PERIPHERY - Periphery IV - Hail Stan! (Album)
PERIPHERY have grown as a band, big time. Since their inception in Misha Mansoors bedroom with him posting videos on YouTube and John Petrucci and Meshuggah forums, the band have scaled a pretty quick rise.
They’re now on their 6th album and each one has grown in its own way. The songwriting has gotten better, the production has improved immeasurably, and they’ve formed into the proper mould of what they always intended to be…A Progressive Metal band.
The band is formed of some of the best in the genre. Drummer Matt Halpern is a machine (and one of my major influences as a drummer), the tri-guitar allegiance of Mansoor, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb have moulded heaviness and catchiness in to an art form and front man Spencer Sotelo is in possession of a god like set of pipes.
Their previous album ‘Periphery 3: Select Difficulty’ has some of my favourite PERIPHERY tunes on it. ‘Motormouth’ was full of aggression. ‘Marigold’ had the odd times and the surging melodies. ‘Lune’ (a proper love song) is my favourite PERIPHERY song with lots of guitar melody, incredible musicianship and heart wrenching vocal melodies.
In short ‘Periphery IV: Hail Stan’ has a hell of a lot to live up to. Whilst it definitely does, I’m gonna start with a bit of a gripe…
The album opens with ‘Reptile’, a near 17-minute juggernaut of a song which contains all the now trademark PERIPHERY traits. It has low chugging guitars, huge vocals, syncopated and powerful drumming, haunting electronics, sweeping solos. But, for me, it’s A LOT to take in when approaching the album for the first time. Thinking purely from a new fans point of view, I want the first track to be punchy, in my face. Hit me with a bat and then run off kind of tune. All previous PERIPHERY albums have this, but they’ve gone with the mega-song first. I fear that this tune will get lost to some listeners. They’ll see 17 minutes and think “Nah, give me something shorter” and skip it. I didn’t, because I love a 17-minute masterpiece (which is what this song is, don’t get me wrong) but I fear they may have overstepped the bravery in opening with ‘Reptile’ for the new listeners.
Second up is unbelievably heavy lift off single ‘Blood Eagle’. I mean this is just sheer, chaotic aggression, summed up by the opening minute (which most would describe as “noise”) in which Sotelo shreds his lungs to pieces, Halpern blazes his double kick all over the shop and the trio of guitarists throw out dissonant low-tuned, jarring riffs. It does eventually give out to some melody, but you’re left in no doubt at what PERIPHERY are trying to achieve here. In two songs, they’ve shown they are trying to top everything they have done before. They’re trying to be longer, heavier, catchier, more technical. Even just two songs in, they are succeeding.
‘CHVRCH BVRNER’ is next, starting up with jarring riffs and transitioning to some almost Dillinger Escape Plan esque savagery in the middle, it keeps the heaviness factor moving along nicely.
‘Garden in the Bones’ is a game of “Spot the time signature” for the first minute, a sign of a prog band messing with your head a bit. Sotelo really comes in to his own on tracks like this. His voice allows him to blend his melodic and screaming elements, sounding almost tortured in places. With this kind of tune, his voice really stands out as a weapon that sets PERIPHERY aside from their peers. This song is big. It’s melodic. It VERY well written. It’s a proper sign of what PERIPHERY have become.
‘It’s only Smiles’ is the ‘Icarus Lives’ of this album, only without the bouncy riff. As far as PERIPHERY tunes are concerned, this is a pop song. It’s in a Major key. A straight 4/4 time signature. It’s catchy as hell. It sounds HUGE. It’s also very emotional and this is another example of Sotelo taking over a tune. In a recent interview he reveals that this song is about his late sister and how he is dealing with her loss and when you know that, you can hear it in his delivery. Like ‘Lune’ from ‘P3’, this very quickly emerged as my favourite tune on this record.
‘Follow Your Ghost’ is another biblically heavy tune. Sotelo utilising a huge part of his repertoire of screams before 2 minutes are up and then comes a violent breakdown reminiscent of ‘The Bad Thing’ from ‘Juggernaut: Omega’. It’s the polar opposite of the track before it.
‘Crush’ utilises something not really seen before in PERIPHERY tunes outside of samples and transitions…Electronica. There seems to be a huge Nine Inch Nails influence underpinning this tune as it glistens with industrial like beats and powerful melodies.
‘Sentient Glow’ begins with a very KSE type metalcore riff and clean vocals, again, not something really seen in PERIPHERY material. This, and the previous track, are a sign of a band comfortable with experimenting with their sound. There’s enough here for you to remember who you are listening to, but also new stuff to remind you of the technical proficiency and songwriting ability of the band you’re listening to. As a soft, melodic passage gives out to an epic chorus, your reminded that PERIPHERY can do this genre whichever way they want. They’ve done dirty and heavy, they’ve done pop hooks, they’ve done industrial, now you’re getting a full on metalcore lesson.
Closer ‘Satellites’ takes you somewhere different once again. Ballad like for its first 5 minutes, it allows the band to properly showcase their melodic side. Sotelo goes full pop for a chunk of the time whilst the guitarists are picking around chords and Halpern is tapping away on his drums rather than mercilessly pounding on them as he has done for the last hour. As the track starts to build with pianos and a repeated drum pattern which becomes increasingly complicated, the listener prepares for a hit of power and aggression. There is not really anything I can say that can prepare you for how Sotelo uses his voice in the final 4 minutes of this song. You just need to hear it for yourself. The variety, the power, the delivery. It’s all just staggering. Whilst you’re listening, just remind yourself that this band was originally a bedroom music project of one young man in Washington, DC.
One of the great things about a PERIPHERY record is you always know it’s going to deliver. You know it’s going to be different every time and there’ll be something new in each release. You know the musicianship will be impressive. You know the delivery of it will be excellent. You know you’ll identify a favourite track on first listen, but that it’s still difficult to pick it out, such is the quality on display.
You know all this. But you still find yourself sat there, earphones in, thinking “How the hell do they keep getting better time and time again? Where does this trajectory stop?”.
One thing I know is it won’t be any time soon. PERIPHERY are on the cusp of being something really, really special in the modern metal world. Something that defines the future.
And it all came from a bedroom in Washington, DC.
2. Blood Eagle
3. CHVRCH BVRNER
4. Garden in the Bones
5. It’s Only Smiles
6. Follow Your Ghost
8. Sentient Glow