Periphery – Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre Review

Djent is not a Genre. Whatever you say. I will add a comment I’ve seen on social media, however, that Periphery really missed a trick when they didn’t call this Djent is not a Djenre. If you’re going for self-aware comedy, at least lean in. Periphery V is in fact the band’s seventh full-length, due to the break in the timeline that was double-album release Juggernaut Alpha/Omega. Their quirkiness extends beyond the fun, self-referential titles to a hyperactive approach to progressive metalcore that makes tech death feel sensible. And they’ve garnered quite the following; a younger Thus Spoke included in that following. While I’ve since fallen off the bandwagon, I hold a soft spot for these guys that enables me to bear more than most the polarizing clean vocals of lead singer Spencer Sotelo, and leaves me still spinning my old favorite Periphery I. This ought to make me more forgiving of the idiosyncrasies that resulted in 2.0s the two times the band received a review here. Maybe it does. But a bit of generosity only goes so far.

Periphery V borrows from all iterations of the Periphery sound, resulting in a mélange that is sometimes very good, sometimes not so good. There are playful grooves, key-changing guitar scales, jerky, djenty chugging, and soaring melodies. Everyone here can really play, there’s no doubt about that; the technicality is off the scale, perhaps here more than ever. However, the erraticism that has always been the band’s staple is still there, and in its most frustrating form: taking the whiplash tone changes and filtering them through their only growing propensity for pseudoprogression. Pseudoprogression, because, to echo and paraphrase my Overlord‘s past criticismPeriphery are excellent at crafting segments of brilliant music, but their songs almost always feel disjointed. Here as elsewhere, I find myself swayed and exhilarated by a passage, only to be jerked away cruelly, blindsided by a clean vocal hook or instrumental meander that feels out of place. Periphery V displays this most frustratingly, because the best material here is genuinely fantastic, and the threads tying it to the confusing remainder are just so disappointing.

Periphery consistently seem to abandon their best ideas, or ruin them by mashing them together with something else. The stabbing, off-kilter riffing and disorienting time signatures (“Wildfire,” “Atropos,” “Everything is Fine!”) are awesome, representing some of the best and weirdest grooves of the band’s career. It is maddeningly jarring, then, that a piano and saxophone jazz interlude splits “Wildfire,” and disconnected symphonics close “Atropos” and “Zagreus.” These aren’t the only things to arise ex nihilo, as tracks also display the tendency to flip from aggression to saccharine singing that isn’t even hooky (“Atropos,” “Dracul Gras”). The one exception to the intra-track schizophrenia, “Silhouette,”—the best song here—is, ironically, a major contributor to the album’s incohesion. It takes the album abruptly into synth-pop territory with dreamy ambience and subtle catchiness. Though sickeningly sweet, it’s good, and even runs naturally into more anthemic “Dying Star.” It’s a shame that the latter track goes too far in the opposite direction to its peers, comparatively bland and forgettable.

It’s not a total horror-show, though. “Zagreus” displays Periphery’s hyper-dynamism done right, with building, truly evolving tempos and refrains, with just a whiff of kookiness. “Everything is Fine!” is straightforwardly aggressive and manifests perfectly the anxiety that its time-signature changes and screaming chords were surely intended to express. And though the first three-quarters of “Wax Wings” bleat on averagely, its final section—where cleans spike into a harsh scream, and guitar rises up into a glorious theme and spiraling solo—made me sit up and listen, right from spin one. This minute and twenty seconds might be the best part of the album. But since the album is sixty-four minutes long, it can’t cover the multitude of other sins above. So although the neck-snapping grinds of “Wildfire” and “Dracul Gras” are cool, and although the strange ethereality of “Silhouette” is nice, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going into Periphery V waiting for the ‘good bits’.

The band’s musicianship sounds the strongest ever, but when all elements are brought together, presented in the needlessly over-produced and now over-varied package, the ‘good bits’ don’t always feel worth it. Periphery V is likely to cement, in any remaining fence-sitters’ minds, the opinion that Periphery are ‘a bit much.’ Here they’re the most Periphery they’ve ever been. Fans rejoice. Dissenters carry on.

Rating: Mixed
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 224 kbps mp3
Label: 3DOT Recordings
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 10th, 2023

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