Review Summary: Periphery changes their sound to focus on the melodic. More than being good or bad, it's mostly just different.
Periphery are a band that have never quite lived up to the hype. Misha Mansoor, for all of his production credits along high brow albums, credibility as one of the underground's finest guitarists (hearkening back to the days of his "Bulb" moniker), and ability to rally enough press to overwhelm the Million Man March, really just never got things together all the way for the band's first, self-titled release. Sure, it used those crunchy down-tuned 8-string guitars and had a few provocative solos thrown in from time to time, but by the time the full length LP hit the airwaves, the world was full of long-haired basement dwellers self-producing the same thing to arguably better effect. Toss in the often grating and generally bothersome vocal performance of Spencer Sotelo on Periphery
and you have an album that managed to deliver roughly less than half of what Misha promised fans of djent all over the world.
So, how do we even approach
Periphery's sophomore outing? Well, with a name like Periphery II: This Time It's Personal
, it's certainly not from the vantage of witnessing a maturing artist.
Sure, Periphery show signs of developing as a band at times, but for the most part, there's simply nothing new
. Much like the way TV's Lost
introduced the concept of a flash-sideways - a pan to ongoing events in a parallel universe - Periphery don't really show us that they can build on or refine the sound of Periphery
, but mostly show us that they can do something else on Periphery II
. Those low polyrhythmic guitars are still there, but they're scaled back, both in the level of the mix and in the degree to which they really mash out the palm-muted math. Instead, the focus of the album is given to Spencer's drastically changed (and, by that change, improved) vocal performance and melodic overtones. Solos are more profound and extended, while Spencer largely utilizes a sweeping clean vocalization supported by a few gruff growls nowhere resembling his gutteral groans on the group's first release. Nowhere on the album is there a moment of raw, exchanged riffing like Periphery's
"The Walk." Rare are the occurrences of those whomping lows that overwhelmed the previous album.
Really, the sound's just... Different
. Not better, not worse, just... Different
And for people like me who enjoy the more melodic approach to the djent subgenre, that's a good thing. There's nothing wrong with the new approach, and at times it works rather well in providing a memorable sound that's easy to sing along to. At other times, such as single "Scarlet" (and many other tracks), the band's impersonation of Protest the Hero is nauseatingly apparent and weighs on the listener's shoulders. Though fans are likely to protest, a lot of the elements of Periphery II
simply aren't the innovation listeners were always promised. In fact, a lot of it, as previously stated, is plagiarism at its finest. Quite frankly, at this point in the group's career, they display themselves at a crossroads of confusion on the sophomore album.
For every person disappointed in Periphery's debut, there were probably at least two people rushing to mosh at the group's shows. And it's that subtle nuance that makes Periphery II
the quandary that it is. This isn't the kind of music that you mosh to, while the last record unabashedly was
. Whether the change is for better or worse, that, alone, is enough to spark debate and divide a young and aggressive fanbase and is sure to provide a challenge to the group. That said, while Periphery II
provides a good (if not long and somewhat unoriginal) listening experience, it will be for the band to decide whether or not they stick with the direction they've chosen. Only at that point will we, the listening public, truly be able to decide whether the group can truly evolve and innovate.
As for Periphery II
? Well, it's more like another initial release than anything else. Here's hoping that it is