Juggernaut: Alpha / Omega

Written by: MN on 16/02/2015 23:36:07

It took me an exceptionally long time before I dared challenge the monumental task of reviewing a record of such a magnitude as that of Periphery's latest effort. Not only is the band known for their progressive technicalities which require track by track meticulous listening, but the fact that the quintet decide to release an astounding 80 minutes at the same time leaves you feeling like you need to do some serious studying before you can make a legitimate claim to an opinion. I have now allowed this "juggernaut" of a record to play countless times, and I am so ever pleased that I gave it the time to marinate on my considerations. Periphery have never failed to astound in their compositions. Their groundbreaking self-titled debut saw mastermind Misha Mansoor display his virtuoso guitar skills in the most cutting edge djent productions, where straddling borders of the most extreme was the common agenda.

The follow-up record "Periphery II" contained the same neo-progressive elements, but it also allowed for vocalist Spencer Sotelo to expand his admirable vocal range and thereby adding some pop sensibilities through more attention to the pursuit of the catchy melody. "Juggernaut Alpha" and "Juggernaut Omega" have been described as a collective effort by the now permanent line up of Periphery. It is clear from the get-go that Periphery have tried to avoid becoming an ego-centric band that systematically flaunts their skills in odd-time signatures and otherworldly guitar effects. It is obvious that they know where they come from with regards to musical expression, so fear not dear guitar nerds, there is plenty of technical metal to devour, but the good songwriting melody seems to take centre stage throughout this beast of a double record.

It is an overall all-embracing record that tries to reach out to new fans by creating the catchy melodious song with their signature djent flavour. This formula is largely present in the first disc named "Alpha" where songs like "Heavy Heart", "22 Faces" and the stand-out single "Alpha" have you pressing repeat time and time again. Luckily, none of the songs seem to bore you out, they all tend to extend further than the traditional song structure, whether it's through a solo, jazzy interlude or a nerdy-videogame like passage. One of the strongest tracks on the first part of the record is "The Scourge", a song that opens with classical sweeps and theatrical vocals which alludes to some early Avenged Sevenfold (when they were actually good). Eventually the pummeling double pedals start to animate the aggression. The song eventually reaches a climax that has Spencer Sotelo reach some of his best vocal performance as of yet. Previously, Sotelo's vocals often had an airy and shallow character that has been described as "nasal" and "annoying" by many. It is apparent that he has grown as a vocalist, but not compromising his own style of singing. "Rainbow Gravity" takes us back to the more cacophonic Periphery of the best, it is vicious and the riffs hit you like Tyson on a punching bag. "Psychosphere" closes the record with a repeat of the lyrics from "The Scourge" but in a more reflective manner, signalling a close to the first side of the coin.

Where the second record differs is that while the pop sensibilities were accounted for in the first, the second half allows for the outfit to lose some of their inhibitions and take on more experimentation in their songs. "The Bad Thing" is a lot more menacing, sludgy in sound and downright angry, it is apparently also inspired by Stephen King's "The Shining". The guitars are allowed to riff out to the max and squealing guitar solos soar above the impressive soundscape. "Priestess" takes you a bit by surprise as a classic acoustic introduction brings the tempo and ferocity down to sea level. As the odd one out, this song is definitely the most poppy song on the record, it is almost rock ballad-like. To those starting to fear softness, fret no more, "Graveless" is a beast of a track, the short-tempered bastard that crawled in the mix, to much satisfaction. The giant "Hell Below" is demonic in every sense, it is song that displays Sotelo omitting any soft-vocals where he lashes out snarls, screams and growls. The standout track of the second disc is the seminal "Omega" which marks my personal favourite throughout the 80 minutes. It is the quintessence of progressive metal and it synthesizes every aspect that this record has achieved, a tremendous effort that leaves one heavily satisfied.

It must be clear to the reader that this record has left me dumbfounded and pleased beyond the usual. I truly think Periphery have outdone themselves writing this double record, which is in its essence no easy feat. Last time I heard a double this successful was Soilwork's "The Living Infinite". I therefore award Periphery a solid 9 in hopes that they can continue to outdo themselves in the future. It is clear they are moulding themselves into a band capable of writing consistent red-threaded records along the lines of the genius found on the majority of Coheed And Cambria records. In terms of criticism, I have searched for potential complains, but concluded that Periphery have yet to disappoint this reviewer. Fans of Protest The Hero, The Safety Fire and Disperse should all find some sanctuary in this brilliant effort from the Maryland boys.


Download: The Scourge, Omega, Heavy Heart
For The Fans Of: Between The Buried And Me, Sikth, The Contortionist

Release date 27.01.2015
Sumerian Records

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