Periphery - Alpha 01Believe it or not, we tend to research the bands we review here, even if it’s occasionally more tempting just to mash our palms against the keyboard for five hundred words, assign an arbitrary score, then knock off down to the pub. This week has, therefore, seen me listening to an unhealthy amount of the genre that discerning metalheads love to hate: djent (the ‘d’ is silent). From this exercise, I’ve learned that basing your music on a guitar sound rather than finding a sound to suit your music leads both to extremely terrible songwriting and horrible production decisions (I’m looking at you Volumes, After the Burial and Born of Osiris). However, any genre that rapidly expands in popularity is likely to contain more than its fair share of dud hangers-on. Some genuinely good music has come out of the djent explosion: this very website reviewed Animals as Leaderslast record favorably, and I’ve been known to enjoy a bit of TesseracT now and again.

Periphery, the subject of today’s analysis, have become the standard-bearers for djent and are perhaps its most popular product. Starting out as the solo project of guitarist Misha ‘Bulb’ Mansoor in 2005, they eventually released their debut with a full lineup in 2010 and a follow-up in 2012 (which AMG reviewed and generally disliked). Their basic sound on these albums is a mix of Chaosphere and Nothing-era Meshuggah with a whole bucket-load of recently reunited British experimentalists SikTh, and this was really the biggest problem I had with them: whenever I listened to Periphery, all I could think was “this sounds totally like Meshuggah,” or “this is blatantly stolen from SikTh.” They never really moved beyond their inspirations. However! 2014’s Clear EP was a significant improvement: they blended these influences more effectively while adding in a big chunk of Coheed and Cambria (guilty pleasure) and finding a higher level of songwriting, imbuing each track with a unique personality. This gave me hope that their new double album, Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega, might actually turn out to be an early year highlight.

No such luck. Let’s start with the obvious: there is absolutely no way this deserves to be an eighty one-minute double album. The band apparently thought the storyline (of course it’s a concept album) deep enough to warrant splitting across two records, which would have been fine if they’d provided enough interesting music to last the journey. Many songs contain nuggets of good ideas – the chorus of “Heavy Heart,” the crawling heaviness of “The Event,” the opening riffs of “Alpha,” and the Opeth-influenced chord progressions of “Graveless” are particular highlights – but they’re padded out with the kind of generic djentery prevalent on their first two albums. The odd novel influence is discernible on occasion, a few of which work well: the aforementioned foray into Opethian harmonies is great but brief, for instance. It’s just a shame that these fresh ideas are few and far-between.

Periphery - Alpha 02

As on their previous records the musicianship is pretty spectacular, though the album is so over-produced you’re never quite sure how heavily edited the performances are (to be fair, they played well when I heard them live a couple of years ago). Many metalheads will find the vocals difficult to swallow, with Spencer Sotelo singing in a distinctly mid-2000s emo style. His clean vocals are comparable to the excellent Daniel Tompkins’ (of the aforementioned TesseracT and poshcore pioneers Piano) though with a whiny edge, while his metalcore screams are fairly generic. Sound-wise the record is over-compressed as expected, though not as badly as others in the genre (just listen to that Born of Osiris shite!). But the whole thing is ridiculously clinical. Everything has been comprehensively tweaked to remove any perceived imperfections, and with them much of the record’s already limited soul. The heavy sections are particularly stifled by this approach.

Ultimately, Periphery just don’t have the songwriting ability to pull off an eighty-minute concept album (how many bands really could manage that?), but it’s not simply a case of over-ambition that limits this record. They are still too reliant on their influences – not in itself a bad thing, but a big hindrance when these influences wrote such significantly better songs and progressed positively between releases. Speaking of which, I’m going to go and listen to SikTh some more. They were awesome, original, and they understood dynamics.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Sumerian Records
Websites: PeripheryOfficial | facebook.com/PeripheryBand
Release Date: Out Worldwide: 01.27.2015

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  • They just didn’t ask themselves “Is the band I’m in named Pink Floyd?” That’s all the answer you need to know that you shouldn’t write a double LP.

    That said, I did think this review would be a bit longer, since you did sit through 81 minutes of music multiple times to be able to reach these conclusions!

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      There’s just not that much content to describe…

      • Rail on the vocalist, then. I picked on him and it was good fun. You gotta practice your takedowns.

        • Jean-Luc Ricard

          Eh, he’s better than Jorn…

          • Ehhhhhhhhh… no. I mean, I don’t like either of ’em, but I’d take Jørn.

          • Them’s fightin’ words!

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Yes, but bowel surgery out in the forest with a stick is better than Jorn.

    • This is why I could never be a professional reviewer. I would get this assigned to me, and all I’d be able to come up with is “I don’t like this.”

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Yea, but Mr. Druhm has shown us what fun can be had with a lousy record (hello Jorn!). Still, sometimes I suppose you just want to say “Shit Sandwich”.

        • Jean-Luc Ricard

          You can’t print that!

          • Monsterth Goatom

            I suppose AMG HR would raise its ugly head. “Butt stuff burrito”?

          • We no longer use the term “Butt stuff” when referencing Ass to Mouth as it may be a trigger word for some. We’ve replaced it “Gluteus Munchius.”

          • Jean-Luc Ricard

            That sounds almost… edible

    • André Snyde Lopes

      There are waaaay too many bands out there who think their stuff is worth more than 60 minutes of anyone’s time. Hell, a great majority of albums tend to lose me around the 40 to 45 minute mark. Bands making longer (and double) albums is a trend that I personally really dislike.

      • Yes. Yes. Yes.

        • JeremyZero

          I’m totally with you all on this. I mean, I’m cool with big wanky prog albums (love me some Dream Theater), but generally I think under an hour is good for most records.

          • >45 minutes if I had my way.

          • Monsterth Goatom

            Definitely. Even some of the most famous double albums sometimes seem to go on too long imo, despite the quality of material: London Calling, Blonde on Blonde, Exile on Main Street. After 45 mins or so you kind of have your fill of a band and want to switch to something else.

        • TonightYou

          So uhh, you don’t like Coheed and Cambria’s double album, then? I don’t get how if you’re a fan of prog you can dislike it.

          • lol. Um. Yeah, I think Coheed is pretty hit and miss, frankly. I like 3 a lot, but I think the double record wasn’t that good. They’re way too indulgent, imo.

            And it’s possible that as a fan of prog, I like things that have a different kind of tone than Coheed has.

      • Monsterth Goatom

        I remember when CDs first came out. Some critics said the amount of music you could stuff onto a disc was a drawback, as many bands didn’t know when to just shut up.

    • ‘”Brevity is the soul of wit.”

    • Lacertilian

      Physical Graffiti?

      • Scott Stapp

        Robert Plant was a shrieking mancunt.

  • manimal

    It will be mere minutes before Misha pops in to comment on a review of his own band. After some comments that show how good a sport he is and completely unfazed he is by a bad review (because after all, any publicity is good publicity), he’ll continue to state how they’ve written exactly the record they wanted to, with exactly the type of production they wanted, and how Spencer McLadynads are exactly what they’re looking for in a vocalist.

    • He’s a champ. McLadynads. Hahaha.

    • Ghost WC

      I swear I wanted to say the same thing. Thanks!

    • I remember last time, he was totally like that. Hey they have their audience, it just seems that the usual AMG reader is not among them.

  • Ingvar Árni Ingvarsson

    Why is Coheed & Cambria a guilty pleasure?

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      Is the emphasis in your question on “guilty” or “pleasure” (or other)?

      • Ingvar Árni Ingvarsson

        Guilty mainly. Because personally I love that band.

        • I like the music, but I find the vocals don’t match my expectations for said music. I’ve read comments that the vocalist “sucks”, but I don’t think that’s the case. He sings all right, it’s just that his style doesn’t work for me.

          • Jean-Luc Ricard

            It’s definitely… distinctive. I kind of love how ludicrously over the top it is.

        • Jean-Luc Ricard

          On a metal site, I have to claim they are a “guilty” pleasure to maintain some metal cred, because they are totally false metal. Though of course I really feel no guilt whatsoever. Just don’t tell AMG.

          • Ingvar Árni Ingvarsson

            Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with me.

          • I like Coheed’s 3 record. And I like 3. And I like The Dear Hunter. I’m a total poseur.

          • Jean-Luc Ricard

            Let’s strike poses together!

          • David Rosales

            So, you’re basically a hipster trying to fit in.

          • Jean-Luc Ricard

            I strike such poses as to enable my body to fit into many, varied situations.

            There’s nothing to it. Vogue.

  • Hey, what happen to the video?

    • It’s still there.

      • If I hit play it says it’s not available. It’s just me?

        • chris

          I like this band. Amg seems to have a vendetta.
          Do you like Meshuggah by the way.

          • Jean-Luc Ricard

            Word. I wrote this particular review, though AMG also dislikes Periphery (he reviewed their 2nd record). I do very much like Meshuggah.

          • I don’t have “vendettas.” I do have bands I don’t like. But I have no vendetta against Periphery. I feel strongly about their vocalist being really annoying, though. It’s pretty much only Amaranthe that I could have a vendetta against. And that’s ’cause they’re genuinely terrible.

          • chris

            It is Meshuggah with a Mike Patton sort of clone. I find it perfectly acceptable.
            Dont understand the hate.
            You endlessly review obscure bm albums which face it are bm albums.
            But all so nuanced they are with all the mystifying subtleties of particular tremolo picking styles.
            We get a djent style band and immediately its all the same.
            You raved on about Voyager and thats got some djent.
            Look whatever.
            I like periphery. You dont.

          • Sorry, you can’t just namedrop Mike Patton and hope the comparison to hold any water at all. If you told me he was trying to be as annoying as the linkin park chester whatshisname I would have let it go, but c’mon son.

          • chris

            What he does the clean snarly thing. He sounds nasally like Patton. Esp on the first album. Its an obvious comparison
            Is he that good. Of course not.
            i quite like the clean vocals.
            The monotonal barks on Meshuggah records are certainly not why most people listen to Meshuggah.
            Maybe its the music/rhythm atonality of the whole concept.
            Periphery…

          • Dude doesn’t sound like Patton, man. He just doesn’t.

          • Sure, if Patton was trying to do an angsty 14y.o. monotone then sure he’s totally like him.

          • I’m not fighting with you. First, I think you should look for reviews that _I_ have actually written. I don’t like Voyager. I think black metal is boring as fuck and all sounds the same. I have my proclivities and biases, but clean vocals and “popular” music isn’t a problem for me.

          • Jean-Luc Ricard

            I think you make an good point regarding the common “it all sounds the same” criticism aimed at djent, because I have seen people that don’t like these bands use that incorrectly. But I don’t think I said that in the review. Periphery aim to be a progressive band, though, and they just don’t progress (compare with Animals as Leaders of TesseracT for example). They are clearly strongly influenced by Meshuggah and SikTh; you will notice these two bands progressed and experimented with their sound over time. Periphery just don’t – most of the songs on this album could have been on the first two. That’s OK for a band like, say, U.D.O., but I expected something more from Periphery.

            Also, I hardly think this particular site is guilty of reviewing loads of tedious black metal…

        • Jean-Luc Ricard

          It may not be available in your location (it’s not available in Japan apparently)

          • I was ready to give them a chance but there are few things I find as ridiculously annoying as regional locks on stuff like a fucking music video FFS.

          • Wait, you’re in Japan? Which bit? :)

          • Zombie thread resurrection! I was in Okinawa, but have been back in Blighty for almost 2 years now :D

  • Alan Smithee

    Periphery: quite possibly the most divisive band in metal today?

    • David Rosales

      Not “in metal”.
      Polarizing between metalheads and hipster-posers.

  • Alexandre Barata

    Djent is, for my understanding, the new emo-metalcore, that was the new Nu-Metal. It’s an overproduced, auto-tune sounding genre (at least Periphery) with terrible vocals in something that sounds like a Corey Taylor meats Asking Alexandria vocalist. Lacks on anything interesting for my tastes, but I can see why 12 years old kids would might like it.

    • Julien Jip

      Their albums are self-produced, they are music geeks, so of course they want to show off with their producing skills. But I would’nt say it’s “over” produced, it just sound really really good, not fake as some other djent bands, with a excellent mastering between the different instruments, everything is at the same level, and my god dat bass sound.
      And of course, clear poppy sounding vocals, so trve metalheads will will explode while listening at it (which is a good thing)

  • Hróðvitnir

    Periphery only appeals to brilliant and open-minded people and musicians, you sir should take lessons on how to make proper reviews.

    • This should be the real featured comment, made me laugh harder than anything here.

      • Hróðvitnir

        I honestly didn’t think it would be taken seriously. Thought of adding improper grammar/spelling and weird punctuation but it hurt my brains enough writing it down like that.

        Very good review btw :). At this point, I wasn’t expecting much of Periphery, nor of the “Djent” scene, really.

        • Jean-Luc Ricard

          You never can tell with the inhabitants of the internet…

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      Hey, I liked their ‘Clear’ EP!

    • manimal

      …Spencer… is that you, son? Look man… your mother and I still love you very much, and we kept your room just the way it used to be… we’re so very sorry we had you neutered… please come back? Your friend Misha is welcome in our house… we no longer mind that you record your jingles under this roof… just… quit bothering these good people and come back home, please?

  • TonightYou

    More than half of the review trashed the production quality of the album. Look dude, I get that you only really like music that sounds like it was recorded through a tin-can and pressed directly onto the most limited of vinyls, but that’s no reason to trash this album. That is your PREFERENCE. And it also has no bearing on the musicianship of the band as a whole.

    Facetiousness aside, don’t use production “quality” as a negative against an album unless it actually hinders the listener from listening to the album (i.e. Fallujah’s new record). This album’s production is very well done. “Overproduction” is such a hipster complaint in this day and age. We live in the age of technology. Why wouldn’t you make your album SOUND better? Because somehow, using digital production techniques makes you less “trve.”

    The only thing that should concern you about production is if the band is using smoke and mirrors to cover their shortcomings, which Periphery are not. They can certainly play to their exact album sound live, unlike “overproduced” bands like Rings of Saturn (lol sped up guitars).

    So, maybe you should append the review with a tagline going “half of this review is complaining that this album doesn’t suit my personal preference,” eh?

    Also, this was in no way an attack on you, I just want you to see my (and I’m sure other’s) point of view. I’m absolutely tired of seeing metal grandpas whine about “production quality” when the advent of computerized production was a godsend to musicians. It enabled DIY musicians such as Misha himself to get his music out there and known. He has an incredible amount of talent, and unless you have a hefty chunk of money or the sound you are going for is Hardcore/Black Metal, you’re going to have to use something like Axe FX for your production/recording. Without digital/computerized production software/hardware, a lot of these very talented musicians wouldn’t be able to make quality music. Please think about that end of the spectrum.

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      1. You mean half a paragraph, not half the review, I think.
      2. The production affects my listening experience, so of course I will criticise it in a record review.
      3. Sounding “better” doesn’t equate to removing all traces of humanity from the performances and compressing it to shit. Compare with, say, the production on SikTh’s “The Trees Are Dead and Dried Out…” – still sounds super tight, but also human. There’s room for stuff to breathe. It doesn’t tire me out to listen to it.
      4. *All* of the review explains my personal preference. See AMG’s article on subjectivity and reviewing.
      5. Given that I was still lingering in the womb when Reign in Blood came out, I hardly think “metal grandpa” is fair…
      6. I am fully aware of the wonders of computer production, given that I’ve recorded solo records myself using PODs and drum samples. Using this equipment doesn’t make you create over-produced, over-compressed albums. Also LOL at Axe FX being the budget option ;)

    • David Rosales

      II think PEriphery is a shit band. For very good reasons, none of them have to do with the production.
      But I am with you o the criticism of this site’s lousy reviews. They’re fun to read when they get a really bad album and they make fun of it. But otherwise they just say really stupid shit when they DON’T KNOW what to say. Also, the Opeth fetish is ridiculous, especially when that band is going down in flames album after album. Constant downward slope after their OK album Blackwater Park.

      • TonightYou

        I also don’t like kvlt assclowns and I think they’re shitty elitists. It seems you fit the bill.

  • Dirk Beefhammer

    I don’t really mind Periphery, some of their songs are good, but their fans are TERRIBLE. They seriously act like One-Direction fans towards Periphery. Especially during live shows. I saw them at Summer Slaughter and people were actually squealing and crying like preteen girls in the crowd. You can’t make shit like that up. No one is allowed to not like them when there’s a Periphery fan around, and they hardly ever listen to any constructive criticism.

    I personally think this is as ambitious we’ll ever hear them. I think they’ll pull a Dream Theater and become a “sports” band and sound the same with the exact same album.

  • fattyman

    Personally I love Periphery and this album(s) is pretty good. My one problem with this review: “Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3” o.0
    Is it not torture to listen to such low bitrates? At least with a CD you would be able to clearly hear all the production you don’t like.

    • Jean-Luc Ricard

      Not hugely; see the latest Angry Metal-Fi article on here. But we review what we’re sent by the labels; often these are not the 320 kbps mp3s (or better, FLACs) we’d prefer.

  • PeripheryLike

    I have to say, I really liked Juggernaut. My best friend did too. At first, we both hated it. That is to say, we thought it was garbage tier like the second album, and objectively inferior to the first(we won’t mention Clear). But as time went on, my best friend actually started digging it. Now, understand, this is a kid who was raised on Cannibal Corpse and Slayer, literally from when he learned to walk, his older brother had him listening to this shit. But as time went on, he started to appreciate bands like Periphery. At first, Juggernaut turned us both off. Myself because I wasn’t sure how I felt about tracks like “Heavy Heart” and stopping there. But my friend went deeper, and he REALLY liked Alpha. I don’t agree with this interview, though its pretty good. I will say that I think Juggernaut is Periphery’s best work yet, and is it really “selling out” if you never bought in to begin with?