Periphery II: Back With a Vengeance
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 Leave a comment
Here we are with Periphery II, the second album from melodic djent-metalers (I know they probably hate that term by now) Periphery. I’ve been following Periphery for a while now, through all the different singer changes, and I have to admit that somehow this release had fallen off my radar a bit.
Maybe the lack of enthusiasm stemmed from the last album basically being a bunch of Bulb (guitarist Misha Mansoor’s alter ego) songs being redone. To be honest, I can’t even to begin to count how many times I’ve been let down by new releases by some of my favorite bands. Call it the sophomore slump, or whatever else, but it almost seems pointless to build anticipation for an upcoming album these days.
Enter Periphery II. Fittingly, the album really caught my attention from the second track, “Have A Blast.” It starts with a prog-sounding string intro, almost reminiscent of The Dixie Dregs. This is the first hint that this isn’t going to be an uninspired, run of the mill album. This is really a strong song, as it showcases the many different aspects of the Periphery sound. To top it all off, there’s a solo by Guthrie Govan, who’s really just a badass guitar virtuoso. If have any interest in guitar at all, you need to check his stuff out.
Anyhow, the good times keep on rolling with “Facepalm Mute.” The band lets things get a little groovier and chuggier here. This song further continues the exploration of the many aspects of Periphery’s sound. I never thought I’d say this, but some of the highlights of this song are the soaring melodic vocals by singer Spencer Sotelo.
Yes, you know we’d have to address this at one point or another. He’s the elephant in the room. A rather divisive figure when it comes to Periphery’s sound, there are two camps when it comes to the singer: Can’t stand him, or can merely tolerate him. I can’t think of a single person that feels his vocals on the first album enhanced the band’s sound in any way. In fact, I know numerous people that much prefer the instrumental version of the album.
That’s why I’m happy to report that the vocals are much improved on this album. His screams are much more powerful this time around. On the first album they sounded rather strained and airy. His melodic phrasing has improved. He had a tendency on the last album to oversing. It was as if he would pick random notes in the scale of the song and try to fit them over the guitar. By not showing enough restraint the two often clashed instead of complementing one another.
Guitarist Mark Holcomb makes his debut with the band on this album. If you’re familiar with his last band Haunted Shores (a project with Misha) you’ll immediately notice some familiar sounding riffs, in particular on the song “Scarlet.” He totally fits with Periphery, and is a welcome addition.
In perhaps a bit of fanboy-only trivia knowledge, I’m aware that guitarist Jake Bowen is in charge of the programming, and he does an excellent job. The electronic interludes are a nice little break from the onslaught of downtuned guitars. In fact, when listening to the album, I find myself looking forward to the instrumental “Epoch.”
That brings us to drummer Matt Halpern. Those familiar with the band know he’s a beast on the drums, and nothing has changed this time around. You can hear some of his freeform wizardry on “Erised.”
Periphery have managed quite the feat: They’ve retained their original sound and expanded upon it without sounding redundant or alienating their original fanbase. The strength of this album is that it feels like such a collaborative effort. Each member has something unique to contribute, and the band is that much better for it. The last album pretty much just felt like Bulb and Co., and with Periphery II, the band Periphery has truly arrived.