Sensational sophomore effort
These guys exploded onto the scene a couple of years back with their self titled debut, spearheading the ‘djent’ sub-genre of progressive metal. The album blew minds, made jaws drop, and broke new ground with its stunning musicianship, incredible levels of production quality and almost superhuman ability to juxtapose insane, frenetic heaviness, chaotic but catchy compositions, beautiful melody, and ambience and creative use of electronica. Plus a quirky sense of humour. The band also spawned a host of imitators and drew ire from so-called ‘informed’ (read: narrow minded) metal people for being the biggest band in a ‘popular’ new genre.
So how have they backed up with the difficult sophomore effort? Firstly, it’s different. But it’s a subtle difference and is a change that probably requires an intimate knowledge of the debut. It’s a touch more ‘laid back’. Of course this is not a description that can be leveled at such a band, this is purely by comparison to the first album. It’s a little less frenzied in its attack; the songs and the production have been given just a little more air and space to breathe. There is no delirious and demented ‘Zyglrox’, no 15 and a half minute ‘Racecar’ on this album, Periphery II is a more streamlined effort. Whether this is a good thing or not is of course in the ear of the beholder, maybe let your mood at the time guide you as to which album to play at any given time.
As stated, the difference is less than overt, and many of the things that were great about the debut are present in droves on Periphery II. The musicianship is once again untouchable, from the schizophrenic and skilful vocals of Spencer Sotelo, alternatively soaring to the heavens and ripping the flesh from your face, to the nuclear strength, polyrhythmic pounding of drummer Matt Halpern to the Misha ‘Bulb’ Mansoor-led triple guitar onslaught. The production is magnificently fat, clear and in your face, and there are strong touches of electronica and ambience throughout the record, providing wonderful dynamics and a grandiose element to the album.
There is also a heightened sense of song-craft on Periphery II. It’s almost as if the band members have said to each other ‘let’s show what we can do with the songs’, rather than with their individual instruments, and there is a slightly more ear-pleasing feel to the album, which should broaden their appeal to people who may not necessarily enjoy crazy, chaotic progressive metal.
Overall, this is still a stunning effort. At 14 tracks and almost 70 minutes, this album is a long haul, and there is a lot of music to get through. But a truly skilled outfit can flesh their musical ideas out to such length and depth and maintain the interest end to end, and that’s exactly what these guys have done. This album never gets boring, despite its expanse. They have also walked that fine line between maintaining the core elements that made them amazing in the first place whilst maturing as songwriters at the same time.
Ignore what the negative knockers and haters say, Periphery are the complete package. They play like gods, their production values are out of this world, and they write uber-quality progressive metal tunes. If that sounds attractive to you, check this album out.