Saturday, July 7, 2012

Periphery - Periphery II: This Time it's Personal


Two years ago, Periphery popped up out of nowhere and literally amazed the world with their self-titled debut that was released under the highly-credited Sumerian Records. Now that my pre-order of their EXTREMELY highly anticipated follow-up has arrived in my mailbox, I get to tell the world about it. I will admit, I already listened to the whole album before I received the CD because I caught wind that the band was already streaming the entire album on Soundcloud. So I already knew what I was up against, I just wanted to confirm that what I heard was real and not just some sick prank. Turns out that the album the band streamed was in fact the actual album. The big question that EVERYONE had was “is this going to be another one of those bands that releases and undeniably amazing debut and then a bunch of shitty follow-ups?” Believe me, I had that same exact question. But after hearing some of the rough demos that Periphery released during the recording process of the new album, I decided that it wasn’t going to be too much of a risk to get my hopes up.

Even though I typically get advance copies from Sumerian Records for me to review, I had to wait till the release date to hear this one (probably because they already sent it out to enough reviewers). From the critics that DID get to hear the album before everyone else, I saw mixed views. First of all, every single one of the critics that reviewed this album were diehard fans of Periphery’s 2010 release. Here was the thing that people DIDN’T like about Periphery II: it sounds very similar to the first record…sort of like a “Periphery, Part 2” (which actually kind of makes sense because the title of this record is “Periphery II”). Because of that, the people that loved this album simply love it for almost all of the exact same reasons that they loved the first album…the only difference is that this one is heavier and has a different colored album cover.

I’m pretty sure that I’ve explained this before in one or more of my previous reviews, but this is a PERFECT time to go over this again. This is my rule when it comes to bands releasing several albums in a row that have the same exact sound: a band can release NO MORE THAN two records that sound the same. This is because the sound doesn’t get old (to me) until the third record in a row. If a band is under a lot of pressure and is having trouble progressing their sound, or if they REALLY want to make another album with the same sound, then I’m not going to hold anything against them for doing so. But here’s the thing, if the sound of the album is FUCKING AMAZING, then the maximum I’ll tolerate is THREE records. But I put down the line there. Periphery’s sound is undeniably incredible and mind-blowing. So I’ll give them the perfect score on this album because they pulled it off so perfectly with no fuck-ups. If they chose to keep the same sound for the third album, but still manage to make some slight changes to keep things interesting, then I’ll be happy with that too. So in Periphery’s case, after they release the third album, it’s time to make some major modifications to their sound to show variety in creativity and composition. Most other bands, I won’t allow any more than two albums with the same sound. And to be honest, most bands don’t make any more than two similar records!

So now that I’ve gotten that explanation out of the way, what changes and minor modifications have Periphery made in THIS album? Well, my first experience with this album was with the spine-chilling singing harmonizations at the beginning of the first track (which is more of an intro track due to its lack of structure). Also, Periphery has gotten a lot better at playing extremely heavy parts with melodic singing on top of it and making them blend together smoothly. Although they did this very well in their first record, I think that they’ve really improved with this album. Also, Spencer’s growls and screams sound A MILLION times better! I feel weird for saying this, but Spencer actually sounds like a legit extreme metal vocalist now! His singing quality hasn’t decreased a single bit. In fact, the quality of his singing has actually gone up a bit, although you can tell that he’s still straining his voice when hitting those SUPER high notes.

My favorite track on the record is Have a Blast, which is literally a fucking blast to listen to! Probably the last thing I was expecting from these guys was a hella-trippy violin riff that blended into the keyboard which ended up being the main lead line of the song. Although the song in its entirety sounds like Periphery, the lead line sounds like a really jacked-up Animals as Leaders. Speaking of Animals as Leaders, I know of the close relationship between them and Periphery; but I’m noticing much more of an AAL influence in this record. When I say that, I mean specifically the style of the guitar solos that sound really jazzy yet really fast and technical.

Overall, this album isn’t that much different than their first album. But Periphery has definitely expressed numerous improvements in both skill and technique. I would give this album a perfect score for literally blowing my mind as much as the first album. It looks like the first album WASN’T a fluke like I was worried about! All progressive metal fans should check this out.