Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty – Album Review

 

Periphery_III_2016_Cover

Artist: Periphery

Album Title: Periphery III: Select Difficulty

Label: century Media Records

Date Of Release: 22 July 2016

The wonderful curse of ‘too much music, too little time’ is the main reason for the delay in offering a review of this record. If I’m honest, there was also an element of ‘hmm, not sure if I’m that interested in this release’ too.

Generally, as a rule, I’m not the biggest fan of the modern djent genre. And neither am I a huge aficionado of heavy music that flirts with more overt pop sensibilities, the kind of stuff that many of the new mainstream rock/metal acts seem to indulge in to get themselves on the cover of Kerrang! and on the walls of teenagers’ bedrooms. And yet, despite both of these aspects appearing within the music of Periphery on this record, I don’t hate it.

Entitled ‘III: Select Difficulty’, this is actually Periphery’s fifth full length release if the double release ‘Juggernaut: Alpha/Omega’ is taken into account. Confusing isn’t it? Well not as confusing as my complex feelings towards this record if I’m honest.

I think that, on balance, the reason why I don’t hate this record is because it is largely very well written and executed. Indeed there is a lot of material on this new album that I absolutely love and come back to like an addict to get my fix time after time, principally because it has an air of quality about it, rather than being contrived and a cynical attempt at popularity. There’s also a certain honesty that shines through the material, which I really admire, not to mention a level of creativity that is akin to a breath of fresh air.

That said, the album opens up in a less than auspicious manner thanks to the opening one-two of ‘The Price Is Wrong’ and ‘Motormouth’ The former is the lead single from the album and it simply fails to grab me in the same way as other tracks. It is sharp, concise and very heavy but I don’t warm to the vocal delivery which strikes me as a little unremarkable if undeniably confrontational. The instrumentation is undeniably impressive with complex riffs aplenty and the rhythm section is insanely tight but the breakdown in the latter stages with almost spoken-word lyrics is not something that I can get on board with. Despite its prowess therefore, for me the whole song lacks a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. In fact, it takes until the latter stages of ‘Motormouth’, a similarly blood and thunder composition, for my interest to be piqued thanks to a Textures-like hint of melody and something other than snarled vocals.

Picture credit: Josefa Torres

Picture credit: Josefa Torres

But then, as I’m contemplating moving on to the next album, in marches ‘Marigold’ and with it, the whole feel of ‘III: Select Difficulty’ changes. Ushered in by an urgent orchestrated melody, the track begins in slower, more measured fashion and introduces Spencer Sotelo’s clean vocal delivery for the first time. But, at the centre of the composition is a highly infectious, hook laden chorus of which I can’t get enough. The fact that the song then glides to a close on the crest of a post rock wave is the surprising but delightfully serene icing on the cake.

‘The Way The News Goes…’ follows up in excellent fashion dominated by a tremendous vocal performance as well as some really exquisite guitar and piano melodies, not to mention some truly frenetic drumming to starkly and cleverly juxtapose the otherwise more laid-back aspects of the song.

As much as I like the heavier, more extreme elements of the Periphery sound as experienced within the likes of the expertly crafted ‘Prayer Position’, it is when they blend this with the more subtle and introspective elements that I believe they really fly. The orchestration appears at moments throughout the rest of the album and personally, I’d like to hear a lot more of this on the next record. It creates an air of majesty and sophistication that I really welcome and needs to be explored more. The best exponent of this excellent new addition to the Periphery arsenal is ‘Absolomb’ which ends with an extended orchestral outro that calls to mind the cinematic vibe of compositions by Craig Armstrong before deconstructing to a simple piano melody to close.

It leads into arguably the most immediate and mainstream-sounding track on the record in ‘Catch Fire’. The chorus is such that once it gets its claws in you, it refuses to let go. There’s even a vaguely funky vibe to the verses accentuated by some prominent bass work that I find myself liking more than I thought I would.

Firm nods need to be made in the direction of the infectious ‘Flatline’ which blends the heavier aspects of the Periphery sound with another hook-laden chorus and ‘Habitual Line Stepper’, a track that begins in explosive fashion complete with blast beats and a progressive edge before settling down and ultimately delivering a more elegant piece of music than first thought, brought to a close with a sublime vocal-dominated melody.

The final killer moment though as far as I’m concerned is the album closer, the near eight minute long ‘Lune’. It starts off slowly channelling a vague Tool vibe but within moments, the melodies poke through and as the song builds, they come to the fore more. Sotelo’s vocals are epic-sounding and full of power, working in tandem with crushing guitars and magnificent orchestration to create a climactic crescendo of epic proportions, almost uplifting in tone and delivery. It certainly ends the album with a bang and a desire on my part to press play and listen all over again.

So there you have it. I started off being completely underwhelmed by ‘III: Select Difficulty’ but have grown to really like it and, in places, absolutely love it. It will be an album that will feature in many end-of-year lists and reaffirms Periphery’s place at the top table of technical and progressive djent metal.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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