Progressive Metalcore and “djent”. The very suggestion of these subgenres alone sends the old guard fleeing in disgust and sceneboys/girls crazy with delight. For the open minded casual listener, this area of music can be very much a hit-and-miss affair. For many it’s either too heavy, not heavy enough or fluctuates between the two far too rapidly.
This is the sophomore album from the Maryland USA sextet following on from their eponymous 2010 debut, so the band are still relatively young in terms of output although they have undergone several lineup changes.
The aforementioned genres have been part of the popular music lexicon for some time now, and that means one thing. Their death knells have been tolled. When a trend becomes a movement, with countless bands aping one another, the inevitable moribund decomposition has already set in. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, as the bands who are the cream of the musical crop and are at the pioneering forefront generally forge ahead unabated depending on lineup stability etc.
This Time It’s Personal took a few listens for this reviewer to come to any sort of meaningful conclusion, but pleasingly, Periphery have confirmed that they are among the leaders of the prog metal pack. The musicianship on this album is nothing short of astounding. Brutally heavy 8 string guitar “djent” parts are prominent along with rhythmic complexity that would put many a musical mathematician to shame. In contrast to this intensity are much softer melodic guitar lines and genuinely tasteful and impressive solos. As with many stylistically similar bands, vocalist Spencer Sotelo moves from almost death metal grunting and screaming to power pop clarity and effusiveness. The latter may not sit all that well with old school metallers, but it shows a degree of eclecticism and dynamism that is missing from a lot of modern metal records.
Present also are some partially electronic pieces that demonstrate that this band are not particularly afraid to experiment in any direction their creativity takes them. Some of the softer songs sail a little too close to the meek emo wind, but they don’t stay there for long and many of the more sensitive moments possess some great melodies that are stick-in-your-head catchy but before you know it, they are blown away by waves of polyrhythmic brutality anyway!
This is a brave release. Periphery have risked alienating pop fans by including bone-crunching heaviness and conversely have risked offending hardcore metalheads with their softer crooning moments. Many a band have tried this and failed dismally (Architects, I’m looking in your direction), but This Time It’s Personal is a resounding success.
The playing (in particular the drumming of Matt Halpern and guitars of Mark Holcomb and Jake Bowen) is mind alteringly precise and elaborate and it will impress even the most discerning prog fan or shredder. The production is crisp and clear, with some foundation shaking bottom end present in the heavier parts and some nice swirling ambience adding real depth to the more ambient sections.
Some of the more delicate moments are a little annoying in their heartfelt sogginess but these instances are few and far between and for the most part this album is challenging yet rewarding in its diversity and uncompromising musical vision.
Not content with this release, the band have already finished recording a follow up entitled “Juggernaut” which will be released shortly. Indeed the band stated at a recent gig in Knebworth that they have enough material to record three new albums! On the strength of this release, I find that to be most pleasing news indeed.