Two and a half years have passed since Periphery released their unimaginatively titled sophomore album, 'Periphery II', although the progressively swayed metallers are back with not one, but two discs; a dual conceptual work - 'Juggernaut: Alpha' and 'Juggernaut: Omega'. With each having a playing time either just over or under the forty minute mark, it somehow seems a little cheeky for Century Media to release these as individual albums (they retail separately, I understand), particularly considering a CD's eighty minute capacity. But, minor grumbles aside, the actual music on each of these albums makes for a pretty engaging listen.
First off, while it sounds unmistakably like Periphery, it's actually the band at their most diverse. I'm guessing the primary reason for this is the fact that all six members, for the first time, contributed to the creative process; guitarist Misha Mansoor states in press materials: "Everyone was allowed to contribute to everything, even if it wasn't his instrument." The results of this collaboratively integral process are axiomatic in the new music; a whole gamut of styles rear their head, either subtly or more prominently, during the course of each album. Of course, 'Periphery II' was characterised by musical heterogeneity to an extent, although the stylistic disparity is more emphatic here. The minor down-side of this is that it makes for a disjointed listen on occasion, rather than the feeling that all songs belong to part of the same concept. However, occasionally repeated motifs do help tie things together and engender a storytelling environment.
Style-wise, there are traces of the djent idioms for which Periphery still seem to have a reputation (despite their far wider musical palette), although these are used in a pleasingly restrained and contextual manner, never feeling forced or for-the-sake-of. 'A Black Minute' neatly primes the first disc's narrative essence with a sonically epic vibe. 'MK Ultra' adheres to polyrhythmic-based heavy discordance during its short playing time before climaxing with a jazzy, lounge music outro. 'Heavy Heart' has a more radio-friendly, commercial vibe to its melodically-driven, rockier charms. The opening of 'Alpha' sees the band go for an ephemeral Nintendo-core intro before settling into a Coheed and Cambria style groove (complete with vocal phrasing that sounds inspired by Claudio Sanchez). I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture.
Performance-wise, I cannot fault either of these two albums; each band member shines through their technically accomplished, flawless execution. However, therein resides a partial weakness of Periphery's overall sound, as technicality is, during some songs, prioritised over emotional expression. And what doesn't help this at all is the super-clean, over-produced, clinical sounding production. Don't get me wrong, the production is pristine. It's amazing. However, for my personal tastes, it's a little too clean sounding with the corollary that music is often emotionally depleted, rather than repleted. That said, some great songwriting and captivating melodies do at least provide some emotional handles, and Spencer Sotelo's vocal performance maintains an affective impetus through most of the songs with his emotionally varied delivery; from his powerful and melancholically-charged clean voice, right through to his all-out growls (and everything in between).
All in all, while Periphery's return is a sporadically flawed one, there is still much I would recommend this album for; particularly for those who like their metal characterised by various innovative twists and turns. While it's not the genuinely progressive beast that the band themselves would probably have you believe, it still has enough innovatory flair to satisfy fans of music that challenges the psyche. In terms of "feeling it"... well, that'll depend on your own listening proclivities. Personally, I'd love to hear Periphery with a rawer production, but that's just me.
JUGGERNAUT: ALPHA & JUGGERNAUT: OMEGA
Review by Mark Holmes
41:28 & 39:20
26th Jan 2015
JUGGERNAUT: ALPHA - 1) A Black Minute; 2) MK Ultra; 3) Heavy Heart; 4) The Event; 5) The Scourge; 6) Alpha; 7) 22 Faces; 8) Rainbow Gravity; 9) Four Lights; 10) Psychosphere
JUGGERNAUT: OMEGA - 1) Reprise; 2) The Bad Thing; 3) Priestess; 4) Graveless; 5) Hell Below; 6) Omega; 7) Stranger Things
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...enough innovatory flair to satisfy fans of music that challenges the psyche."