Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty

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Periphery are among bands that helped spawn the often-maligned “djent” scene in the late noughties, along with fellow artists such as Tesseract and Monuments. Since that period, while some bands have fizzled out of existence and other bands have strayed further into the technical aspects of the scene [1], Periphery have continued to build on what they do best – crafting modern, melodic, progressive metal while also expanding their appeal.

After four albums in six years under their belt – including 2015’s incredible concept-driven double-album Juggernaut – it’s mightily impressive that the band have managed to create another full-length after merely 18 months. Album number five Periphery III: Select Difficulty sees the band build on these successes whilst ramping up the melodic nature of their sound, an approach more prominently heard on their self-titled debut.

This point is brought to the forefront while listening to ‘Marigold’ and ‘Catch Fire’. Highlights on the record, both tracks are layered with pop-filled vocal hooks, singalong choruses and some of the most overtly accessible music that Periphery have released to date. ‘Marigold’ in particular displays an almost ethereal and haunting atmosphere, dripping in theatricality and showmanship – think of a technical modern-day Avenged Sevenfold and you wouldn’t be far away from their sound on this tune.

From melody to outright heaviness, the opening one-two on this record sounds as though the band have something to prove, whether it’s through ‘The Price Is Wrong’ – a frenetic mix of blastbeat drumming, discordant riffing guitars and a spiteful barrage from vocalist Spencer Sotelo – or the deliciously heavy breakdowns and head-bangingly addictive nature evident on ‘Motormouth’.

Periphery III

When the band decide to mix it up mid-track, they do so with aplomb. ‘Remain Indoors’ develops in a serene manner, until halfway through when Sotelo launches into a chest-busting tirade against an electronic pulse, before an apocalyptic instrumental section kicks in. Heavy, melodic, technical, aggressive, gentle; eleven years of this band’s experience condensed into a six-minute masterclass. ‘Flatline’ also has the potential to be a fan favourite in the live arena. With a retro 80s feeling to it and strong musical links back to the debut record, its chorus once again showcases real pop-filled hooks to it, especially during the hushed near-spoken word section towards the end of the track.

On the heavy front, blast beats appear to be favoured heavily on this record (‘The Way The News Goes…’) along with a superb bass performance from Adam “Nolly” Getgood throughout – listen to that intro solo on ‘Absolomb’ – and some of the best breakdowns the band have crafted (‘Prayer Position’). The true shining star on this album though has to be Sotelo. From the harsh vocal delivery evident on the opening tracks to passionate hooks with melodic high notes during ‘Catch Fire’, the diverse and adventurous nature of his voice is clear for all to see.

Periphery have also revelled in their new-found ability to instil orchestral elements into their music: ‘Marigold’, ‘Remain Indoors’ and ‘Absolomb’ show this new edge to their music superbly. One can only assume this will be something the band will look to build on in subsequent releases, as the change in dynamic that the orchestral elements provide adds a further characteristic to their overall approach.

The final track on the album, ‘Lune’, delivers a gentle conclusion with emotive and heartfelt lyrics. Despite being semi-acoustic most of the way through to coincide with this gentle nature of the ambience, it’s a fitting way for the listener to part with arguably the most diverse and consistent record of the band’s career to date.

The more progressive-minded of the band’s fan base may complain that the record “isn’t technical enough”, relying too much on the pop-tinged melodic sensibilities, but this is a very picky comment against an album that will undoubtedly feature in many end of year lists (arguably for the second year in a row!). Is this the most accessible Periphery have ever been? Quite possibly. Is Periphery III: Select Difficulty the definitive album to give to a Periphery newcomer? Most probably. The character within this record suggests that despite having six complex songwriters in the band, Periphery have truly found a formula that can take all of their influences and styles and simply make them work.

Footnotes:
1. Tesseract and Animals As Leaders as good examples of this.

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