New Djent to Jitterbug to from Periphery

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Excuse the following assumption, which is a side effect of the exclusive and sometimes elitist nature of the metal community. Browsing the App Store while you waited for Temple Run to download or while you were sampling the latest Bieber offering in the iTunes Store, you may have noticed a new album that, albeit momentarily, was on the top ten chart. Now in the top fifty albums in the iTunes Store is Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, Periphery’s second record, not counting EPs and demos. It isn’t often that a progressive metal band makes the charts, and in this case, it is well deserved. Periphery, based in Maryland and signed to Sumerian Records, is placed into a subcategory of metal called “djent” which is known for its use of low-tuned, extended-range, high-gain guitars and the distinct sound that is produced when they are palm-muted. Composed of seven highly talented musicians and featuring three guitarists, Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen and recent addition Mark Holcomb, the band has long been praised by the metal community for its guitar work: complex rhythms, harmonies and melodies that give Periphery a truly unique sound.

After listening to the demos made since 2004, it was exciting to see what began as Misha Mansoor’s ideas on guitar, accompanied by programmed drums, become Periphery, an album which featured the band’s most well-known song, Icarus Lives! But Periphery II (the subtitle is absent from its cover because, according to the band’s Facebook page, “The forces that be felt that it would be iffy marketing it as that”) is refreshingly foreign and highlights the talents of each member of the band, not just the guitarists, extremely well. New member Adam Getgood on bass gives already catchy songs a groovy feel and Matt Halpern on drums is, as always, capable of superhuman feats on a drum set but lead singer Spencer Sotelo receives the award for most improved member of the band. Already boasting a dumfounding vocal range, Sotelo’s highs seem even higher and his screams and growls, criticized for being too weak on the first album, have become extremely impressive. His singing has also improved stylistically and his vocal expressiveness makes you want to sing along with him, a rare quality in today’s metal. But giving him all the credit for the integration of vocals would be unfair. Periphery had a lot of tracks that would be just as good left instrumental. But the way songs are written makes Periphery II’s vocals essential.

Periphery knows how to make exciting music, using synths, guitar effects and electronic drums to create richly textured and unique-sounding songs that are always epic. Periphery II’s first track, Muramasa, is a perfect example. Starting with an eerie electronic intro, a spine-tingling vocal line by Sotelo is added before heavy guitars, drums and bass join in. This all flows into a guitar solo, a multi-guitar harmony and a heavy vocal section in which Sotelo reveals the growls he’s been working on. The album continually challenges the listener with songs like Ji, MAKE TOTAL DESTROY and Luck as a Constant, which all have their defining moments. The album also has a consistent feeling that some believed was absent from Periphery, with the most obvious element of continuity being the vocal line “Somewhere in time, we welcomed in the fall. But in the distance we can see, shining clear, our demise to be. We’re not listening to ourselves,” which echoes throughout the album. I encourage those new to or dismissive of metal to check out Periphery II, which I feel is accessible for the simple reason that excellently written music is easy to appreciate, regardless of genre. I also strongly suggest checking out other artists from Sumerian’s lineup, like T.R.A.M, a super-group which features Tosin Abasi, possibly the best guitarist in music today, and The Faceless, led by guitar master Michael Keene and bass god Evan Brewer. You can catch Periphery, The Faceless and others on the Summer Slaughter Tour, which stops at around thirty locations across the nation this year.

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