Misha Mansoor has created the perfect hype storm with Periphery. Over the past five years, the by-now ubiquitous guitarist/producer has been making himself known all over the internet - be it on Meshuggah forums or Soundclick profiles, Mansoor’s online identity helped fuel interest in his musical endeavors and obvious talent. Fans of Mansoor have been treated with the ability to observe Mansoor’s evolution - as his production and writing techniques were progressing, everybody with an internet connection was invited to join and watch the show. Now, at the heels of five hypetastic years and four different vocalists, Mansoor and Periphery have finally released their self-titled debut. Yet to be perfectly honest, 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 are already receiving 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’ (which I’ll get to later). Secondly, most of the album is riddled with newcomer Spencer Sotelo’s whiny clean vocals and hollow harsh vocals. Strangely enough, it’s not a question as to whether or not Sotelo can sing or not (he really can belt out a tune), but it’s moreso a debate of whether or not Sotelo is suited for Periphery. His harsh vocals 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’). If anything is to noticeably divide listeners, Sotelo’s performance will most certainly be the most obvious contestant.
It isn’t really until third track ‘Letter Experiment’ that Periphery really start making good music. Amongst a slur of surprisingly un-annoying vocal effects and extremely melodic shredding, Periphery establish a groove that is instantly more memorable and rewarding than the likes of the songs before it. The other thing that ‘Letter Experiments’ boasts is the proper use of dynamic - the melodic and electronic interlude that tranquilly segues the first half of the song into the second is a completely effective “breather” amongst Periphery’s arsenal of technicality. This example of dynamic is revisited on ‘Jetpacks Were Yes!’ entirely. Most of the song is a melodic and rather conventional power-ballad that works to accentuate the heaviness of the tracks around it, creating breathing room in Periphery’s cluttered sound.
And what a cluttered sound it is! As mentioned, Periphery draws a lot of instrumental influence from Meshuggah - but Fredrik Thordendal isn’t the only being infringed. Periphery combine the likes of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me and SikTh into their slightly unoriginal prog-brew. Mansoor is arguably a master of his 7 strings and the addition of a real living
drummer in Matt Halpern tightens up the band’s technical and meandering compositions. 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’.
However, when discussing an album that’s main problem is its redundancy and ridiculous length, it’s kind of disconcerting to admit that the most engaging song on the album is the 15 minute closer ‘Racecar’. Introducing a reoccurring melodic theme (for once) in its subtle introduction, the song explodes into a marathon of heavy poly-chugging, incredible riffery and a particularly outstanding pair of guitar solos; each moment just as memorable as the next. ‘Racecar’ doesn’t quite drag its heels on the ground like a lot of Periphery
seems to do; it has a focused starting and ending point that defines its structure and success as a song. Herein lies the problem with Periphery
. Without a sense of direction and attention to good songwriting, Periphery has become one of the worst kind of bands ever: a band with unfulfilled potential. Mansoor certainly could’ve shaved some of the fat off Periphery
’s flabby exterior and Sotelo surely could’ve looked for some more memorable melodies - but all things considered, Periphery
is still just a debut from an up-and-coming band. What separates Periphery from other bands with unfulfilled potential is the fact that Periphery almost undoubtedly have a very promising career ahead of them - it’s their prerogative whether or not they write something truly worth the hype next time around. It’s certainly not beyond them.