REVIEW: PERIPHERY – “Periphery III: Select Difficulty”
Periphery is a band that I have grown completely affectionate of. This is a band that has taken everything in stride throughout their career and found a way to rise above any challenge. While they have gathered a massive following over the years, the news that they were working on their third album in 18 months came as a shock, and I wasn’t sure if the band could provide something of the quality that fans have come to expect. Luckily, ‘Select Difficulty’ truly exceeded my expectations.
Album opener “The Price is Wrong” takes little time in creating a big impact, with a thundering bass line powering the crux of the track. This is a true banger, with a thundering vocal delivery that works really well with the song’s different time signatures and contrasting rhythms. This leads into “Motormouth” which follows a similar pattern, save for a few pinch harmonics and some clean vocals throughout. I’m normally not a big fan of the chugging or djent-y riffs as they make all these songs sound similar, but this one-two punch of a song bounds right out of the gates and sets a fierce statement that this album has the strength to match up with the band’s acclaimed predecessors.
“Marigold” is a track that embodies the best attributes of not only Periphery as a band, but music in general. Beginning with a beautifully constructed string section helps to establish a song that offers a bleak introspective look into mortality. There is some diversity here from their normal sound, with the band employing the use of choir-style background singing, which works to great effect. This, in addition to a perfect balance of clean and harsh vocals over a mix of harmonies, just makes this a complete package of a song. It’s definitely one of the standouts on the album, and one I am sure is going to elicit a great response from crowds during live performances.
“The Way the News Goes…” follows with this versatility, and yet again highlights just how well Periphery write their own form of ballads. This is probably the first track on the album where Spencer Sotelo’s vocals outshine the instruments (“Marigold” comes close), and hinges on some of his harmonies to create some remarkable hooks which put the power into this track. This coupled up with stand-alone guitar passages complementing the ambient mood, create a track which is a standout among today’s modern metal fare. “Remain Indoors” similarly provides the perfect balance between the band’s heavier and softer sides. While instantly invoking comparisons to their earlier track “Alpha”, this highly transformative track hits a perfect middle point for the band, with repeated listens only making the listener favour the track more. There are a lot of small intricacies to hear, but it’s something to be experienced, and not explained.
The album then heads back to a heavier tone with “Habitual Line–Stepper” and “Flatlines”, which are both songs that will translate perfectly into live favourites. They employ the trademark poly-rhythmic beats that the band is well known for, with the former being a heavier and harsher affair, and the latter again showcasing the remarkable talent and range of Sotelo’s voice.
While the introduction of “Absolomb” makes it seem like it’s going to be another crushing song, the end product couldn’t be farther from the truth. Exhibiting perhaps the most technical and memorable guitar passage of the album is the icing on the cake for a song which typifies the elite standard the band has set for themselves. Segueing into what seems like an attempt to deliver a solid punch before their big finale, “Catch Fire” takes a more relaxed yet breathtaking approach before the tremendous anthem “Prayer Position” charges full-speed ahead with all of Periphery’s heavy trappings.
The true strength of this album is its transformative nature, with its heavier beginning metamorphosing as it progresses to culminate in the seven minute-long masterpiece “Lune”, which embodies every single aspect of Periphery that we love. Adopting one of the slowest paces that band has used creates a song that instantly makes the listener lucid and draws them into the music. This track hits every single mark you would expect, with the slow acoustic introduction, the timbre of Sotelo’s vocals, the subtle yet rhythmically motivational drum and bass lines, and the beautifully constructed atmospheric ambience, all making this track something that is a truly special and fitting way to close out the album.
It was only 18 months ago that Periphery released one of the strongest double albums in recent memory with ‘Juggernaut: Alpha’ and ‘Juggernaut: Omega’. These albums embodied a versatility and accessibility that many djent bands try to embrace but never really seem to grasp. ‘Select Difficulty’ in many ways feels like an expansion on that work. While it may not reach the heights touched by the ‘Juggernaut’ albums last year, there is more than enough groundwork laid here to make this another standout album. Periphery is a band of many talents, and in the space of 18 months, the band has delivered not one, not two, but three albums which could quite easily be considered masterpieces. This is not only a true feat in a market where bands typically release one album every two years, but a testament to the band’s free-flowing creativity.