Review Summary: Clear ends up sounding more like a mixtape than a proper EP, but Periphery are having as much fun as they always have.
Periphery is one of the more polarizing bands in today’s progressive metal scene. For every squealing fanboy they attract, there’s a detractor that’s just as vocal about their feelings towards the group. Whether you like them or not, the fact that they evoke such reaction from both sides makes them an important band. They tend to set trends just as much as they follow them, and this case is a little of both. “Clear” is a self-described “experimental” EP by the band, the concept being that each member was given a unifying melody and told to run with it, each being in charge of a separate song. If this sounds like it would yield something incredibly schizophrenic, you would be right – and yet it doesn't stray far enough from the band’s signature sound to win over any staunch critics. But for the already converted, Clear presents a side of Periphery that’s different enough to keep you interested and familiar enough to keep you comfortable.
The tracks contributed by the guitarists are the most similar to the band’s previous work. “The Summer Jam” and “Pale Aura” are fast, upbeat, and densely melodic, while band founder Misha Mansoor’s track “Zero” plays like a more realized version of his early groove-influenced demos from the band’s formative years. The real departures are found in the tracks from the rhythm and vocal section – Spencer Sotelo sounds right at home on his industrial rock material, bassist Nolly Getgood channels Blotted Science, SikTh, and Meshuggah into his instrumental track, and drummer Matt Halpern brings a sort of progressive nu-metal to the mix with “Feed The Ground”. It would have been nice to see Periphery take more risks with a record of this nature – labeling something “experimental” is almost a free pass to get away with throwing in whatever you want to and see if it works. But the songs that are here are well structured and memorable, and in the long run that’s more important than experimentation by itself.
Periphery has always been noted for their production, which is also a dividing factor; some consider their work over-produced, while others find it to be ear candy. Clear doesn't stray from the band’s extremely high audio standards, living up to its name perfectly. It’s a slight step down from what was found on the previous album, but for something produced in a much quicker time span, it’s still something to marvel at.
Clear ends up sounding more like a mixtape of well-produced demos than anything remotely cohesive as a whole. But that’s to be expected of a recording of this nature. We’re so used to wanting our music polished to a mirror shine that it’s become hard to enjoy something for what it is – not perfect, but an example of a band truly having fun with its craft and doing something unique, even if the results play out as basically fan service to the nth degree. But there are worse things than giving the fans what they want, and Clear is worth checking out by any fan of modern progressive metal.