Review Summary: CAUTION: This meme may contain good music
The naysayers will undoubtedly flock together to howl that it isn’t true, but Periphery have been subtly evolving and maturing as musicians and music producers over their decade-long career. Periphery III
would have been the first album to show troubling signs of stagnation except for one thing: the album’s closer “Lune” was the first song that the band had ever written as a completely collaborative effort. As such, “Lune” was the most organic-sounding song the band had ever made and seems to have been a watershed moment in Periphery’s history. In many ways, the band’s 2014 EP, Clear
, has been totemic of the band’s writing process in general. On that EP, each individual bandmember was responsible for writing and producing one song. This served to showcase individual members’ writing styles as well as inadvertently providing a key to identifying who wrote which songs, or which song sections, on all their other albums. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does illustrate the compartmentalised nature of Periphery’s songwriting and explain why their songs can sometimes be so...cluttered; with so many distinct voices contributing music they simply have more riffs lying around than they know what do to with.
However, for Periphery IV: Hail Stan
the band made a concerted effort to take time off touring in order to focus on collaborative songwriting, and the effort has paid off immensely. Hail Stan
is Periphery’s most organic and cohesive offering to date, despite paradoxically also being their most tonally and stylistically diverse. Even though it veers from some of Periphery's most brutal moments to some of their most saccharine, Hail Stan
sounds like the work of a talented, mature, and self-assured band rather than just a group of talented individuals, making it, dare I say it, Periphery’s best album.
It’s hard to deny just how energised and swaggeringly confident Periphery sound on Hail Stan
. It’s the kind of confidence that makes them think that bookending the album with a pair of epics totalling 27 minutes in length (“Reptile” and “Satellites”) is a good idea, and then knocking it out of the park by constructing two magnificent monuments that don’t waste a single note or lose focus, or the listener’s attention, for a single moment. It’s the kind of confidence that pushed them to release one of the heaviest and least accessible songs on the album (“Blood Eagle”) as its lead single while giving zero f*cks about mainstream viability despite this album being the flagship venture of their fledgling record label. It’s the kind of confidence that finds them largely stepping away from the djent sound that they helped popularise in favour of a more raw and organic-sounding (there’s that word again) approach to guitar tones and production—compare, for example, the thrashy rendition of "Sentient Glow" with its original djentier Haunted Shores avatar —and absolutely owning it. It’s the kind of confidence that finds them putting down their guitars to write an industrial/synthwave track (“Crush”) driven by distorted synthbass riffs, propulsive drumming, and dramatic strings, and absolutely crushing that too.
Frankly, it’s easier to talk about the album’s weaknesses than enumerate its strengths. “Follow Your Ghost” comes off as a more ferocious but less interesting reprise of Juggernaut
’s “The Bad Thing”. Spencer Sotelo’s “Sentient Glow” vocal performance isn’t as memorable as Chris Barretto’s was on the original version, although I have a feeling that it will grow on me in time. The album’s title is one of the dumbest titles that the band has ever come up with, which is saying something. And, for some reason they cap the rousing instrumental and vocal performance of “Satellites” with a recording of someone saying “suck my balls” in a bad Cartman impersonation.
That’s pretty much it. Periphery IV: Hail Stan
is two songs and two dumb jokes short of being a flat-out flawless album. In a year that has already been marked by several notable progressive metal releases, Hail Stan
finds Periphery effectively making the case that they are still the genre’s standard bearers and, a decade and six albums into their career, aren’t ready to give up that mantle just yet.
 The band’s “Making of P4” documentary is a worthwhile watch to gain insight into the band’s writing and production process...and their Pokémon Go obsession: https://youtu.be/xOraQdSTWbU
 Haunted Shores version of "Sentient Glow":