REVIEW: PERIPHERY – “Periphery IV: Hail Stan”
Considered by some to be one of the forerunners of American progressive based metal Periphery is set to release their upcoming ‘Periphery IV: Hail Stan’ in early April. This will be the band’s first album released on their own label 3DOT Recordings, and one they spent in excess of a year in writing and recording. Their newfound freedom allowed them to try some new ideas, and expand their sound, along with adding strings, choirs, and more orchestration than ever before. The result is an album their fans will surely love.
The album opens with the nearly 17 minute “Reptile” which is arguably the most ambitious song of the band’s career, and certainly the most ambitious of the album. Guitarist Mark Holcomb laughingly asks, “Who begins a record with a 16-minute track? We could finally do that because we call the shots with our own label. It felt liberating. There were no rules.” In case he’s actually curious for an answer to his question I found 70 albums on my shelves that start with a 16 minute plus song, but that’s beside the point. The song starts off peacefully before the bands signature aggression kicks in. The song twists and turns alternating between the heavy moments, and their other signature style of light poppy moments. It’s an interesting track, but while ambitious, I don’t find that it does anything especially new with their sound either, or breaks any notable rules, let alone experimenting.
They tear through the rest of the album with great gusto, balancing their extremes throughout each song. “Blood Eagle” and “Chvch Bverner” are typical examples of this well-established sound, of blazing speed, and technical fireworks. “Garden In The Bones” succeeds a bit more at balancing the electronic and heavier elements, and Spencer Sotelo gives an exceptional vocal performance on it, and the guitar solos, while less flashy than earlier songs, are for my money more interesting, and memorable.
“It’s Only Smiles” is one of the more memorable tracks, for the main reason that it is different from the rest of the album. Heavily electronic, and highly melodic, and with a full choir the band has put out a surprisingly catchy pop-rock song, nearly devoid of screams, and mostly without their typical palm muted “djent” breakdowns it’s a bit of fresh air in what is up to this point an otherwise fairly by the numbers album. And in a similar vein, the dark electronic beats of “Crush” really stands out and is probably my favorite track from the album, it is certainly the most quirky and different. And the closing orchestral section utilizing the music from ‘Psycho’ (when Janet Leigh is driving after stealing the money) is a nice touch as well.
The album closes out with the 9-minute “Satellites” which begins quietly, and melodically with clean vocals, and clean guitar tones. The drums add a nice jazz touch and bring things together quite well. A little more than halfway through it gets heavy, and the screams and chugs start in again, but with more strings, and choral vocals, and end the album on a high note.
Ultimately one’s reaction to this album will depend on where one is in their musical journey, and how much they enjoy the incessant and repetitive nature of this more djent-style of progressive music. Honestly, I probably would have enjoyed this more ten or twelve years ago when I was in my early 20’s. In the current moment while acknowledging their admirable technical abilities it reminds me of watered down Meshuggah mixed with electronic pop music and sounds more juvenile than anything. At times more interesting, and pleasant enough to listen to, but not especially engaging, or original, or progressing the genre forward.
Periphery has with ‘Periphery IV: Hail Stan’ produced an album that their fan base will undoubtedly love, but progressive metal fans with a taste for more unusual and experimental music won’t be terribly impressed with. Its best moments come when they break from their typical mode and use the constant chugging riffs with more restraint, and within an electric framework. Still, it has some memorable moments and bright spots of creativity that help an otherwise unremarkable album.