It’s 2019, and Periphery are untethered by third-party oversight and have complete creative freedom. One would expect, given their memey and not-so-serious aesthetic and progressive-leaning musical nature, that they must have not had much oversight from their previous label Sumerian Records to begin with; after all, much of the music that Periphery were releasing under Sumerian had a paper trail of demos from the Bulb Soundclick demo era of the band, and the output was always super consistent in terms of quality and musical direction, so it was easy to just assume that the band called their own shots.
However, if press materials from Periphery’s sixth full-length album Periphery IV, released under the band’s own 3DOT label, are any indication, Periphery IV marks the first instance in the band’s history since the debut that the act have had the freedom to do whatever they wanted, in whatever timeframe they’ve needed:
“We finally spent a year on a record,” says Jake [Bowen, guitar]. “We’ve never been able to do that. The quality and pacing of the work show we really took our time with this one. That’s an important note about this. We really got to do everything we wanted to do in the space we had to do it.”
Adds Mark [Holcomb, guitar], “We’ve been learning how to do this as we go along. We cleared our schedules and made this one happen. We removed restrictions, boundaries, and deadlines. We chased freedom. We went to the extreme and took off a whole calendar year—15 months between shows. It pushed us to create the record we wanted to.”via a press release obtained from 3DOT Recordings
So given the nature of their pre-3DOT recordings, what does an untethered and unencumbered Periphery look like?
Periphery IV lets you know what kind of record it is right away. In a bold move, the band has chosen to open the album with a 17-minute epic titled “Reptile,” which pulls from the band’s entire playbook, from aggressive oddly-timed low-end to heart-felt melodic ascent and emotional vulnerability. It’s easy to imagine that a business-minded and non-artist-ran label would balk at such an idea of top-loading an album in this way, but Periphery lay it all out on the table: guitar virtuosity shines through the solos; beautifully textured layers weave throughout the song, adding depth and subtlety; live choir and string sections; the rare Periphery blastbeat; a guest spot from SiKth vocalist Mikee Goodman. It sounds like a kitchen-sink approach, but the track feels organically moving and avoids coming across as riff salad. That comes later.
Periphery follows “Reptile” with an album that often hearkens back to Juggernaut‘s darkness. First single “Blood Eagle” is groove and riff-oriented, and highly metallic. Vocalist Spencer Sotello’s entire vocal spectrum continues to develop, particularly with his screams, which are leagues ahead of the airy performance on the debut. “CHVRCH BVRNER” is the aforementioned riff salad, a speedy and sporadic track that does its title justice, featuring a mathcore section that wouldn’t be unheard of on a late-era Dillinger Escape Plan record. Elsewhere, “Follow Your Ghost” borders on deathcore early on with its deep and dissonant palm muted chugs.
Fortunately, Periphery IV is a diverse album that counters its weight with some hyper-melodic intensity and emotional weight. “It’s Only Smiles” is likely the most gorgeous and haunting Periphery song to date, and has potential long-lasting appeal as “that” song from the record like “Scarlet” and “Flatline” before it. Longtime fans will adore the reworking of Haunted Shores track “Sentient Glow,” as it brings an air of nostalgia to the album’s more longing second half.
“Crush” may be controversial for longtime fans, but it is a highly welcomed standout that sees Periphery trying new things; the track is synth-heavy and has a steady industrial swagger, implying Spencer was a primary songwriter given his ENDUR project had very similar stylistic leanings. Overall though, there aren’t many surprises here from Periphery, but that’s fine; the band’s diverse pool of sounds works, and the album’s tone is cohesive. “Garden in the Bones” makes a grab at cohesion by calling back to one of the most memorable moments of “Reptile,” and closer “Satellites” is another lovely track that serves the same purpose as Periphery III‘s “Lune,” employing the same jam-oriented, collaboratively composed nature.
It may seem facetious to say, but Periphery IV is certainly a Periphery album — a quality no doubt observed by the band themselves when deciding to name it as their fourth self-titled effort. This statement doesn’t even serve as a detraction; six albums deep in their career, and everyone who has heard of Periphery has decided where they stand. Longtime fans will adore this record and its strong collection of richly detailed songs and peerless production quality. This is Periphery continuing to perfect Periphery, and it’s everything a fan could ask for. It’s heartening to know that this is where the band is at when freed by oversight; incidentally not much different, but given the time and space to get it right.
Periphery IV will be out April 5th via 3DOT Recordings. Pre-orders are available at this location.