Friday, July 6, 2012

Periphery - "Periphery II: This Time It's Personal"

In a previous post, I touched on the whole "djent" debate. I don't really care what Randy Blythe said (though I love his band), I think djent is a legitimate genre because I like genre labels. Your thoughts on the genre aside, if you've heard *anything* about the djent discussion, you've probably heard Periphery mentioned. Periphery is the band that everyone loves to hate, in my estimation. They have a solid fanbase - one I'm a proud part of - but for some reason most of the keyboard warriors of the internet love to rip on Periphery.

Is it because they lack musicianship? Hardly. Guitarists Misha Mansoor and Jake Bowen are among the best on the scene right now, to say nothing of newly-added talent Mark Holcomb and "Nolly" Netgood. Likewise Matt Halpern is as precise and skilled a drummer as you'd be likely to find, and lead vocalist Spencer Sotelo has an incredible range.

Is it perhaps because they're not "heavy" enough? Maybe. But that's a pretty subjective position to take; especially considering there's plenty of musical ferocity in their repertoire and, more importantly, they've never made any bones about being inclined towards more melodic progressive metal in the first place.

Why all the Periphery hate, then? Check out the answer for "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie-roll center of a Tootsie pop?" But Periphery as a band is well-aware of the fact that they have as many haters as fans, and with "Periphery II: This Time It's Personal" they proudly continue their tradition of searching their pockets, unable to find a rats-ass to give.


Like I said, I'm personally a huge fan. Their self-titled debut album is among the most listened-to items in my iTunes library. When I start listening to "Periphery", I can't abide one listen-through. I have to go over and over it over the course of several days and weeks because it's just so metalicious to me. And (spoiler alert), "Periphery II" is well on its way to getting the same treatment.

If you're a fan of Periphery, I can tell you that this album is just another round of what you've come to love in varying doses. There's a beautiful mix of intense chugging and polymetric djent-y riffs. The spaced out M83-like interludes and outros are still here, as spaced out and M83-like as ever before. It's aggressive and ferocious in places, melodic and laid back in others, aggressive and melodic in others...they rounded up the usual suspects.

Where they've improved on their formula is most notably in Spencer's vocal capabilities. Spencer's voice was famously described in a humorous spoken-word interlude on their debut album as being one that "goes up like an angel, and down like a wounded ox." The same is totally true on "Periphery II," but even more so. I don't know if he took voice lessons, or just practiced more, or leveled up in some interdimensional vocalist RPG - but he is on fire here, folks. There are a few times his voices just *soars.* He pulls from a much broader range of vocal traditions, occasionally even nodding towards soul and jazz. And his screaming has gone from vaguely emo to a full on Corey Taylor-like yell.

To pull a few favorites out of the track listing, the first one that comes to mind is "Scarlet" which isn't the most progressive or experimental of their tracks; its roots are pretty firmly planted in a metalcore tradition. But it's high energy, goes from pissed off to peaced out with total ease, and only leaves you wanting more. "Make Total Destroy" is on the progressive and chaotic end of Periphery's spectrum. It's a more screaming/less singing type of outing, and the guitar work is frantic and infused with pure adrenaline. "Mile Zero" is also another favorite; a track that lyrically tackles the loss of a loved one, and musically runs a great Periphery-gamut. And as always, this album has a decent dose of those catchy grooves that make Periphery a band I can't stop listening to.

- AND -

It clocks in at 69 minutes, making it shorter than "Periphery" by a mere 3 minutes-and-change and long enough to satisfy my hankering for more than just a half hour's worth of yummy tunes.


Whatever it was that gave Spencer his new lease on life vocally might have imbued him with just a smidge of spare hubris. Once or twice he veers into an almost boy-band like pronunciation of a word (like "MEH-EH-HAY" for "me"), but fortunately it's only once or twice.

It's not *quite* as groove-oriented as their debut album. That's not a total drawback, but when it comes to djent I like my groove like I like my gravy: thick. There are plenty of grooves and hooks in the music, just not quite as ubiquitous as previous material.


It's a home run from where I'm standing. Periphery's blend of polyrhythmic metal and electronic ambience is gorgeous in its complexity and strength. When listening to a lot of music, you get the feeling that an instrumental version of the track you're currently enjoying would be kinda boring; as if the music is just buoying up the vocal track. With Periphery's music, you get the opposite impression; that the music itself would make phenomenal instrumental tracks. But instead of getting in the way of the arrangement and orchestration, the vocal track adds another degree of precision and complexity. Poetry in motion, I tell ya.

Some listeners might find this release a bit too "radio friendly" in places. There are a handful of tracks that feature minimal screaming (or none at all) and subsequently give "Periphery II" an overall feeling of less-than-heavy. But taken with how much heavier the heavy parts actually are - thanks in part to Spencer's-Slipknot-Stylings - I think it makes for a nice balance. I'm biased, of course, because I'm a huge fan of Periphery's material. But objectively, this release continues the musical traditions and precedents outlined by previous material and acts as a really satisfying follow up to "Periphery." So if you liked that album, I'm pretty sure you'll like this one as well.

And if you're all hung up on whether or not Periphery is truly a djent band, or if djent is a legitimate genre label, or just whatever the hell it is that these comment wars get started over, then "Periphery II" should give you plenty more ammunition for your little crusade.

Because it's pure Periphery, through and through.