Sound — 9
Periphery began as a solo recording project by multi-instrumentalist, Misha Mansoor, who initially shared his music online on sevenstring.org and other forums. This eventually led to a good deal of success, and resulted in Misha recruiting a full band to back him. While the lineup was initially very shaky, it has stayed fairly stable since the band's first release in 2010. Since that time only Mark Holcomb and Nolly Getgood have been added. Misha Mansoor is, of course, the only remaining founding member. "Juggernaut: Alpha" is the first half of their third album, which will be a double album. The second half, "Juggernaut: Omega," will still be released at the end of the month. There are 10 tracks included on the album with a runtime of approximately 41 minutes. While there haven't been any singles released ahead of time for the album, the band has played a few of the songs live.
The album opens with the track "A Black Minute," which takes its time building up a particular type of vibe and the vocals never get very heavy on this song. The guitar part isn't overly complicated on this one, either, and not particularly "djent," but it was a very enjoyable track. "MK Ultra" has a lot of little atonal, chaotic guitar fills (like what I tend to connect specifically to iwrestledabearonce in my mind). There is a lot of vocal diversity and intensity in "MK Ultra," and then the song ends with some kind of easy listening jazz/elevator music outro. "Heavy Heart" has one of the more traditional types of heavy openings, with some arpeggios accompanying the verses and a few of my favorite solos from the album - it is almost bluesy. "The Event" is a very short track at under 2 minutes, and is mostly a repetitive tremolo picked guitar part and a slow drum and bass part, but there is a very epic feel to it that gets under my skin (I'm just not sure if it is in a good or a bad way. "The Scourge" seems to get heavier as the song moves forward, until it is quite heavy, then has a quiet section that slowly builds back up in intensity. The title track, "Alpha," reminded me a little bit of Owl City in the very beginning of the intro, but Periphery got around to it pretty quick and switched gears back to some solid heavy music. There were a few times on this track where the vocals sounded a little too polished, but mostly I stayed impressed. "22 Faces" has an almost punk feeling to it, but it is something in the feeling alone - in sound it is very much "djent" and one of my favorite progressive metal songs from the album. "Rainbow Gravity" has a down-tuned -core thing going on for the verses with clean choruses. It is definitely a listenable track, but I'm glad the entire album isn't like this or I could get tired of it really quick. "Four Lights" has a lot of groove and heaviness to it, and is completely instrumental - it is a fun track (it has a passage almost like carnival music going on). The album closes out with the track "Psychosphere," which is a really epic type of track with a lot going on. I can't wait to hear "Juggernaut: Omega."
Lyrics — 8
Spencer Sotelo currently provides vocals for Periphery, and I have to say I prefer him to their previous vocalists - he has a good clean singing voice as well as a strong screaming voice. Mark Holcomb provides backing vocals as well as his rhythm guitar duties, and it is used sparingly and to great effect. Spencer's clean vocals are a little bit generic, but his screamed vocals have a lot of character. I definitely can find a lot to appreciate with the vocals on "Juggernaut: Alpha." The only gripe I have is the way the vocal processing is handled, like on the track "Heavy Heart" they briefly use an almost stutter effect momentarily, which I most strongly associate with modern pop music.
As a sample of the lyrics from the album, here are some lyrics from the song, "The Scourge": "As I sit with eyes heavy omens clear/ Face down in seclusion the evil steer/ what drives the stake within my heart/ this man he fell apart/ now that the entrance is open wide/ this black all around makes its way inside/ what have you done? Will hate abide? / where is my death invitation? Elation? / Dead glimpse lurking beneath this prison, I/ I give my life for a taste of, taste of/ what lies beyond the dead place now/ fire burns rising beneath these sins in time/ I leave my life for the void." Initially I thought the lyrics were very depressive, but the more I listened I think they are meant to be more existential. They fit well with the music and atmosphere.
Overall Impression — 8
I've been listening to the album since it started streaming a few days ago - I've listened to it sitting back in my den, and I've listened to it laying down to go to sleep and listened to it while driving around town. I feel like this is an extremely versatile album - especially for the genre. This is something that Periphery has always been good at - creating a myriad collection of sounds and vibes on their albums. There are definitely some moments where the playing and musicianship blew me away, but more importantly, the album was consistently "musical" and the songs were well-crafted. I don't know if I have a favorite track, but if I had to name a song, then I would go with "MK Ultra" because I like the versatility of the vocals on the track, and also the guitar fills. I was also very fond of "22 Faces" for the overall feeling of the track. I'm looking forward to the next half of this double album.