Periphery is comprised of some of the most technically unprecedented and talented musicians in the entirety of all modern Metal music. Their guitarist Mark Holcomb isn’t far behind John Petrucci in my book “Who is my go-to answer for the best guitarist of all time” with his gorgeous riffing that is both easily recognizable and mesmerizingly mind-melting.
Vocalist Spencer Sotelo has one of the best sets of pipes I’ve ever heard in any genre of music. In the fact that he’s responsible for all the vocals, you hear on a Periphery record is difficult to fathom. His blissful, soaring highs and guttural, gut-punching growls are at their finest yet on this new release, and that’s a massive compliment considering the man’s vocal pedigree.
photo: Travis Shinb
The band also has the tightest rhythm section on the planet with their pristine and powerful Djent riffage. It pushes and pulls the listener into such intense grooves that they can often provide a sensation of weightlessness from the rhythmic elements alone. I don’t think there’s anyone who can validly detract from how talented these guys are, but how does that incredible talent translate into their fifth studio album?
Setting the Standard
Periphery has consistently set the standard for what it means to have a good Prog Metal/Djent release with every album they’ve put out, and in doing so they consistently make it seem impossible to top their previous efforts. When their debut came out, they provided an addictive record that, while flawed, showed the world that there was a deep sensibility for complexity and subtlety to be weaved in with the otherwise heavy-handed genre Djent had been up until that point.
With their follow up, “Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal”, they outdid every single little thing they had originally done and began their consistent pattern of raising the bar monumentally with each release. In the coming years, they would also go on to release their double album “Alpha & Omega”. And just one year after that they came out with “Periphery III: Select Difficulty”, which I believe to be the prime evolution of the entire genre up until this point.
With their last release being one of my all-time favorite albums, I honestly had next to no hope that it would ever be able to even give a run for its money, never mind evolve and craft it into a whole new mind-blowing beast.
Masters of the Craft
Periphery IV is not only an incredible Periphery record, but it’s also the most standout thing that’s been released in Progressive Metal in recent memory and once again brings the entire genre to new heights. These guys have mastered and refined everything they’ve learned over the duration of their career and fused all that musical growth and technical refinement into their most sleek and delicious package yet.
They take all the gorgeous intricacies of this album in stride and make it such a smooth and easily consumable package that never falters or trips over its own complexity a single time across its entire hour-long runtime. Even the 17-minute behemoth of an opener “Reptile” smoothly glides across your ears without ever leaving you bored when the song is going to end.
I can listen to this entire record front to back over and over again without ever feeling overwhelmed, just wondering how mind-bogglingly complicated it is that’s a massive testament to their songwriting prowess. They’ve struck the perfect balance between complex and digestible, heavy and mellow, thought-provoking and simple. And they did it all without skipping a beat and making the entire album flow from moment to moment seamlessly.
Melting Pot of Influences
Another major and impressive aspect of this record that quickly stuck out to me was just how many different styles and aesthetics the band managed to weave into their sound. There are frequent glimmers of Industrial and even Glitch with the blissful electronics — dissonant and serene. There are the brutal and intense influences of Mathcore on songs like “Blood Eagle” and “CHVRCH BVRNER” that remind me of the fantastic album “Errorzone” from the promising band Vein last year.
There are even some prominent Pop influences woven in between shimmering synths. And all of it is woven perfectly into this sprawling Prog Metal tapestry. This album is a beautiful, marvelous stroke of genius that will keep its listeners coming back for years, discovering something new about it to fall in love with every listen despite hearing it a hundred times.
To say I’m satisfied with this release is the understatement of the century, as I’m head over heels in love with every single song on this Album of the Year contender. It’s a record where every single song could act as both the opener or closer because they’re all just that explosive, dynamic and massive.
I absolutely cannot recommend this near-perfect gem enough to anyone interested in any heavy music at all, as it’s a shining example of just what Metal can be. Oh, and to any musicians reading this review? This is mandatory listening based on the sheer musicality and mind-blowing complexity alone, no questions asked.
Must-listen to: Reptile, Blood Eagle, It’s Only Smiles