Review Summary: Periphery III: Now even more overstuffed with ideas!
Periphery were never very subtle, but then again that was never the point. Their straightforward and instantly gratifying brand of progressive metal has rivaled acts like Between the Buried and Me for how musically divisive they can be among listeners. As usual, the extreme reactions were unwarranted, as Periphery proved to be yet another flawed but enjoyable enough modern metal band with a few great songs here and there. Unfortunately, their dense, unrelenting approaches to songwriting have gone out of control on recent releases, and not in a good way. The Juggernaut
double album proved to be a wildly unfocused and forgettable affair; a few good ideas thrown about amongst a sea of musical cacophony. Some, like myself, have held out hope that the band would take their obvious musical talents and hone them for true greatness, but Periphery III: Select Difficulty
appears to be the final nail in their coffin. Chaotic, unfocused song structures and awkward genre-bending techniques have resulted in the group’s most frustrating release yet.
Everything about III
implies a Periphery parody band, from the album cover to the song titles. An abundance of stale, forgettable guitar riffs throughout the overlong runtime suggests that guitarist Misha Mansoor’s well of prerecorded ideas under the Bulb moniker has run dry. “The Price Is Wrong” is a baffling choice as an opener, managing to draw from tired progressive metal and deathcore clichés, as well as even featuring nu-metal vocals, all in under four minutes. Numerous times, Periphery have both succeeded and failed at packing a punch when transitioning to their more aggressive shades of musical styles, and this sounds like a rehash of their own past. “Marigold” also sees the band recycling from previous efforts. Shoehorned violin sections intersperse with progressive metal verses and choruses, which lead to a bizarre choir repeating the pop rock chorus. While normally a typical exercise in Periphery’s more pretentious songwriting tropes, it also contains morbid, angsty lyrics reminiscent of a Chelsea Grin album.
Death is coming 'round like a hurricane swirling,
We're on the clock and the needle's turning,
The misery's killing me slowly,
Give me a spine to work it out,
I'm just another one wandering endlessly on to the grave.
Spencer Sotelo’s vocals and lyrics have never exactly been a high point of the band, but the awkwardness has reached a new level here. Marrying death metal instrumentation and apocalyptic lyrics with cheesy pop elements didn't work when Periphery tried them before, and they certainly don’t the numerous times they are attempted here either. Synthpop elements also come into play regarding the band’s continuing trend of pointless outros, making the sixty-five minute runtime even more frustrating to sit through. For whatever reason, their melodic, clean guitar sections are even scarcer than the decidedly heavy Juggernaut: Omega
as well. The fewer reprieves from the metal madness only adds to the headache-inducing qualities of sitting through III
, exhibiting pretentious progressive metal clichés shamelessly: cluttered instrumentation and over-the-top vocals galore. What the band gets right here is not much, but some decent moments include “Remain Indoors,” the Meshuggah-esque breakdown in “Motormouth,” and the “The Way The News Goes” intro. These are promising but fleeting highlights amongst a sea of unmemorable, headache inducing prog metal.
While the band has more than proven the failure to learn from their own mistakes in the first half of III
, it manages to become the lesser of two evils after the musical disaster of “Habitual Line-Sleeper.” In this way, the schizophrenic tone changes of the first half give way to simplified, increased pop elements in the last few tracks. While thankfully restrained, they resemble the bland pop elements of last year's That's The Spirit
by Bring Me The Horizon more than anything else. “Catch Fire” and “Prayer Position” have passable pop elements in a progressive metal backdrop, for those who are into that sort of thing, as does album closer “Lune,” relying on synths more than guitar wizardry.
is acceptable only to the loyal fans, as it ultimately does little right and sees Periphery at an all-time creative low, failing to improve on any of their faults. For all the instrumental complexity and quirky songwriting choices, it will just sound forced to most. III
shines a light on Periphery’s flaws that appear in one form or another in all their releases, only this time, the flaws cannot be overlooked. There are none of the captivating guitar leads or climactic moments they've shown in the past. The band’s instrumental abilities are impressive as always, but hardly rewarding when they're beating you over the head until you’re begging for quieter moments that rarely ever come, which usually bore more than captivate when they do anyways. If Periphery took a step back and changed their formula, they might be able to salvage their strengths and make something worthwhile. Until then, you’re better off finding your progressive metal fix elsewhere.