We are now just 10 days away from what is certainly the most highly anticipated release of the last 6 months. The aptly named Juggernaut: Alpha and Omega, the double disk daemon from those doyens of the modern prog Scene, Periphery.
What intrigues me most about this record is Periphery's decision to make it a double album. Even within the exploratory and expansive world of progressive metal LP's that sprawl across 2 compact disks are rare. The combined total running time of 2 standard CD's is 148 minutes and even if Mr Mansoor and friends decide not to fill the disks to capacity, I expect the running time to be at least 2 hours.
There are several reasons for the infrequency with which double albums are released. The primary explanation used to be the extra financial burden that a record label will incur with the production and manufacture of this length of release. Periphery can circumvent this concern with the modern prevalence of Digital downloads. This will be the way the majority of consumers will purchase this record. Leaving only a modest (by the standards of the 70's and 80's) physical production run required.
The other side of the production costs coin, is the actual recording of such a long record. Meloncollie and the Infinite Sadness, the 1995 smash hit double by The Smashing Pumpkins took over a years worth of studio time to commit to tape, at an estimate cost of over 1 million 1990's dollars. However, Periphery are fortunate; in Misha Mansoor and Adam “Nolly” Getgood, they have members who actually own studios, eliminating this expense in one fell swoop. In addition the modern practice of digital recording has removed the cost of pricey 2inch tape from the debit column.
Ok, so that is the logistical problems out of the way. Now we come to the crux of the matter. Why releasing a double album is an artistic, if not a commercial, mistake. This pretty much boils down to dilution. Every new project instills the artist with renewed vigour and creative energy, allowing ideas to embed in a fresh and fertile imagination. The extended creative process enforced by the writing and production of a double, can and often has led in the past to a reduction of creativity and repetition of ideas.
I know that the Periphery team has more than its fair share of powerfully creative minds, but having 3 genius songwriters didn't prevent The White Album from being a weak and meandering collection. Also 5 years of seclusion and work didn't help Aphex Twin make more than half the tracks on Drukqs anywhere near his usual compelling standard.
Now I'm not suggesting by any means that Juggernaut will be another Stadium Arcadia [Red Hot Chilli Peppers]. They are too good a band for that to ever happen. Nor am I suggesting that you listen to Stadium Arcadia to see how bad I'm saying it wont be. In fact if ever you come across a copy of that monstrosity, I'm suggesting you destroy it.
What I am saying is that there is the possibility of Periphery diminishing the considerable legacy that they have built up in the last 5 years. All because of the lack of a good editing process. I mean how much less critical and public acclaim is being given to the recent Hobbit trilogy all because Peter Jackson forgot how to edit his movies to entertain others?
I'm aware that movies are not albums and that records can be taken one track at a time and not compulsorily viewed/listened to from start to finish. But I'd prefer a single album where every track feels like it changed my life rather than a double that stole an afternoon.
But as always time will be the ultimate test and my pathetic opinions will not matter one iota; neither to the collective greatness that is Periphery nor to their legions of adoring fans.
Juggernaut: Alpha – Omega is out on the 27th of January on Sumerian Records.
– John Whitmore