Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal
Periphery return with a sophomore record that sadly feels less sophomoric than the “Ragtime Dandies” including self titled debut long play record, Periphery! The question as to whether we will still all “love that shit” will never really hold water. You just enter into a contract with this band when you start their records – You’re offered clinic level musicianship that can take flight by using its flashiness to propel it only so very higher. And there is something to be said for a band that can so daringly couple innovation with populist “alternative” (since when did those two go together?) and groove metal tropes. Wondering whether Periphery will ever tone it down is fucking dumb.
But yeah, This Time It’s Personal is unfortunately more of an ~album~, which seems a little too enclosed for a band as gonzo as Periphery. Periphery I was like 12 EPs conveniently/impossibly thrown onto one disc with the illusion of continuity between them supplied byJake Bowen (who again goes for broke on this release) and his interludes. It worked for what Periphery was and continues to be; an idea powerhouse whose songs were like mini Sistine Chapels of groove, riff, and drama. The tracks on II tend to depend on each other a bit more (no more than the trio of Final Fantasy inspired “Murasame”, “Ragnarok”, and “Masamune”) and helpfully divvy up the run time into acts. It enables the 70 minutes to fly by but then that means we’re listening to them a bit more passively than before; we’re confident the next track will fill in what was missing on the last and that a later one will compliment the next in question, whereas previous numbers were nothing less than complete. A few on this one rise above that, namely the standouts “The Gods Must be Crazy!”, “Froggin’ Bullfish” and maybe “Mile Zero”.
I can’t really rate this in any quantifiable way, as the band’s newest release is purely aimed at aggressively entertaining an audience that has come to expect not only technical virtuosity and panache in its execution, but also a concoction of opposing styles and accessibility while maintaining a br00tal undercut – That goes for all bands in this current trend, and outside of gifted releases like The Contortionist‘s Intrinsic, it’s seemingly impossible to abandon flash at the risk of compromising some substance, too. There are some hints of the band knowingly treading on higher ground; getting fucking Guthrie Govan to supply a guest solo, for one (it’s killer, and so is the new Faceless guy’s shredding on “Mile Zero”). Nolly Getgood also gives the band what I think it’s been missing in the groove department, as he shows on “Erised” with some (albeit brief) slap funk on the bass. Spencer Sotelo‘s swag is noticeably amped up (it’s not even worth it to type who he resembles vocally now) and his snarling is gutsier and articulate. And yes, Mark Holcomb, formerly of the brilliant Haunted Shores,has assimilated his unique riffing AND unused HS songs (“Scarlet”) into Periphery’s now very formidable lineup.
Finally, drummer Matt Halpern and mastermind/guitarist Bulb tend to define the band’s voice, setting the trend, and declaring what Periphery can offer and why. It’s their sense of authorship that continues to evoke the aura of confidence in Periphery’s sound, further enhancing its appeal. Despite the strengths and ballsiness, II comes off as more of a commodity in the current slate of high profile metal albums. Maybe it’s the structure of the album that makes too easy to digest, but I think the broadcasts at the end of “Icarus Lives!” vindicated a sense of legitimate excitement over this follow-up’s impersonal proof of concept; the Periphery concept, that is.