Thursday, 29 January 2015

Periphery - “Juggernaut: Alpha” / “Juggernaut: Omega” (Album Review)

Album Type: Double Full Length
Date Released: 26/1/2015
Label: Century Media Records

Juggernaut: Alpha - Omega CD//LP//DD track listing:

“Juggernaut: Alpha”               “Juggernaut: Omega”:

1. A Black Minute (4:16)          1. Reprise (1:25)
2. MK Ultra (2:50)                     2. The Bad Thing(5:54)
3. Heavy Heart (4:22)               3. Priestess (5:04)
4. The Event (1:45)                   4. Graveless (3:56)
5. The Scourge (5:36)               5. Hell Below (3:43)
6. Alpha (5:31)                         6. Omega (11:44)
7. 22 Faces (3:52)                     7. Stranger Things (7:35)
 8. Rainbow Gravity (4:39)
9. Four Lights (2:18)
10. Psychosphere (6:16)

Periphery is:

Spencer Sotelo – Vocals
Misha Mansoor – Guitars
Jake Bowen – Guitars
Mark Holcomb – Guitars
Adam Getgood – Bass
Matt Halpern – Drums


Periphery is a band on the edge of exploding. They are one album from gravity losing its grip on them and watching haplessly as they ascend higher and higher up the heavy metal food chain. A marriage of paradoxical ideologies in their fat Meshuggahisms and sickly sweet melodicism, they have nestled into a niche entirely of their own making. They stride betwixt musical borders like nomads. and that unfortunately, is where the problem lies. Their conflicting mantra is at war with itself on 'Juggernaut', unsure of its true identity and purpose. As I said earlier, Periphery are one good album from exploding, but I don't think this is it.  

Fans have been waiting for what feels like a lifetime for a full length follow up to 'Periphery II: This Time its Personal'. Last year's experimental EP, 'Clear' only whetted appetites more, so it is with anticipation rather than trepidation that we greet this record. But hype and excitement seems to have hindered this album's enjoyment: It falls flat of the expectations of many. It is by no means a bad album, but it is too scattershot and incoherent to be anything truly defining. When they get it right they get it absolutely spot on but when they get it wrong they do so with an air of disappointment.  

It's not that one of these two prominent styles is to blame. In fact, it's nigh on impossible to point your finger at anything specific. Sure, the poptastic pomp of vocalist Spencer Sotelo is something to make many of the Sludgelord readership retort in disgust like they've just eaten a stupidly sour tangfastic. But at points their bouncy, upbeat side is simply infectious. And there are times too that they’re heavier than a leviathan's piles.  Riffs and discordant, demonic guitar work loses sight of engaging musicality. 'Alpha' is a fine example of the former, with more hooks than a fishing emporium; it is quite simply a djent-ified radio friendly pop song - albeit one played with 7 string guitars. But it works. From its SNES intro to its mincing chorus, it pulls you along for a joyride. For the latter, 'Hell Below' is damning evidence. It's brutal, with a gale force low end, but it seems heavy for heavy's sake, executed with a lack of character. Then it dips into an unexpected jazzy lounge music movement in its final throes. This is where another problem lies. Progressive music such as this is inundated with winding meanders that defy expectations, bend genres and plonk a stick of dynamite in a pigeon hole before running like hell. The issue here is that, instead of giving songs the gift of spicy variety, it unsettles the flow of the song. On 'Four Lights', an instrumental number amass with mind-bending time signatures and savage riff work that typifies the unrelenting side of djent, all the magic is ruined in the blink of an eye. It drops to an almost circus like ditty before picking up the pace once more. But as soon as that dynamic shift takes place the song advances without actually going anywhere.    

That is but one example in an album littered with jittery structures.  The album as a whole lacks continuity. The thing is, every member in this sextet is a writer and a producer in their own right, hence the experimentation of 'Clear'. So have too many cooks spoilt the broth? It certainly seems that way. Most songs are pulled by the current of a different stylistic opinion or ideas. It seems, on the surface of the finished product at least, that an internal battle for each musician present to stamp their own personality on the record has hampered the record's own personality. That is why this isn't a defining album, not in the way 'Periphery II' launched them to where they perch today, a stone’s throw from selling out massive venues.  

But those moments where they do hit the nail bang on the head are well worth a visit. 'Rainbow Gravity', a definite highlight, is boisterously groovy and when they segue from heavy to clean cut, suited and booted melodies they do so smoothly. The solo too, very much classical in their countenance, with sudden bursts of pace sharpening their edge are highly impressive. 'Omega' has some gratifying moments too, but at 11 minutes long, you'd expect some worthwhile substance in which to divulge. '22 Faces'' chorus is massive and as addictive as they come while 'Graveless' does its best to rip open the ground below you and send you tumbling into hell. It is catastrophically impactful, the musicianship simply astounding. A song iced with another catchy chorus, this is the Periphery that so many have come to know and love. This is the Periphery which just isn't apparent enough across this double album. A double album! Quantity, sadly - especially considering the amount of time the band has been working on this - has vastly outweighed the quality. Perhaps they have become too bogged down on this project, the magic of spontaneity not being able to flourish amidst six creative minds meticulously mapping it all out.  

So to repeat, this is not a bad album, but nor is it the album the Periphery faithful - Peripherites? - were hoping for. There are moments of genius across both 'Alpha' and 'Omega', but they are outnumbered by mundane tracks too unsure of themselves to convince you that this band is ready for the big league. It's not a league at all out of their reach; they just need to spend a few more seasons working towards that much sought after promotion.  

Words: Phil Weller

You can pick up a CD/DD/LP everywhere now

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