Ryan Murray | Co-Owner | Chief Editor | Contributor
(ALBUM REVIEW WRITTEN 3.8.23)
Progressive metal giants Periphery are set to drop “Periphery V: Djent is Not a Genre”, and this album blew away any and all expectations I had coming into this release – and with good reason! The creation of this album was so intense that it almost broke the band, literally. The band raised the bar on themselves so incredibly high that it pushed them to the edge, almost causing them to call it quits.
Mark Holcomb said about the writing process of the album – “We would do week-and-a-half writing retreats and then take two months away from the material before revisiting it together. We really played by the rules with respect to Covid safety and travel and because of that, we had an almost impractical amount of time to analyze the material between sessions. Our standards are higher than ever, so we all pushed ourselves on this album much harder than we ever have before. It was a hard process because we had to keep ourselves honest to those standards.”
Afraid of retreading the same waters, the band almost called it quits because the writing process was so intense and things kept getting cut. Mansoor has said “The time away between retreats allowed these things to be refined, which is something that’s become very, very important to us. If it isn’t serving the song, we got rid of it. It might have been one of the coolest riffs in a song, but if it wasn’t adding anything to the big picture, it got cut. We’re starting to get a lot more harsh about that and trying to take a much more holistic view of the music we make. I think that leads to this new level of refinement. That took a lot of time for us.” Mansoor also shared “I’m really proud of the material and it was certainly a labor of love and a tough album to make. The feeling that we were going to have to give up because it kept taking so long was so overwhelming at times, that to not just overcome it, but to feel so proud of this album has really galvanized us as a band in a way that I don’t think any other experience could have.”
The result is nothing short of astonishing. Any possible expectation you may have for this album is for sure to be blown out of the water. The pure and raw emotion and heart that it contains can be felt from the beginning all the way through the end of the album. From every lyric, polyrhythm and melody, this album oozes every ounce the entire band has to give – and then more.
Periphery has always been known for their incredible writing, technique, soaring melodic vocals, aggressive harsh vocals and crushing riffs filled with polyrhythms and polymeters, so get ready for an all out sonic assault with some really interesting surprises along the way! And incase you’re new to Periphery, the band has also never been one to stay inside boundary lines created by genres, and this album couldn’t be any more aptly named. Breaking every boundary possible created by genres, the band has created a powerful, intricate and honestly beautiful album that is set to be progressive metal’s album of the year!
If that’s not enough, there were also guest musicians ranging from bass being performed by Adam “Nolly” Getgood, the saxophone solo on “Wildfire” performed by Jørgen Munkeby, as well as a choir made up of Raoul Ahmad, Alec Eitrem, Tai Wright, Mikey Tucker, Liam Schmucker, Bryan Caudill, Jake Bowen, Mark Holcomb, Misha Mansoor & Spencer Sotelo.
Periphery decided that they were going to release not one, but two singles on January 12th, which is when fans got an appetizer of what to expect with the upcoming album. The tracks “Wildfire” and “Zagreus” truly brought the fire! “Wildfire” has an insanely catchy chorus with soaring melodies and intense riffing throughout, but what none of us were expecting was the straight up jazz break before roaring back in, along with a solo from Mansoor, while “Zagreus” sees incredibly melodic melodies encapsulated within a weaving web of hard, polyrhythmic riffing.
A little over a month later, fans were treated with a third single with the track “Atropos”, which expertly demonstrates why Periphery is at the absolute peak of their music abilities, and shows no sign of stopping. From incredible melodies, addicting hooks, to straight up death-metal growls and aggression, this track sees a side of Periphery that shows them fully coming into their identity and sound. The track comes to a close with just keys and strings, followed by an absolute epic, score-like orchestration that is as beautiful as it is intense.
Tracks like “Wax Wings” almost seem to be two separate acts that blend together incredibly well musically. Incredible hooks and melodies throughout this track, especially the second half! Sotello’s vocals on the back half of this track are simply out in the stratosphere! Lyrically the track tackles what it’s like to be so low that you don’t know if you can even go on, and the unending feeling of being trampled by the machine of life, while tracks like “Everything is Fine!” are absolutely brutal with bone-crushing riffs, blast beats and what seems like some death-metal growls sitting just under the harsh vocals at times. This track touches on the inner demons that we all face and how they lie to us and make us think we aren’t good enough and that our bodies are just a prison. And if the brutalness wasn’t enough up-tempo, how about we slow it down at the end to an almost breakdown feel?
Did someone say electro-pop ballad?! Of all of the surprises this album has to offer, “Silhouette” was probably the biggest surprise of all. This track has got a beautiful melody and creates actually a really cool atmosphere. This track definitely felt more experimental, but I think it’s an instant hit infused with a hook that easily gets stuck in your head over and over again.
“Dying Star” sees a a bit more of a down-tempo track, but is very rich in intricate rhythms and really nice melodies.
The final two songs, “Dracul Gras” and “Thanks Nobuo”, see the band fully embracing their identity, with a tighter and more cohesive sound than ever before. “Dracul Gras” features an incredible guitar solo by Bowen, before another sonic wall assaults your senses. I really enjoy the melodies throughout this track! “Thanks Nobuo” opens with an almost eerie and dissonant synth intro before a beefy guitar intro comes in. This track also sees another vocal performance soaring into the stratosphere. This track fades out into a beautifully serene synth-driven atmosphere lasting for over three minutes long, which is not only beautiful, but serves as a much needed cool down after the intense journey this album takes you on.
This album is a lot to take in and a lot to digest, but it perfectly demonstrates why the band is at their peak, clearly having truly found and solidified their identity. The strength and courage it took to push through all the pain and stress they went through to finalize this album only further speaks to the character of each of the band members. Not only is this a melodic and polyrhythmic album, but the keys, synths and orchestration adds an undeniably powerful atmosphere that massively enhances the entire work even more.