Artist – Periphery
Album – “Clear”
Genre – Djent
Label – Sumerian Records
Score – 8/10
Periphery are a Maryland-based sextet that take a lot of influence from Meshuggah in their djent-styled blend of metal. They are one of the pioneers of the current djent movement and incorporate many strange time signatures and syncopated riffs, both of those factors leading the main groove of their sound.
You can pre order the release here – http://www.merchconnectioninc.com/collections/periphery
Periphery are back with an interesting concept, one which they have called an “experimental” release, Clear. Clear is the first collection of songs to be released since their 2012 sophomore record, Periphery II. What I mean by “collection of songs” is that Clear isn’t necessarily an LP, nor is it an EP. Clear is a seven track “experiment”, in which every song (aside from the introductory track, ‘Overture’) is written by a single member of the band. This obviously gave enough room for each member to let their creativity flow, and expand upon Periphery’s sound in their own way. While this idea seems innovative and fresh, Clear doesn’t exactly expand on Periphery’s sound in that expected way. What Clear brings, is six standard Periphery tracks and the aforementioned introduction. That isn’t to say that this is an experiment gone wrong, by any means, for on the contrary these are indeed solid tracks that are worth looking into.
The album begins with ‘Overture’, an interesting introduction dominated by a dichotomy of bright and harsh piano chords. For about thirty seconds or so, the instruments kick in and give the track a subtly eerie feel, whilst maintaining a fresh atmosphere before reverting back to the chords and sinking slowly into some lush piano melodies. Once again the instruments dive in and give this track a distinct personality by showcasing that just the ominous tone can change the way you feel in a matter of seconds. This definitely builds momentum as it leads into the next track, written by guitarist Jake Bowen.
This track, titled ‘The Summer Jam’ is very oddly placed, due to the fact that it has a very different mood than the introduction track preceding it. This track contains some very bouncy syncopated riffs, with excellent drums backing it up. Vocalist Spencer Sotelo brightens up this track with his melodies on the chorus, and helps to liven up the mood. The track can best be described as, well, fun! It’s not an incredibly heavy track, as it stays pretty bright and upbeat, even as it interchanges between the bouncy chorus and the interesting syncopated guitar passages. This song closes off with a brief but nice clean delayed guitar patch.
Next up is drummer/percussionist Matt Halpern’s turn with his track ‘Feed the Ground’. This track has a harsher tone than the song before, though still emphasizes some interesting technical riffs and drum patterns. What this track has that sets it apart is not only some very hypnotic leads that are in the background of the groovy and abrasive guitars in the forefront, but also at times it allows some of the instruments to take a bit of a back-seat and give the listener a nice duality of the drums and bass as they shred through certain parts of the verses. Also, there is an excellent post-chorus riff that is incredibly heavy and groovy. Unfortunately, this track has a rather uninteresting chorus in which Spencer sounds rather lifeless, as if he himself is bored with singing it, even through the few growls he throws in. The biggest problem with this is that the chorus is practically half of the song. At least the following riff, again, allows for some reprieve.
Guitarist Misha Mansoor takes the spotlight next with a full-on djent-styled instrumental track called ‘Zero’. This is a track that really separates itself from the rest of the album by introducing interesting passage, after interesting passage, after interesting passage. Loaded with crushing, devastating syncopated passages, furious start/stop riffs, and beautiful melodies that will make the listener wonder where they might soar to next, Misha really does unleash his song-writing capabilities in the most pleasant way possible, because this track demonstrates more progression and interesting moments than any other track on this experiment.
Following ‘Zero’ is vocalist Spencer Sotelo’s five minutes to shine with ‘The Parade of Ashes’. This song brings some electronic patterns into the equation, looping them over a standard drum pattern and a simple riff. This song follows a pretty repetitive formula until it breaks into a nice groove that doesn’t necessarily go anywhere, an issue present in several moments in this track. The best example of this is a very boring solo that ends just as it gets interesting. While the track is good, it is quite overshadowed by not only the track preceding it, but also the track succeeding it. It appears that Spencer has some great ideas as far as his song-writing goes, but overall the execution fails as the instruments sound like they are doing as little as possible.
Bassist Nolly Getgood turns the tables with a rather interesting instrumental track titled ‘Extraneous’. This track is great and indeed very fun, although there isn’t a whole lot to be said about it that hasn’t been said previously. Great technical riffing/drumming, great passages, great grooves, etc.
Now we are in the final stretch of the experiment, with guitarist Mark Holcomb’s ‘Pale Aura’ and man, oh man, this track absolutely shreds. This is easily the most unique track on the album, and feels like a breath of fresh air. All of the instruments meld together perfectly in this one, and soaring over the peaceful yet chaotic nature of the instrumentation is Spencer’s voice, which sounds fully involved this time around. This track provides some excellent leads, beautiful choruses, and intense drum patterns that don’t let up. A brief yet soothing solo shines through in the middle of the track, and is immediately followed by a spacey clean passage that leads into Spencer belting out some great melodies once again, and then ends off the experiment with a sweet, clean passage. The closer to this experiment is by far its highlight.