I had never disliked a Periphery song prior to hearing the latest album, but their sound never completely grabbed me. I knew they were talented, but what I had heard didn’t compel me to dive headfirst into their discography- a common occurrence in the fast sea of music that’s out there. I’m asked to review a lot of music, and it’s very easy for something to fall through the cracks.
Despite all of the labels that float around out there (metalcore, tech, djent, etc.), Periphery has stated that they’ve always thought of themselves as a progressive metal band. That label can be somewhat confining, as it may summon preconceived notions of style choices for the uninitiated listener, but in their case, it’s more of the opposite; it’s a mindset or an approach to writing that involves risks and ignores adherence to genre conventions (much to the chagrin of management and promotion).
In the aforementioned interview, lead singer Spencer Sotelo said that his manager showed some doubt for Periphery to open with “Reptile”, a 16 minute prog metal epic. However, the risk paid off, and I’ll put it simply: “Reptile” has quickly become one of my favorite progressive metal epics, ever. Between Sotelo’s alternatively brutal and soaring vocals, a pummeling from the rhythm section, choirs and strings arranged by longtime collaborator Randy Slaugh, blast beats, and chunky-as-hell guitars, this song is what Wesley Willis would call a “war hell ride”. Spencer’s scream at 4 minutes, backed by blast beats and a choir, transports me instantly to Metal Valhalla, and I still get chills every time I hear it.
“Blood Eagle”, the second track and the lead single, has them channeling their inner Meshuggah, and they do it really, really well. When I turn this song on in my car, I worry about all of the glass shattering. “CHVRCH BVRNER” doesn’t give us much of a break either, which I’m perfectly fine with. Those three songs are uncompromisingly heavy and intense, and also impressive examples of songwriting and musicianship. Periphery’s former bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood can be thanked, in part, for the stellar sound design and production on this album.
The rest of the album is a stylistic grab bag, with poppier songs like “Its Only Smiles” placed back to back with bruisers like “Follow Your Ghost”. Certain songs that are more pop-oriented were what I had associated with Periphery in the past, and while I had enjoyed that, I (as a prog guy/metalhead) have found myself gravitating towards the heavier, proggier songs on the album in recent listens. However, the diversity makes the full artistic statement of the album more well rounded, and probably does well to not completely alienate fans that like their more palatable sound. Also, if every song was as heavy as “Blood Eagle”, we’d probably all end up with our faces melted like the ark opening scene in Indiana Jones.
Though it may not have been completely deliberate on their part, this album feels like Periphery is fully spreading their wings and embracing the progressive spirit. As it stands, Periphery IV:Hail Stan will very likely be one of my top albums for 2019. It’s also prompted me to do a more thorough investigation of their discography, which has paid off.
If you’re a fan of progressive metal and haven’t given it a listen, it comes highly recommended from Proglodytes.
Periphery’s latest album, Periphery IV:Hail Stan was released on April 5, 2019 through 3Dot Recordings. Buy it here on their online store. Also, Periphery is about to embark on a North American headlining tour with Veil of Maya and Covet. Check them out!