Review Summary: Djent done right.
Upon the release of Periphery’s self-titled debut album in 2010, the Maryland based sextet quickly gained notoriety among the metal scene seemingly overnight. In reality, their fanbase was built up years prior to its release over the Internet since guitarist Misha Mansoor whored his music around various music forums under the alias Bulb. Once his project gave birth to the Periphery we know today, their unique take on progressive metal fit with polyrhythmic chugging ala Meshuggah and soaring alternative vocals both alienated and drew in new listeners to their sound. The one gripe that is almost universal among Periphery haters though is the near omnipresence of their vocalist Spencer Sotelo; which is not with some basis, the basis being that he’s really not a metal vocalist. On Periphery
, his borderline boy-band alt rock vocals stuck out like a sore thumb over the techy instrumentals, and while personally I think they’re a welcome change from the typical mundane metalcore cleans filling the music industry nowadays, it’s easy to see how they could turn off a potential fan from enjoying the band. Not to mention the fact that some loyal fans of Bulb’s instrumentals were incredibly disappointed after Periphery scrambled through vocalist after vocalist and eventually settled with Spencer. Enter Periphery (Instrumental)
The term “djent” is often tossed around when discussing Periphery. As much as I despise that term with a fiery passion, to some extent it’s a good indicator of what Periphery sounds like. The guitars have a certain crunch to them – a robotic attack that gives them a beautifully gritty timbre when chugged. ‘The Walk’ and ‘Zyglrox’ showcase this best. They’re easily the heaviest songs on the record, focusing on the dissonant side of Periphery with the latter even dipping into death metal territory. On the opposite side of the spectrum, ‘Jetpacks Was Yes!’ is probably the most accessible song on the record and wouldn’t be too out of place on an alternative rock record, sans its distorted guitar riff two-thirds into the song. Genre experimentation aside, Periphery, at their core, is a progressive metal band. The most blatantly progressive song on the album is closer ‘Racecar’ - a 15-minute culmination of their most experimental, forward thinking melodies leading up to the song’s gorgeous climax before fading out.
The Meshuggah comparisons on Periphery (Instrumental)
are inevitable, and after the brief ambient build up in album opener ‘Insomnia’, the polyrhythmic barrage of tight chugging begins. Fortunately, the beginning of ‘Insomnia’ is the closest they come to ripping them off. The bridge of the song is where Periphery truly separate themselves from similar artists since Meshuggah would be caught dead before putting an Aphex Twin Richard D. James Album
-esque drill-n-bass clean passage in one of their songs. While it’s not one of the strongest songs on the record, ‘Insomnia’ does an excellent job of setting the tone of the album before getting into the truly exceptional material found in the later tracks. ‘Buttersnips’, one of the longest songs and also one of the heaviest, has a stunning tapping solo along with Periphery’s usual electronic tinge present throughout. Speaking of electronics, Periphery (Instrumental)
flows seamlessly as one piece of music, each song seguing into the next through the use of ambient electronic passages or soothing piano progressions (‘Totla Mad’). On a technical level, it’s impossible to deny Periphery’s talented rhythm section. All three of their guitarists, yes three guitarists, have specific roles on each song without ever muddying up their sound. Drummer Matt Halpern also does a fantastic job at keeping up with them, whether it’s from his synchronized double bass hits or straight up blast beats.
Unfortunately Periphery (Instrumental)
is by no means a perfect album. While each song is enjoyable individually, the 72-minute run time of similar style songs does get a bit tiresome. Another drawback is some underwhelming tracks near the end of the record, specifically ‘Totla Mad’ and ‘Ow My Feelings’. While these tracks are excellent in their own right, their monotonous song structures and lack of new ideas would make their presence much more appealing on a separate EP or having them saved for a later release. Despite its minor flaws, however, Periphery created a superb instrumental album. Their fresh take on progressive metal and absence of a vocalist on this record make Periphery (Instrumental)
a fantastic release hinting towards a potentially even more promising future for Periphery.