» Blog Archive Review: Periphery III: Select Difficulty -
Evan Conway Hard Music, News, Reviews

Periphery 3It’s rare for bands to put out music in less than a year span, much less of a high quality. Even the occasional EP in between album releases is as surprising, as bands usually use the two years in between albums for touring, press,, and all that other fancy stuff in between. That’s what makes Periphery’s situation so unique: since their debut self-titled album dropped in 2010, the band have released some form of music nearly every year since.

Whether you count 2015’s Juggernaut to be one or two albums, (Both discs to the concept album were sold separately as Alpha and Omega, so we might as well count them) Periphery have managed to follow up last year’s 80 minutes of music with another full length, returning to the self-titled trend with Periphery III: Select Difficulty. I must express that I entered this album with doubts, and yet while I enjoyed the singles for the album (There’s a lot of them prior to the release) I had to (And usually have to for Periphery) hold any judgement for the actual final product. Given that Juggernaut only released last year, as well, one could wonder if Periphery was rushing Periphery III out.

Periphery 2016 2Thankfully, it seems that Periphery are, in fact, capable of producing highly enjoyable music that isn’t afraid to be both progressive on a technical level, but also in their own soundscape in such short time frames. Possibly considered a return-to-roots of sorts, Periphery III foregoes the concepts and unified themes that were present on Periphery II, Clear, and Juggernaut, likening the album mostly towards their debut. The interludes in between songs are still woven into the tracks, which helps create a natural sense of ebb and flow to the entire album, but also retains the sense of familiarity as the band explores numerous new directions.

Periphery 2016 4With the themes and repeating melodies foregone, this allows Periphery to put an emphasis on being direct and, most importantly, making the songs as natural as possible. Songs like the opening tracks “The Price is Wrong” and “Motormouth” go for the throat, becoming amongst the band’s heaviest offerings thus far.Quickly, though, the album changes pace to a more anthem, albeit technical “Marigold.” Complimenting its technicality is vocalist Spencer Sotelo’s approach to the winding shifts his melodies carry; Blending variety, from everything between varied harsh vocals to clean vocals soaring above the impressive guitar work of the band’s three guitarists. “Marigold” comes to a peak when the song starts to move back into its chorus, featuring a nicely done choir to add that extra kick back into the song’s final push.

That’s only the first three songs, as well. It’s on “The Way the News Goes” where Periphery truly starts to expand and try numerous new ideas they haven’t ventured towards thus far. Specifically, this song takes two contrasting ideas and styles of progressive rock and metal, blending them together with hair-raising results. The two ideas in question are a very Animals as Leaders/Chon-inspired clean verse with the typical sweeping guitars to compliment the style, all before it segues into a powerful, commanding chorus featuring blast beats to contrast the nature of the verse.

Periphery 2016Ideas like this are executed to the best of their ability, but it should be noted that the transition between these parts seems ever-so-slightly forced. The experimentation is, predominantly welcome, as it has been a constant staple of Periphery’s style, yet it seems that Periphery might have found their first instance where it actually doesn’t work. This song in question is “Catch Fire,” one of the later songs on the album that possibly acts as a ballad of sorts, given the nature of the band’s music. While the chorus is poppier than that of, say, “Jetpacks Was Yes!” or “Erised,” it lacks the punch that either of those tracks provided. “Jetpacks” was not afraid to get heavier towards the end of the song, “and “Erised” featured a very unconventional song structure, (As well as a solo by John Petrucci) but “Catch Fire” simply provides different voicings in its synths and strings on its final chorus. While Periphery have featured pop-influenced melodies before, (They’re prominent on all of their albums) “Catch Fire” goes that step further to act as radio bait for your typical radio rock station. One could even go so far as to hypothesize that this track in particular is the result of label involvement, especially given how numerous Sumerian bands have been producing more accessible music in recent years, with even Asking Alexandria appearing on my own local radio station.

Periphery 2016 3Hopefully a common label is the only connection I can draw from Periphery to Asking Alexandria, but it needs to be reaffirmed that Periphery III never stops throwing punches. “Remain Indoors” ventures into a tonal shifting territory, heavy and uplifting, akin to Devin Townsend’s recent work, with the influence becoming more obvious as the song becomes darker in the bridge. Many moments on the album can without a doubt be traced back to a Devin Townsend influence, who the band has toured with and admired in the past, but in no way does it copy or steal. “Lune,” the album’s closing number, definitely show the influence coming to the forefront, especially as the song winds down in its last two minutes.

With the direct nature of this album, it’s surprising to say that is very rhythmically virtuoso with less solos than on the band’s previous work. While Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen, and Mark Holcomb are all guitarists who have made names for themselves, they continue one of my favorite aspects of Juggernaut, in which they are playing their instruments together. While their parts may be different, they clearly have an understanding of how valuable each of the band’s members are, which is continued on Periphery III. Despite being started as Mansoor’s bedroom project, Periphery plays and functions as a band and it’s now obvious on recording.

Not without its small flaws, Periphery III accomplishes what it sets out to do against any odds that are stacked against it. While Juggernaut was more divisive among fans, Periphery III should restore any problems fans found with the previous; the band moves forward with a direct, in your face album that covers plenty of ground for the band that they haven’t touched upon before. Periphery fans have a lot to be excited for, especially with how consistent they are with music, which only seems to working for the band in the long run. Periphery III sits nicely in the band’s discography, ensuring that songs like “Marigold” and many others will be a part of their live show for years to come.


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