Periphery: Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal – Music Review
By Justin Polak
Co-founder, Ambassador to the Mushroom Kingdom
While I didn’t have the greatest things to say about Periphery’s self titled album, there were aspects of it that I enjoyed — after all I’m dealing with progressive metal, here. I know I was in the minority, as I wasn’t blown away by the band’s debut. I suppose you could sum up my review of their self titled album as, “It was alright, but I recognize that this band has a lot of room to grow.” Two years later Periphery brings forth the charmingly titled Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, showing that the band has retained their sense of humor. Will the band’s sophomore effort win me over this time?
First, I have never dug vocals that switch from screaming to clean in the style Periphery tends to use, but my tolerance of it has gone up since two years ago. Also, I feel that Spencer Sotelo’s vocals are a hell of a lot better this time around. The band relies on “chugga-chugging” the guitar a little too much, but there is more variety in the guitar work as a whole. The percussion side of Periphery still fascinates me in a uniquely satisfying way as it did last time around.
The band seems to have so much more fun with PII, and it has vastly improved my listening experience. Songs are far more epic and energetic, there is far more emphasis on adventurous guitars and each track flows much better into the next. One of the other issues I took with the self titled album was that the tracks felt isolated from each other, which caused me to fade out at times during the first couple of listens. While the album is more fun, some of the more haunting hooks make nearly every song stand tall on its own.
PII is one of those albums you put on and start to smile uncontrollably because you know you are in for a pleasurable listen. “Muramasa,” the album’s simple, but effective opener, did just that for me. I’m not saying Periphery is among my favorite progressive metal acts. But not even said favorite bands of that genre have provoked that kind of response from me in a long time.
While Periphery enlisted the help of such talent as Guthrie Govan, John Petrucci and Wes Hauch for some exquisite guitar solos, the band’s own solos have improved vastly over the self titled. I am sure you have guessed by now that was another issue I had with the first album! In fact, while I certainly acknowledge that the first album was progressive metal, I felt like it barley went into that zone. The guitars in general, a long with the way they lead or intertwine with each track does a much better job representing the genre.
This is especially true for the more chaotic tracks which even venture forth to a Between the Buried and Me type style, but not quite as reckless (and I mean that in a good way). Yet again, I feel the necessity to point out that when Periphery leaned towards a harder edge with their self titled, it didn’t sound nearly as well produced. This time I was able to latch on to speedy, fast paced, face melting music that somehow seems organized within all the madness — just like it should be!
There is no typically long, epic track as there was two years ago (“Racecar” was one of the only things I fully enjoyed off the self-titled), but with tracks like “Scarlet,” “Luck as a Constant,” “Erised,” “Froggin’ Bullfish,” “Mile Zero” and “Masamune,” there is no need to have that obligatory prog staple within PII. Quieter, transnational moments like the track “Epoch” also do a fine job carrying this album to pure audio ecstasy.
Needless to say, I have enjoyed PII a hell of a lot more than the self titled. Even if you disagreed with me and thought the self titled album was one of the best progressive metal albums in years, I still think you’ll be uplifted and blown away at just how much better Periphery sounds with their second album. While I still obviously stand behind my opinion of their first effort, I actually feel bad for saying negative things about it since I found so much enjoyment out of PII.
Overall, this is an album worth a listen no matter where you stand with Periphery or have never even heard of them. This is especially so if you like progressive metal, but are looking for something that doesn’t have constant 10 minute plus tracks on the album (that never bothers me, but I understand those who it does). It’s amazing what a couple of years can do for a band sometimes.
Front page image/interior photo 2 courtesy of Sumerian Records. Image 1 from heavyworlds.com.