Few bands in modern progressive metal have been able to amass the level of both success and acclaim with only two albums quite like Periphery. The Washington D.C.-native six piece essentially laid down the groundwork for the “djent” style and production techniques that would be ripped off for years to come. They did this with their self-titled debut and then introduced a healthy amount of pop influence and added melodicism with their comically-titled 2012 follow-up, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal. After a relentless touring schedule, the release of the experimental Clear EP last January, and a truckload of internet buzz behind their new double album, Juggernaut was poised to be the band’s make-or-break moment. Not only has Periphery retained practically every facet of their sound in albums past, they’ve now delivered their darkest and heaviest material to date, as well as one of the most dynamic prog-metal albums in the past few years.
Juggernaut is helmed by Spencer Sotelo for almost the album’s entire 80 minute run, who delivers a positively stunning vocal performance. Sotelo ranges from the radio-friendly choruses of ‘Heavy Heart’ and ‘Rainbow Gravity,‘ the vicious snarls of ‘MK Ultra’ and ‘Hell Below’ and the hair-raising high notes in ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘The Scourge.’ He’s never sounded this confident or as diverse. While some Periphery songs in the past have had some questionable vocal lines due to their often-abstract note choices on guitar, damn near everything on Juggernaut locks in. The vocals don’t seem like an afterthought anymore; they’re calling the shots now.
Instrumentally, the album is just as much of a journey as the yet-to-be-revealed story. While things actually appear to be a bit tamer from a purely technical standpoint, Periphery seems to be much more focused on creating vibes and moods this time around. These moods can range from the hopeful intro in ‘A Black Minute,’ the almost comic levels of happiness in ‘Alpha,’ the beautiful acoustic performances from Mark Holcomb in ‘Priestess,’ to ‘Hell Below’s’ upsetting and disturbingly-heavy collapse. Such a diverse array of songs definitely helps justify the need for two discs and 17 tracks and helps create a demand to be played front-to-back. Periphery definitely haven’t lost any of their trademark sound that has helped them get audiences moving for years, either. You can still expect a healthy dose of Matt Halpern’s relentless drum attack accompanied by producer Adam “Nolly” Getgood’s consistently-audible bass rumble, and the early release of ‘The Bad Thing’ certainly shows the band still knows how to groove with the best of them.
This is also the first album to be solely produced by the band, and the production techniques used will undoubtedly be sought after by young bands for the next five to ten years. Everything on here is crystal clear, despite being a band with six members and such a dense level of orchestration. Whether Periphery is at their most primal or delivering a brief jazz-fusion interlude, everything sounds crisp but never obnoxiously synthetic (something more bands should aspire to do.) Juggernaut is a sign of true craftsmanship from practically every aspect.
The band revealed in our interview last Saturday that Juggernaut was originally intended to be the band’s first album. While the wait has been excruciating at some points, the near-decade it took to piece everything together has been more than worth it. Sure, there are a lot of technical riffs and a dense storyline to take in, but Juggernaut begs to be listened to an unhealthy amount of times. Really, what more could you ask for in a double album? Expect this album to be on a lot of year-end lists, where it rightfully deserves to be.
Periphery – Juggernaut gets…