The legendary traditions of progressive rock are not without critics. Detractors say the otherwise celebrated style lacks spirit. It lacks emotion. But PERIPHERY smashed this misperception to bits across two full-length albums and a handful of nonconventional releases. The band’s mind-bending instrumentation and diverse vocalizations are delivered with vibrant urgency and inescapable hooks that act as an inviting tip to the sonic iceberg lurking beneath. PERIPHERY’s appropriately titled third full-length collection, Juggernaut, lays waste to all expectations within and without the genre.
The meticulously crafted, conceptually driven masterpiece is the end result of focus, determination and unrelenting ambition from the creatively obsessive and boundlessly skilled heavy music alchemists. Artists as diverse as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Green Day, The Who and similarly minded Periphery forefathers like Rush, Genesis and Voivod have tackled the concept album before, with earthmoving and genre-shifting results. Juggernaut is no different, taking the building blocks laid down by math-metal merchants Meshuggah, obtuse riff-wielding shamans Tool, atmospheric visionaries Deftones and the boundless craftsmanship of Dream Theater (whose John Petrucci contributed to 2012’s Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal) to craft something engagingly familiar yet altogether unique, forward-thinking and inspired for a new generation fans.
Periphery’s Juggernaut was a long time in the making, with demos and conceptual ideas gestating long before the bulk of the work began. Perhaps Periphery’s first truly collaborative release, Juggernaut saw all six members of the band work collectively toward a single-minded goal: to fully expand their sound and faithfully render the story.
“This is new ground and it’s exciting,” band founder and guitarist Misha Mansoor says of the decision to embark on such an ambitious undertaking. “It's a way to shake things up. Everyone was allowed to contribute to everything, even if it wasn't his instrument. It wasn’t about confrontation. Everyone was focused on creating a really cool album.”
“That’s not to say it was smooth sailing the whole time,” offers longtime vocalist Spencer Sotelo. “But I think the problems we did face brought us closer and made us better at working together. In the end we ended up with something really, really cool. I can speak for everyone when I say Juggernaut is a huge accomplishment for all of us.”
The conceptual nature of the album lends itself to new soundscapes and an overall more adventurous feeling, broadening the dynamic range of the music as dictated by the emotional highs and lows of the story Juggernaut tells. The band brings together all of their experience in Periphery, as well as with outside endeavors (members have contributed to Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto, for example) into their third full-length.
The album concept is one full of darkness with a narrative story the band prefers listeners explore independently. Like Angels & Airwaves or Nine Inch Nails, the Juggernaut story has potential to expand to other mediums – comics, toys; even video games, which will be no surprise to longtime listeners. Periphery’s sound is as indebted to maestros like Final Fantasy game composer Nobuo Uematsu as it is Meshuggah or Tool. The guys delve deeply into the obscure nicks and crannies of likeminded artistry wherever they find it, whether that’s in Chicago’s defunct electronic trailblazers Telefon Tel Aviv, or in the work of fusion guitarists like Allan Holdsworth and Guthrie Govan.
Mansoor’s justifiably acclaimed performances, onstage and in the studio, serve as unassailable testaments as to why Guitar World put him on their cover and why players across the globe track his every move. Fellow spider-fingered shredder and longtime Periphery mainstay Jake Bowen is the nephew of Petrucci, who publicly credits modern metal/prog masterminds like Between The Buried And Me, Animals As Leaders and Periphery with invigorating Dream Theater, thus bringing the modern genre full-circle.
Modern Drummer cover star Matt Halpern appears on all of Periphery’s official releases, which include their 2010 self-titled debut, the two follow-up albums plus the Icarus and Clear EP collections. The Maryland based band’s Iron Maiden-like three-guitar approach, completed by Mark Holcomb (who joined after the first album), offers further layers upon layers for listeners to delve into. Touring guitarist-turned-bassist Adam Getgood made his official recorded debut on the second album (he contributed a solo to the first), lending a thrilling but tasteful bottom end to Periphery compositions. Holcomb’s brother, Jeff, has stood-in for Getgood continues to contribute film, visuals and more.
A handful of vocalists participated in the band’s early days before Sotelo put a definitive stamp to the frontman position in the late stages of the first album’s recording. His guttural growl and high-soaring melodic side are almost completely without parallel among singers who employ the style, drawing from the naked emotion of Trent Reznor, the diverse experimentation of Mike Patton and the croon of Brandon Boyd (Incubus).
Periphery II: This Time Its Personal was hailed as The Best Metal Album of 2012 in the MetalSucks year-end reader’s poll and Juggernaut is sure to be even better received. Like multitalented musician/producer Devin Townsend or critically adored rockers Dear Hunter, Periphery is accumulating a body of work full of different colors and shades. While they enjoy making a living from music and want as many people as possible to have a chance to connect with their creative output, they work in opposition to the idea that music should be created only as a byproduct of completely careerist objectives.
“By doing a record like this, in attitude even more than in music, we want to encourage people to do what feels right to them, to truly express yourself rather than compromising what you want,” says Mansoor. “We are very involved with the business side, but the music is the one thing that is always sacred, no matter what. It has to be self-expression, which is important to all of us. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t be putting out an eighty minute concept album. We write the music we think is cool and enjoy creating.”
The end result is a record that will sound at once familiar to the band’s fans and yet invitingly new. Mansoor says the process led them into new territory, but all through their established lens. Like the rest of his band, the thoughtful Sotelo is enthusiastic about the Periphery audience’s willingness to come along for the creative ride.
“There’s a signature heavy-groove throughout all of our records, including the newest one,” the singer observes. “But we always introduce new elements, the type of thing where people hear it and go, ‘Wow, this is definitely Periphery, but with a new twist.’”
The guys in Periphery similarly enjoy bringing that music to the masses. The band has built a burgeoning fanbase through hard touring, teaming up with the likes of Deftones, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Dream Theater, Fear Factory and Between The Buried And Me, going out as part of the Summer Slaughter Tour and on their own headlining treks. The collaborations, the albums, visual content, touring – it’s all a journey where the trip itself is just as exciting as the destination, wherever Periphery’s trek should lead.