Periphery – Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs

Album line-up:
Spencer Sotelo – Vocals
Misha Mansoor – Guitars
Matt Halpern – Drums
Jake Bowen – Guitars
Mark Holcomb – Guitars
Adam Getgood – Bass

Album Tracklisting:
1. Muramasa
2. Have a Blast
3. Facepalm Mute
4. Ji
5. Scarlet
6. Luck as a Constant
7. Ragnarok
8. The Gods Must Be Crazy!
10. Erised
11. Epoch
12. Froggin’ Bullfish
13. Mile Zero
14. Masamune

Periphery are a band that…. well never really seemed to spend any time on the periphery. Although the band had existed some years before, the release of their self-titled debut in 2010 seemed to launch them straight over the heads of many of their peers – a bit like a Dick Dastardly ploy in Wacky Races but they haven’t as of yet got their comeuppance.

Down-players of the band will therefore be hoping that follow-up release Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, is as straight-to-DVD and Sunday afternoon showings on terrestrial TV channels, as its cheesy 80’s action sequel sounding name puts in mind. Afraid you’re out of luck kids, as Periphery II would continue to suggest that it’s technique not trickery that got them where they are today as forerunners in the birth of modern progressive metal with a clever-dick math rock dummy in its mouth.

Two years on and Periphery II is an insight into a band that are comfortable in their competence, but not using the notion of songs as a pretext for a technicality-how-to-lesson. Immediately there’s less mini-Meshuggah, and a more encompassing uptake of melody and atmosphere. The polyrhythm’s and grooves are still ticked, it’s just Periphery feel a little more capable of wielding them in their own way, and the result is a highly accomplished album. Gold stars all round.

The vocals of Spencer Sotelo have continued to be a source of controversy for Periphery and it’s difficult to not see the bickering continue on Periphery II. For me the difficulty lies in the fact that Spencer undeniably has some pipes that are capable of hair-raising highs, but there is equally a very metalcore edge to them.
That’s not a point for criticism in its own right, but unfortunately the association, given the tendency for bands in that genre to put on whiny faux-accents and vocal affects, makes it difficult to completely accept the emotion supposedly behind them without a trace of cynicism. At least Periphery are from the US so I don’t have to mock them for putting on the voice though.

However, in comparison to Periphery Spencer has managed to bring his screams and growls up to scratch and throughout his vocals, in all their highs and lows, actually sound as though they are driven within the music, as opposed to feeling pasted over the top. With 14 tracks, and over an hour of material to pick from, Periphery II is packed with more stand-out than stand-down moments. In particular the awesomely named ‘Facepalm Mute’ puts it about a bit – both vocally and musically, whilst the red-hot ‘Scarlet’ burns with unbridled emotion against an old-school metal lead-in.

Lead single ‘MAKE TOTAL DESTROY’ sounds like a statement of intent against the band’s instruments as they tear through riff after riff, but as with ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy!’ breaking down into a stuttering riff, which is then cut through with some typically fast fingerwork, it is a pleasure to hear these masters draw their weapons. If Periphery wasn’t already stuffed full with its own guitar talent, Periphery II alsocharms solos from major names including the great John Petrucci on the more gently ambient Erised, which also features a bassline that you’re all the gladder for being able to hear in the mix.

The fact that the album doesn’t end with the line ‘I’ll be back’ did sadden me slightly, but to put words into no-one in particular’s mouth I think it’s fairly safe to say Periphery will be doing just that. Shades and a motorbike can be arranged.