This band’s fans, humorously dubbed Peripherals, are going to adore this set by Washington, D.C’s Periphery. Titled Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega, the dual-disc ‘concept album’ set serves to redefine the band for anno 2015. Seventeen songs of djenty, modern progressive metal glory will tickle the earholes of an eager listener or fan of the band.
The “presentation” – the engineering, mixing, and mastering – on all tunes is on-point; it’s overall superb. The sound is on par with what you’d expect from a band on the cusp of true mainstream success: crisp, clean, and deadly. The songs have a lot of variety in the arrangement or musical components: you’ll hear everything from crushing extreme metal “djent” style riffs, to pleasing rock fusion, to smooth jazz. Less so then Animals As Leaders, but still very obviously, this is a “musician’s musician” type release where most of the nuances will be appreciated by fellow players. With the caliber of the musicians involved in Periphery, the well-written and well-performed music set to these discs is a given.
The overall atmosphere for both discs is typical metal fare: dark, aggressive, and choppy. There are hints of other instruments or sparse accents here and there – other instruments, little accents. These are apparently a Periphery staple, but have been “kept to a minimum” on this disc… they are enjoyable because they add a subtle layer to appreciate. The smooth jazz song finale in “MK Ultra” and it’s reprise in “Hell Below” are ‘favorite spot’ highlights, because of their progressive and unexpected nature. “Heavy Heart” is melodic, slower, and seems to be the most readily accessible tune.
The dark, cold, and modern digital sound so oft characteristic of djent comes to the forefront, with three guitars malevolently chugging away. As flag-bearers for the genre, Periphery have created no surprise; the stringwork is a delight for listeners. Some of the guitar lines sound almost synthy, and some of the low notes almost ‘ring flat’, until you realize that really low tone is deliberate. If you’re not used to listening to extended range instruments it’s easy to think ‘what IS that?!” The guitar parts are orchestrated and blended beautifully – the careful songcraft and arrangement is appreciated. Because of the ‘cold’ production, or digital compression, it’s occasionally difficult to hear Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood‘s bass guitar lines. When you do hear them, they’re a wallop. It’s not to say that bass is inaudible: it’s plenty obvious, and the songs are very punchy. It’s that the bass guitar part doesn’t differentiate itself from one of the guitar parts often (a trait that it shares with most thrash metal). The low end is further accented with “sub drops” in a couple places as well, lending a theatrical element to those riffs. Most songs are in the mid-tempo range. Matt Halpern‘s drum riffs and patterns range from a salsa ‘swing’ to an extreme metal double-bass attack, with plenty of groove in between.
The weak point in the music is Spencer Sotelo‘s vocals. They just sound unconvincing, especially hateful screaming abutted to smooth, fairly calm fusion guitar lines. The feeling behind the vocal seems relatively absent; it’s sung lines which don’t seem to emote the narrative as intended. The songs also (mostly) don’t seem to have “endings” per se – most seem to segue from one number to the next. The piano segue out of “Hell Below” is especially good. The segues are wonderful if you’re using software that doesn’t insert a pause between songs, but it’s irritating with the pauses.
“Peripherals” are going to eat Periphery’s Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega up. Given how contemporary this sound and genre is becoming, for the teens and twenty-somethings, this is likely to be near-ideal aural fare. For those in to the “warmth of analog”, these dual Juggernauts are not likely to fire on all cylinders. This set’s intriguing playing techniques will offer musicians a challenge to ‘play along’ or to improve their technique – they might likely welcome these tunes with open arms. Fans of melodic alt-metal, screamo, and metalcore will also likely be pleased.
Juggernaut: Alpha Track listing:
A Black Minute
Juggernaut: Omega Track listing
The Bad Thing
Spencer Sotelo – Vocals
Misha Mansoor – Guitars
Mark Holcomb – Guitars
Jake Bowen – Guitars
Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood – Bass
Matt Halpern – Drums
Official Band Website