Review Summary: This EP is definitely nothing groundbreaking, and won’t convert the band’s critics any time soon. Still, the release provides a fresh new take on some of the band’s classic tracks for the fans, and broadens Periphery’s potential audience.
Is there a band amongst the ranks of the throngs of up-and-coming tech-metal bands around today that cause so much controversy as Periphery" In reality, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fan of heavy music around today that doesn’t
have an opinion on the six-headed beast of a band’s material. One of Misha “Bulb” Mansoor’s pet projects, Periphery have been regarded alternately as the golden children, or bane of, modern metal ever since they finally got around to releasing their debut self-titled album in 2010-after six years of recording and re-recording entire albums’ worth of material. Hailed as the next big thing by some, and accused by many more of being overproduced, emotionless cash-grabbing Meshuggah clones out to singlehandedly ruin metal as we know it, Periphery have the odd talent of being able to incite flame wars the internet over. On the back of both editions of their inaugural release, as well as relentless touring with everyone from DevilDriver and Dillinger Escape Plan to Fair to Midland, Periphery released their 2011 Icarus EP
, a collection of new material, bonus tracks, and re-recordings.
Periphery’s reputation for constantly re-recording, remixing and re-arranging tracks is demonstrated in no uncertain terms on the Icarus EP
. Fans of Misha Mansoor’s constant tinkering and updating of his tracks will be in heaven with Icarus. As has become typical with Bulb’s seven-year long home production career, the sound on the Icarus EP
is immaculate and machinelike-perfectly timed and mixed drums and (regrettably) near-inaudible bass boom and thud away underneath the deadly triple-axe attack and frontman Spencer Sotello’s soaring vocals. Though the band sounds a tad more organic than ever before, the rigidly perfect triggering and execution of the band’s material is still sure to irk those that prefer a rawer, more organic touch to their music. So too, like the debut album before it, the Icarus EP
seems to lack much emotion and soul in its tracks, instead opting for a sterile, almost machine-like quality in the songwriting and execution. Newcomers to the band, or those unfamiliar with their debut album may find themselves sorely confused. With three remixes of the eponymous track Icarus Lives!
, as well as a re-recorded version of the same song alongside rerecordings of two of the band’s other tracks (Jetpacks Was Yes!
and Frak the Gods
) and two previously-released B-sides from their debut, the Icarus EP contains just a single new track. So too, Bulb’s reputation for excess is demonstrated once again with the Icarus EP-with a length of nine tracks, and clocking in at over thirty minutes, Icarus seems more like a mini-album than an EP. These two factors, coupled together, make the EP seem in many places to be extremely obsolete. Due to the compilation-esque feel of the EP, there is seemingly no flow between the tracks, jumping jarringly from one idea to the next.
Ignoring Mansoor’s odd fetish for exclamation marks in song titles, the Icarus EP
, recorded as a “gift for the fans”, sees the band building upon and refining their already established formula. Discounting the two re-released B-sides that end the release, the EP demonstrates Periphery’s noticeable, however slight, progression upon their debut release. Similar in style and sound to the debut, the opening two tracks show Periphery building upon their old style, signifying a new approach that sounds both heavier and more balanced than ever before. New Groove
-a short instrumental passage, opens the EP, before a long awaited version of Frak the Gods
-complete with vocals-blasts out of the speakers. Immediately apparent, even above the chaotic triple-guitar acrobatics that litter the track, is vocalist Spencer Sotello’s marked improvement, sounding stronger, more confident, and fresher than before. The slight instrumental tweaks in the ensuing re-recorded versions of the band’s 2010 singles are also overshadowed by a complete overhaul in the vocal department. Spencer Sotello’s vocal attack-the main complaint of many who heard the self-titled album-has been refined, strengthened and made altogether more appealing. Frak the Gods
demonstrates Spencer’s newfound aggression and power in his harsh vocals-something sorely lacking before-contrasting the extended clean range found in the ever-catchy choruses and harmonies of the re-recordings of Jetpacks Was Yes!
and Icarus Lives!
. Spencer, finally given time to find his feet in the band, seems to have done away with his previous powerless, airy harsh vocals and whiny, emo-tinged cleans. Unfortunately though, these improvements in Sotello's vocal stylings do not completely fix all of Periphery's woes-there are still times when the vocals do not mesh with the rest of the composition, or just sound plain awkward or unecessary-sometimes to the point of hilarity. Compounding this is the fact that this technical improvement still fails to make up for the lack of necessary material on the EP.
The remix tracks on the album are an altogether different story. With three remixes of the eponymous Icarus Lives!
on offer (bringing the total number of versions of Icarus Lives!
up to four), the middle half of the Icarus EP
feels very redundant at times, especially considering the similar nature of the remix tracks. With all three accentuating the electronica influences within Periphery’s sound, cutting and remixing the track into three separate danceable synth-laden tracks, Periphery deviate from their usual audience of metalheads towards something more mainstream.
Combining the riffery and catchy vocal lines of the original Icarus Lives!
with a series of loops, glitches, cuts and pastes, as well as adding in trance rhythms, keyboard and synth melodies, and techno influences, these tracks sound more like something that would be found in the setlist of a local DJ's mashup than in a metal band's EP. The remix tracks, while not poorly composed or executed, all end up sounding remarkably similar after the initial novelty factor has faded. That said, the remixes, when taken on their own, are all fairly enjoyable, especially the “Bulbous Remix” of Icarus Lives!
Although the Icarus EP
is interesting in places, and is a step forward for the band, the sheer redundancy of most of the tracks on this release make it unnecessary except for serious fans of the band. This EP is definitely nothing groundbreaking, and won’t convert the band’s critics any time soon, nor will it instill much more love in the hearts of those who are already fans. Still, the release provides a fresh new take on some of the band’s classic tracks for the fans, and broadens Periphery’s potential audience and creative outlook. The marked improvements in vocals, and added experimentation only serve to build hope and anticipation for whatever these fine young djentlemen will produce on their next album.