Review Summary: If Periphery II didn’t essentially sound like, well, Periphery the second, I might be sitting here with some enthusiasm.
Periphery came onto the music scene in 2010 with a sense of flair and vibrancy; they were young (and still are) offering a strong debut which was up until that moment, a purely work-in-progress concept far beyond the trash found in so many other corners of metal. So what happened here? For one thing, the only element that has changed is Periphery’s ripening; they sound more like a band conversing as opposed to a single gear-head’s bedroom concept which saves this second effort Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal
), from being wholly bogged down by its own inefficacies. However, despite having tended to some of the grievances registered by their debut, namely Spencer Sotelo’s ear-bleeding chorus and false drums among others, the band haven’t succeeded in offering anything even hair splittingly different. This is called II
for a reason, though, right? Of course, it’s evident they aren’t aiming to push the envelope here; most of it appears to be intentional noodling, indirect tongue-in-cheek humour and a further solidification of their own foundations. The real question with all this in mind however is whether or not they’ve collected 14 tracks worth your hour and ten minutes when you could just as easily turn to Periphery I
for a similar result.
In continuation, II
falls short not only because it’s about 4 songs too long (even though it’s about the same duration as their first), but also because its apparent formative structure reeks of b-side material, amounting to an album carrying a lot less bulk than what it was designed to hold. Songs like “Froggin’ Bullfish” and “Masamune” noticeably suffer from this, starting and ending brilliantly, but are otherwise missing the ever so important core. It could be worse though; the band isn’t completely devoid of inspiration. In fact if you look hard enough in between the filler (and there’s a load of it) II
does contain a collection of enjoyable transients. “Ji” and “Scarlet”—both effectively bouncing between general open grooves and soft clean-guitar bridges—verify the rumour of Sotelo’s developing skills on the mic and his validity as a frontman. In each he manages to pull of vocal melodies which aren’t dreadfully unflattering. At times he treads unsettlingly close to Slipknot
’s Corey Taylor, particularly during “Luck as a Constant” and “Make Total Destroy” ironically coinciding with their cover of Slipknot’s “The Heretic Anthem” from earlier this year—the track itself can be found as a bonus track on the special edition.
The standout of the album being “Ragnarok”, is easily one of their most effective and unique compositions, using authoritative open note riffs and an enjoyable melodic structure that evokes the bridge of Tool
’s “Schism” during its own (which ends up being a hook throughout the song), but it’s extended unhealthily by an electronic rehash of 2010’s closer, “Racecar”. A song like “Racecar” should be considered done and dusted, not a electro tack-on to what is otherwise II’s
most effective and distinguishable moment. Misha Mansoor has readily heeded his admiration for “electronic music” and what he and his street-buddies believe it sounds like (especially in interviews), but neither has he or his group offered a single iota of electronically produced sound that’s either pleasant or appropriate, unless it’s wearing a veil amongst riffs, or as a textural backing to them. II
actually expels less of this inter-song wankery than before, but it’s become less of a novelty and more of a hindrance regardless.
For a band who have moulded the elements of Meshuggah
and Dream Theatre
busily into a sound that’s safely distinguishable amongst the overabundance of groups in this fad, Periphery haven’t exploited it all to a degree where we can call their second effort a triumph. This ‘d’ word, and the scene associated with it is as questionable as nü metal was—and like any other movement it appears to be morphing beyond its confines. Periphery appear motionless, with both their albums being two sides of the same coin, meaning if their places were switched, their net effect would be identical. For fans, this extension of 2010 is easily going to be met with praise and enthusiasm, unremarkably, but it’s going to take a bit more to convince this reviewer of its merits. The end result is an album which is served in equal portions of sour and sweet becoming only inert in conclusion, no matter how long it is, or how many guest soloists, cellos and violins it employs.