Periphery II: This Time It's Personal

Written by: AP on 24/10/2012 14:48:14

In 2008, Periphery burst into the scene with the combined powers of what was originally a very novel style of music, and the Internet. When they released their self-titled debut album in 2010, however, I was far from convinced. True enough it had its moments ("Jetpacks Was Yes!" and "Icarus Lives!" come to mind), and the sound was intriguing in the sense that djent had previously been considered to be untouchable by anyone but Meshuggah. But at the same time, it was as though guitarist Misha Mansoor, the brains behind Periphery, had compressed too many tempo changes and time signatures, and too much technical showmanship into the thing, without the necessary regard to the completeness of the songs to make a truly lasting impact. Now, two years later, the band face the challenge to establish a reputation as not just the pioneers of modern djent, but also as the most reliable and skilled purveyors of the genre with their sophomore album, "Periphery II: This Time It's Personal".

Mansoor is a true guitar nerd, so obviously his contributions with 7-string and 8-string guitars provide the red cord flowing through the album. What this basically means is that the man has gone through an extreme process of ensuring that there is no such thing as a simple part in any of the the fourteen songs; even those parts which are intended to function as support for Spencer Sotelo's singing are lush with subtleties that may not instantly strike out to a casual listener, but bear the hallmark of a guy that probably divides most of his time between writing, recording and iterating through riffs in his bedroom studio and reading guitar magazines. As such, it should also come as no surprise that he has invited some of the most eminent guitar virtuosos in the world - Guthrie Govan, John Petrucci and Wes Hauch - to make solo cameos on "Have a Blast", "Erised" and "Mile Zero", respectively. The difference is that Mansoor now understands the concept of subtlety and restraint, so that even though the music could hardly be described as anything else than wildly experimental, the structural integrity of the songs is preserved, and things suddenly sound a lot more sensible. Most notably, this more mature style of songwriting is evident on the likes of "Facepalm Mute", "Ji", "Scarlet", "Ragnarok" and "Make Total Destroy", which combine memorable structures with quirky dynamics to excellent results. That "Scarlet" sounds somewhat out of place on a Periphery album, with its simple groove and poppy feel, comes down to the fact that it was originally written for Mansoor's side project Haunted Shores, but its influence on the overall lasting value of the album cannot be emphasized enough - and in my opinion it is one of the best, and most enjoyable tracks Periphery have put out to date alongside "Icarus Lives!".

Another tremendous improvement between this album and its predecessor is, without a question, the vocal performance of Sotelo, who replaced Christ Barretto shortly before the release of the band's self-titled debut. His singing is quite frankly outstanding: expect chilling highs, mouthwatering strain and usage of the voice truly as another instrument, much in the vein of Rody Walker. And speaking of, the singing is not the only thing Periphery have in common with Protest the Hero, as this stuff too emits an adventurous approach to songwriting. Sadly though - and this must be mentioned - while the overwhelming majority of tracks on "Periphery II: This Time It's Personal" succeed where most songs on "Periphery" failed, namely anchoring their experiments to memorabilia, there is still the odd couple that don't deliver on as high a level as the rest, and these form a kind of Achilles heel that keeps it from being one of my favorite albums this year. I have a hard time making friends with "Luck as a Constant", "The Gods Must Be Crazy!" and "Froggin' Bullfish" even on repeated listens, and their scattered positioning on the album means that the overall experience stutters for me personally.

Still, when it comes to djent, there are few other bands that deliver with such consistency, and are in possession of such instrumental prowess as Periphery. What's more, their tongue-in-cheek attitude, as no doubt evident in the song titles, gives the music a fun, warm characteristic that serves as an invite to return and listen to the album once more in case the colossal amount of texture in the music doesn't do it for you. It will certainly be interesting to see where Periphery go from here; whether or not the somewhat diminishing amount of actual djent elements on this album is a sign that they will continue to pioneer a new style of music now that the deluge of copycats has well and truly crashed to shore.


Download: Facepalm Mute, Ji, Scarlet, Ragnarok, Make Total Destroy, Erised
For the fans of: Heartist, Monuments, Protest the Hero
Listen: Facebook

Release date 03.07.2012
Sumerian Records / Century Media / Roadrunner Records

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