Periphery III: Select Difficulty


On the last episode of PERIPHERY's musical journey, we left their double-album monster "Juggernaut" with […]
By Kyle Harding
July 28, 2016
Periphery - Periphery III: Select Difficulty album cover

On the last episode of PERIPHERY's musical journey, we left their double-album monster "Juggernaut" with a single question on our lips: where will they go from here? PERIPHERY's evolution as a band has been transparent since their experimental EP, "Clear" and with "Juggernaut", which showcased that the band could go one of two directions. The first half, "Alpha", exemplified their abilities with primarily lighter and shorter Prog Rock tracks, whereas its brother, "Omega", consisted mostly of heavier, longer, gut-punching Prog Metal. After both parts, it seemed like PERIPHERY was destined to fall on one side of the fence or the other, basing their career on that particular sound.

On July 22nd, we got our answer with "Periphery III: Select Difficulty". With this album, PERIPHERY made the statement that they weren't going to exclusively play a particular style but, rather, continue to walk that line and master their own craft. This path has always been risky for most bands, but we must bear in mind that PERIPHERY isn't anything like "most bands". "PIII" consists of an array of styles, from cleans to screams, subtle Jazz riff work to in-your-face metal, and even their first use of orchestration in their music with songs like "Marigold", "Absolomb", and "Lune". All the while, however, they still retain the signature "Pure Riff" sound that we all know and love - the polyrhythmic drum blasts, Djenty chugs, and string-slinging leads that make their tab books look like complex quantum-physics equations. That's the PERIPHERY we all know and love.

PIII opens with 2 of its heavier tracks: "The Price Is Wrong" and "Motormouth", almost as if they were warning new fans of what to expect and, at the same time, reminding old followers that though they're evolving, they understand what we come back for time and time again. Spencer's gutterals are absolutely earth-shatteringly powerful, which complement the low rip of the band's 7 and 8-string guitar work, but not without use of the entire fretboard (which is what most djent bands lack). However, we've come to expect such complex collective work from the likes of Misha, Mark, and Jake, whose forces combined build something greater and awe-inspiring, almost like the Voltron of Prog Metal. With such complexity comes more work from the rhythm department, which sounds effortless coming from Matt and Adam, two incredibly talented (and even more incredibly underrated) musicians in their own right. The overall sound of the band in this album is spot-on, which is to be expected as Periphery has never been the kind of band to have "the star" backed by everyone else. At any rate, they sound more in-synch with each other than ever before.

As the album continues, the tracks fluctuate back and for the between more melodious tunes like "Remain Indoors" and "The Way the News Goes...", which feature more of Spencer's on-point cleans and wide range of vocalization. At the same time, the guitarists seem to switch gears to a less Djent, more virtuosic and clean style to set the overall mood. After this, we go back to the head-banging shredfest with "Habitual Line-Stepper". Like waves in the ocean that rise, subside, and rise again, this album transitions between the two modes of metal almost perfectly. The songs continue to build in tension, no matter what mode they're in, and finally explode in the finale "Lune", which is a masterpiece on its own, similar to the end of "Juggernaut" with "Stranger Things". This whole album is a standing testament to PERIPHERY's flexibility as a band- every song is a new adventure and never something to be expected.

However, when bands attempt to include more than one set style in their albums, sometimes there are one or two things that just don't quite fit right. Unfortunately, PERIPHERY isn't completely exempt from this tendency. The tracks "The Way the News Goes..." (which, by the way, is an obvious reference to the adult animated sci-fi series "Rick & Morty") and "Catch Fire" fall a bit too much into the Post-Hardcore category, especially with Spencer's vocals. That, and the less-elaborate guitar style (in comparison to the album, mind you, as the style is still relatively intricate), can feel a bit out of place- a bump in the road, if you will. They're not bad songs at all, technically speaking, but they really stand out from the rest of the tracks, and not in the best way. The 64-minute PIII could have done just as well, if not better, without those 2 tracks.

Overall, this may arguably be PERIPHERY's strongest album. They've become a widely-regarded name in the Prog community, and though there's occasional disdain from fans (ironic in the Progressive Metal category), there's no denying that they've staked their claim as a huge influence in this new wave of Prog that we're experiencing, and they can only do so much more from here.

9 / 10

Almost Perfect








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"Periphery III: Select Difficulty" Track-listing:

1. The Price Is Wrong
2. Motormouth
3. Marigold
4. The Way the News Goes...
5. Remain Indoors
6. Habitual Line-Stepper
7. Flatline
8. Absolomb
9. Catch Fire
10. Prayer Position
11. Lune

Periphery Lineup:

Spencer Sotelo - Vocals
Misha "Bulb" Mansoor - Guitar, synth, orchestral arrangements, programming
Jake Bowen - Guitar
Mark Holcomb - Guitar
Adam "Nolly" Getgood - Bass, additional guitars
Matt Halpern - Drums

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