Review Summary: Inevitably the sexiest metal album of the year.
Expectations can be a real bitch. Despite wanting to avoid any sort of pre-album hype, I’ve fell victim to this problem on multiple occasions and have occasionally ended up pretty disappointed (some recent examples being In Mourning’s Monolith and Veil of Maya’s [id]). This is the real advantage Periphery had with their exciting self-titled debut; I honestly had no clue what to expect from this new Washington DC native sextet. Periphery’s debut album combines some of the best elements of many of modern metal’s titans like Meshuggah, Between the Buried and Me, Sikth, and The Dillinger Escape Plan, yet still manages to concoct something fresh and unique even within the confines of their constant polyrhythmic guitar chugs.
What sets this apart from the majority of other bands currently infatuated with 8-string guitars is that they actually know how to utilize the crushing low end and pair it with a sense of melody (I’m looking at you, Divine Heresy). You’d be hard pressed to find a song on Periphery without hearing some sort of captivating guitar lead on top of the low-end frequencies, or a soaring and almost pop-punk influenced singing from frontman Spencer Sotelo. Spencer’s vocals are legitimately diverse and incredibly catchy, though than can border on whiny every now and then. That’s not to discredit his incredibly catchy vocals in songs like “Light”, “Letter Experiment” and their single, “Icarus Lives!”, the first two being some of the strongest overall material on the album. The vocals will undoubtedly be the most polarizing element for many new listeners of Periphery, as they stand out more than just about anything else in the album.
While the vocals occasionally border on cheese, I’m sure most listeners will be more concerned about how technically apt the other five band members are at their instruments. Periphery founder and principal songwriter, Misha Mansoor, hardly ever shows signs of weakness in songwriting. The only real exceptions to this could be in songs like “Zyglrox” and the stupidly titled “Ow My Feelings”, as they simply repeat past ideas that had already been delivered in a more effective manner earlier in the album’s 72 minute run-time. But when things really come together, they hit harder than almost any other metal album to be released in 2010. While the band is clearly fixated on hard-hitting polyrhythmic riffs, there’s almost always additional guitar lead or catchy riff on top of it, preventing a ton of riffs from becoming stale or repetitive. Shredders out there should look to songs like “All New Materials” and the fifteen minute epic “Racecar” for some of the most capable guitar playing this side of Necrophagist. Sure they don’t sound anything alike, but you get my point.
While Periphery certainly overstays its welcome (72 minutes is far too long for any band to play this type of music), there’s countless hooks, a dominating drum performance, and one of the best uses of 8-string guitars I’ve come across since Animals as Leaders debuted last year. It’s nice to see that a band touring with the likes of Emmure and Oceano, some of the ***tiest bands in American metal, showing a sense of class and dedication to their craft, while still fans of a live show plenty to latch onto with breakdowns, vocal hooks, and occasional soloing. While this isn’t the outright best metal album of the year, it’s right up there with The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Option Paralysis and Sigh’s Scenes from Hell for one of my favorites.
Thor’s Top Three:
All New Materials