Juggernaut: Alpha & Omega

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

1. Reprise
2. The Bad Thing
3. Priestess
4. Graveless
5. Hell Below
6. Omega
7. Stranger Things

Misha "Bulb" Mansoor (Lead guitar)
Adam "Nolly" Getgood (Bass)
Jake Bowen (Rhythm guitar)
Matt Halpern (Drums, percussion)
Spencer Sotelo (Lead vocals)
Mark Holcomb (Rhythm guitar)

Periphery (2010)
Icarus (EP 2011)
Periphery II (2012)
Clear (EP 2014)



Released 2015-01-26
Reviewed 2015-01-25

sumerian records
century media

Why do I always feel that it takes too long between Periphery albums? It doesn’t matter that they’ve released new material more or less every year since 2010, it feels like you’re waiting weeks, months… maybe even years too long for the next one. Besides two EPs, this is the the third full length album by the band, but it’s also the fourth full length album by the band and they are both released on the same day.

Before I head in to these two albums I’ll spend some time talking about the past for this American act. More or less on the day a year ago, Periphery released the EP ’Clear’ which had exactly none of these 17 songs on it. Instead of using old songs on this new album, Periphery has specially written all 17 songs to be on this album, which in music and lyrics tells a story over these two discs, almost like some sort of opera. The first disc sets the story with all the background and details behind the plot and characters while the second is the climax - the big duel, the grand solution. It’s almost like an 80 minutes long movie with the point of no return being the change between disc one and two. If you change in to the second disc, your hooked on it and have to spend the next 40 minutes listening to end with the title track of ’Omega’ and the grand conclusion with Stranger Things. Sure, you can skip the first part and jump straight in to chapter eleven but that’s a bit like taking a book, let’s say the Bible and just skip the whole Old Testament and start with the new… actually, that was a bad comparison as it doesn’t matter shit if you skip the Old testament in the Bible but it would be really stupid to play ’Juggernaut’ and skip ’Alpha’.

Anyway, musically these two albums are not all that different from what we’ve become used to hear from their previous releases. It doesn’t sound exactly like before but broadly the same sort of thing. The biggest difference is probably the fact that they have a concept on this album, as well as the fact that all members has been given space to create this album, not just Misha Mansoor. If this is a good thing or not musically is something we’ll soon find out but first I want to clear out how this band actually sound. Which is their musical direction or ”style”? We’ll, that’s easy asked, difficult to answer but let’s make a serious attempt.

The first impression I get is that they have an overhanging melodeath sound, not quite Gothenburg death but definitely a Scandinavian sound though more or less without keyboards (exceptions exist but not in quantities). Blend in a noticeable amount of cores in to it for the heaviness - metalcore, hardcore, some screamo and maybe even a pinch of thrash and we’re getting close to something here. But we’re far from finished with that because we haven’t even got to the progressive elements yet, which mainly feels influenced by industrial and nu-metal. If that leaves your jaw hanging maybe Static-X, Korn and System Of A Down say it better? Otherwise it’s like talking to a wall and then I can’t understand you’ve made it all this way and keep reading. But it’s not like Periphery takes influences from these bands in particular, some of the things they do could have inspired them but it’s not like I’m thinking of them when I hear Periphery because there is so much more in this mess still to be named. One of the things that define the sound of Periphery is how they keep making tempo changes and style direction changes. Much of it feels similar to the way modern progressive bands sound when think they are Dream Theater and change tempo in their music. Dream Theater is pretty far from this sound, but many bands have misunderstood that and just complicate things with lots and lots of blatant tempo changes and it’s this that Periphery gets pretty close to in their music. And then we get to the vocals… and no, we’re far from finished. As with plenty of modern heavier metal bands Periphery change between different styles of vocals - from clean to anything but that. Often as Spencer makes his most guttural shouting the string section seems to celebrate new years eve or something as they bang the bass strings as hard as they could in the truest of metalcore’s ways. In the clean vocals, he reveals a very unique voice - not particularly great but definitely not the most common stuff you get in metal and I think it’s one of the easiest voices to recognise as long as you’ve been introduced to it.

But before things get out of hand I think we’ll call it quits with the description right here and now because otherwise we’ll get to the end of this galaxy before we’re done - hopefully you’ve got a decent picture of how Periphery sound anyway and how they’re not the everyday pancake or glass of water (or Coke, if you’re American as you guys drink more Coke than water). Periphery is a smorgasbord of influences and they make a tapas buffet you can’t really refuse if you’re in to this kind of music. Outside Hallowed I run a store and I often wonder how some bands would work as store music with the all kinds of people passing through the door and staying for various amount of time. Periphery, how great you might think they are, is not a band that would work as store music - at all! They are way too complicated to just enjoy for someone that enters in the middle of it and maybe leaving before it’s over. And partly they are also way too heavy to even consider for children, pensioners and generally stupid hillbillies to enjoy. But that’s really their loss because given enough time, some headbanging and intellection, Periphery will blow you away! They are definitely one of the best ”young” bands out there at the moment.

’Alpha’ is the first part of the two and it feels like the softer album of the two. It’s more toned down than ’Omega’ and has fewer songs that applies for the metalcore VIP performers club. When they do the heavier stuff on ’Alpha’ it’s often for a shorter period and instead this disc tempt you with more complicated structures, tempo changes, disruptions, strange sounds and different song structures. I’d also say ’Alpha’ has a more relaxed attitude, definitely more finesse than the narcissistic power drills of ’Omega’ that seems to be more keen on showing everyone how great of musicians they are. While ’Alpha’ probably speak more to the fans that like the technical side of the band, ’Omega’ will appeal those who like the heavier stuff by them but you can’t just skip the first disc because you like the heavy stuff either, that would be like jumping straight in to The Dark Knight or The Dark Knight Rises and likewise if you like what’s on the first disc - how could you watch Batman Begins and then skip the rest of the triology? They are a bit different from each other but they are a package and you’re pretty stupid if you only buy one of these albums!

However, my very personal opinion is that ’Juggernaut’ isn’t as good as their last full-length album and mainly I think the reason is the same as the reason why many movie sequels fail to triumph the first film - the think they need to do everything bigger, cooler and more intensive. They forget that there is something called balance - to level things out between different things. The absence of balance is what Saw, Matrix and Rocky so much better than their sequels and it’s the same with this album. I’m not saying it’s a bad album and surely very much is great on this album - lots of stuff is even better than last time but I can’t escape from the feeling that they keep taking things too far all the time. With 82 minutes what you need is balance, not the kind of showboating you get from ”alpha and omega”, ”heaven and hell”, ”plus and minus” and so on. These albums are not each others opposites, they are pretty similar but with different characteristics - one is a bit harder and one is a bit more sophisticated. And in the middle of all this heavy, sophisticated and great music I just feel they take it too far and they do too much of it. And I guess this is the reason why movie series don’t release more than one movie at the time. Even if ’Juggernaut’ should be played from start to finish it sounds best if you don’t. Still, it’s a great album.




Label: Sumerian/Century Media
Three similar bands: Iwrestledabearonce/Meshuggah/Tesseract
Rating: HHHHHHH (5/7)
Reviewer: Caj Källmalm

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