Review Summary: Periphery current and american sound is very predictable, and you can hear it everywhere, specially in the vocals. There's something curious about american bands, and it is that most of them just seems to include any trend, even in a minor scale, into the
“Space... the final frontier... these are the voyages of the band Periphery. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new music, to seek out innovation and creative expressions, to boldly go where no musician has gone before!”... (insert killer orchestral music here).
In this lengthy forming world of musically misleading concepts, genres, cacophonies and eulogies coming together, “djent” shenanigans and global warming, you probably have been waiting for this since you listened to it in a poorly modified myspace account, a polite soundclick presentation, or any other internet related music sharing endeavour, the wall of sound composed by a guy known as "Bulb”.
This particularly short, minimalist nickname is the man who inspired many others to follow what may be today a trend that is in fact, taking over the world. And how could it not; now that technology offers us the easiest way to make music sound real and professional, the only thing you need is talent perhaps, and yet, not even that is necessary in this “indie labeled” governed "musicsystem".
Misha Mansoor is a guy that started like you, and many others did. He played drums first, then guitar. He played guitar, bought his gear and played what he wanted to play. There's nothing spacey about that, yet his compositional skills speak for himself. You, as well as I know that “Bulb's” music is nothing new or innovative, what makes Periphery's music so special is how they blend all these little things to a perfect state of harmony: it is like a discordianism based band, you've got to have chaos in order to have order, and vice versa.
I just imagined what Misha felt the first time he listened to Meshuggah and SikTh. I can imagine him in an obliterated state of ecstasy and awe while he imagined himself destroying his guitar fretboard, banging his head to the ton weighted atmosphere of his music. Perhaps at the time it just seemed like a good idea to just chill and compose music, share it on the internet, no big deal, and sooner than the universe got created after the Big Bang, he hooked tons of listeners.
Don't get me wrong with all these praising paragraphs, as his music didn't anything for me until recently. I first heard Periphery and Bulb's music back in 2007, one fellow friend and drummer showed it to me and I thought it was fair good, and the reason why I thought that way was because it sounded to me like Meshuggah blended with SikTh, nothing less, nothing more.
While you may or may not (but probably you did) fall in love with his music at first glance, I was very sceptical about it to be honest; it wasn't only Periphery, or Bulb, it was and still is TesseracT, Vidlhjarta, Uneven Structure, and so on. This whole “djent” scene has a lot to prove in my opinion, and why is that"... because they started a trend, take responsibility for what you have created and prove to the world that what you are doing is honest, needs talent and is good.
Finally, on the April 20th of 2010, the debut album from Periphery is out. This was maybe for you and many others, your most anticipated album, and if it is not, it is among them. I can easily say that as a metal album, this is one of my favourite albums this year, and is perhaps on the top 10 metal albums of the last 10 years.
My allegations are risky, and to even think of putting the Periphery album in that position is an insult to the true 5 metal albums of the last 10 years, whos leaders are Cock and Ball Torture, Mortician, Beherit, Attack Attack! And Bring Me The Horizon (sarcasm).
So I guess you're thinking to yourself (of speaking to me the following): “Dear Ma7erick, you're so awesome and you write excellent reviews, but could you tell me now about the album"”. Of course colleague, let's begin.
First and foremost I want to talk about the production. This being a self-produced album, and that means no fancy mixers, monitors, mics and so on, it is indeed a state of the art mix and master. The big studios around the world should be ashamed to mix and master music that doesn't sound as good as this; a bunch of guys in a rent apartment with some sweat bought gear outdid your 500,000 $ equipment and your underpaid engineers. All the instruments blend into each other creating this massive pool of solid delivered notes to your ears. This is very interesting since this characteristic makes the band sound even more like a band. The balance is nearly perfect, no protagonist, just the band. On a technical note, I liked how they managed to use compression and reverb to the point that just flows in your ears without losing the hype in the musical experience.
The vocals. This is probably the most delicate subject about the album, since the band has had like a dozen vocalists. Chris Barretto and Spencer Sotelo are very much alike in their instrument... the voice. I heard a Periphery voice over with Chris and Spencer and they sounded almost the same, they are both equally talented. However, Spencer was the one who got to record the vocals on the album. Sotelo did an outstanding performance. His growls and clean vocals fit the music perfectly, has good intonation, very good transition between the notes in clean passages. His clean voice is very subtle, but at the same time takes the section to another level; an interesting feature that allows the songs to have everything on the same perspective. I think however that the phrasing is dull, and maybe that is because most of the songs already had the phrasing lines composed since Sotelo entered late into the band, but still, pretty linear. The phrasing in the clean sections is too much like post-hardcore choir phrasing, with long pronounced lines, shy changes and ultimately very 'predictable singing.
The tracklist. I have to say I was not completely satisfied, however most of the songs are very good. Songs like Jetpacks Was Yes!, Buttersnips and Ow My Feelings sound to me like filler tracks, and although “Jetpacks” has some incredible work in electronic elements, it just doesn't hit the spot for me like a track that should belong song for a debut.
Another thing I didn't enjoy was the leads sound. They sound “bassy”... I'm sure they intended it to sound like that, but I think a far clearer sound would have done a little more for the album. However, I think Mansoor is not the only one doing leads and solos, since in the track Racecar, there's a discrepancy in the solos sounds, which suggest there's one member of the band who's also doing some passages.
Periphery current and american sound is very predictable, and you can hear it everywhere, specially in the vocals. There's something curious about american bands, and it is that most of them just seems to include any trend, even in a minor scale, into their music. I don't really know to what degree is right or wrong to do so, you will have to judge by yourself.
Their attempt of technicallity resembles too much of what SikTh did, injecting atonal or whole tone tapped scales, which falls into the pretencious manner of showing off just for the sake of it. I think this kind of groovy music is just about the riff, the rythm, the "melting face" sections, not about technicallity. If you want to shred, do it in a solo, not in a riff, or release a solo album, like Jeff Loomis did.
The ammount of music they released previously to the official release was too much, which made me in particular, lose a lot of interest. The entire album was played in some way or another, through the internet, and some songs had some changes plus the vocals, but compositional wise, I already knew what to expect from it, so what you and I, or anybody else could really do is comment on the production and the vocals, because the music was composed years ago, and you listened to it as well as I did.
In a nutshell, this album is unique in many ways, and you should get it. Even though I found many downs, they delivered the best of themselves, and such accolades deserve to be recognized and praised. It is actually happening, the record companies went nuts for them, and aside the capitalist behaviour of the labels, this only showcases the power behind this band.
Watch out Meshuggah... The new wave of “math metal” is upon us, and it is taking over.
P.D: this review was written by me originally for www.got-djent.com, feel free to check it out.