw some people off. The same vibe can also be found throughout the shuffle groove progressions of “Froggin’ Bullfish”. The somewhat over the top vocals in the chorus of “The Gods Must Be Crazy!” and before the rhythm guitar solo section of “Ji” could also be turn offs. Personally, I enjoy all of the above but objectively, I can understand why others may not.
Overall, I have to say this album is rock solid. Inspiring, expansive, and thought provoking – all while keeping the spirit of Periphery alive. If you’re looking for some great new music, I recommend you give this release a listen or two… or three.