Review Summary: Periphery’s weakest outing remains a fun summer jam.
As far as polarizing artists go, Periphery has to be near the top. Thanks to their tongue-in-cheek attitude toward song and album titles (This Time It’s Personal
) and their blatant poppy tendencies thanks to fearless frontman Spencer Sotelo, listeners are typically driven either by unconditional love or complete and utter contempt. Of course, some fall in between those two extremes, and especially with their latest outing Periphery III: Select Difficulty
being arguably their weakest album yet, it’s perfectly reasonable to place the band into the “promising yet flawed” category.
On the plus side, Periphery have never sounded so comfortable in their niche. Spencer’s continuously improving vocals mesh with the instrumentation better than ever, the production accommodates for both the crunchy breakdowns and lush sweeping atmospheres equally, and the songs themselves are more structured and streamlined than before. This also brings up a gripe, as Periphery had a knack for throwing curve balls – PII
’s alternative epic ‘Erised’, the aching droning of Omega
’s ‘Hell Below’, or the ultra-happy ‘Alpha’ – to keep listeners on their toes. No such surprises are found on Select Difficulty
. Unique passages like the filthy bass intro on ‘Absolomb’ and the swirling post-chorus riff of ‘Prayer Position’ are over as soon as they start. The most jolting thing about Periphery III
is ‘The Price Is Wrong’, opening the album with a swift, unbridled kick in the nuts. It’s the first sole-screamer the band has written since ‘The Walk’ from their debut, with blast beats and atonal chugging taking precedence over catchy sing-along choruses. On the other hand, closer ‘Lune’ is has not a single scream in its almost 8-minute runtime, creating a sumptuous aftereffect as the album fades out.
Melodically, there are some truly beautiful moments to be found. ‘Marigold’ is filled with Muse
esque arpeggios and rich orchestral progressions, the speedy blast-beats under Spencer’s soaring harmonies in ‘The Way the News Goes…’ is an unexpected breath of fresh air, and ‘Remain Indoors’ is grounded by its ethereal wall-of-sound reminiscent of Devin Townsend
. You can draw a clear line in the sand between the metalcore tracks and straight up alternative rockers here. ‘The Way the News Goes…’ and ‘Catch Fire’ wouldn’t sound out of place on the overtly poppy Alpha
, while ‘Motormouth’ and ‘Prayer Position’ share the relentless intensity and dissonance of Omega
. Other tracks drift to and fro, such as ‘Flatline’ beginning as a standard groovy romp before morphing into a lavish post-rock esque finale, or ‘Habitual Line-Stepper’ which contains borderline death metal riffage before its tender orchestral bridge and subsequent explosive breakdown that begs your head to bang along with it.
does have its glaring problems. Occasionally you’ll catch a whiff of the lyrics, which will leave you either scratching your head or pounding it against a desk. Periphery albums in general tend to overstay their welcome and this one is no different. Only a couple of the eleven tracks warrant their full runtime. When a handful of songs push the 6-minute mark, you’re left wondering if the indulgent ambient outro of ‘Marigold’ was necessary, or if ‘The Price Is Wrong’ would’ve been better off as a two-minute attention grabber instead of a fully fleshed out song. You may also ponder the inclusion of ‘Catch Fire’, which may be the worst song the band has ever conceived. Fit with faux-rapping and the rest of Spencer’s foibles squeezed into a four-minute experience that sounds like a polished Alpha
B-side, it serves the album absolutely no benefit and likely would’ve worked better on a separate EP, or not seeing the light of day at all.
largely feels like Periphery embracing their niche, keeping boundary-pushing experimentation to a minimum. Aside from its balls-heavy opening and an overall increase in synths and falsetto, there isn’t much to differentiate this from past records. That said, PIII
remains a fun summer album bound to entertain fans of the band with a few notable standouts. It won’t sway your opinion on Periphery one way or the other, but it can effectively fill the void for accessible prog metal, if only for a short time.