Sound — 10
Alright, let me put the record straight. This album is brilliant. Matt Halpern is a beast behind the kit. Spencer Sotelo has opened up even more as a vocalist and attempted more daring vocal styles on this effort. He produced his own vocals, so it comes out even more original-feeling than Periphery's debut album. This is a djent-lover's album, but it also applies to simple lovers of music. Every single track stands out in some way or another. Also, I have a new-found respect for Jake Bowen as a musician. He is credited with composing "Luck As a Constant" and performing the solo at the end. Oh man, what a sweet job he did. Misha might as well be a certified genius. This is some really quality music. As the name of the band implies, this band stretches the limit on what you might find out on the peripherals of your musical landscape. Sweet riffs defined by sweeps, bad a-s solos, melody, mastery of modern synth production, extremely high vocal range, death growls, a few straightforward rhythms, but for the most part, eloquently-performed rhythmic and tonal passages, there's really "a lot going on" on this album. And yet, its structure is simple, organized, and slick as butter thanks to smooth transitioning all through the album (it's supposedly one single concept divided into 14 parts, similar to Meshuggah's "Catch 33", which is one entire 47 minute duration of music subdivided into 13 tracks). There is even a recurring theme highlighted on the album, which is indicated on the back of the album cover by making the color of the names of "Muramasa", "Ragnarok", and "Masamune" lighter than the color of the other 11 tracks. You will hear this recurring theme in the lyrics and rhythms contained in those three tracks. No question this is a metal album. But as long as you like metal and appreciate good music, you should love what you hear from this album. These guys are playing their instruments, and they are playing them well for over an hour of entertainment. The thing is, with this album, Periphery has really begun to define their own little niche. It's as if Misha and his crew are beginning to walk away with this all. I know this album is recent, but already I anticipate Periphery's next release. I imagine they will mature as a group even more and deliver even more substantial music than you'll hear from this album. Their debut album was more or less the compilation of six+ years of effort finally realized as a major release. With this release, you can tell they are really getting their feel as a group. I have no complaints about the music. It's bad a-s, entertaining, and masterfully produced and executed. Well done, Periphery.
Lyrics — 9
Lyrics are more honest. They are thought-provoking ideas. I'd say the lyrics fit the music. It's raw expression of some creative minds, and they're bringing it to the table. Spencer Sotelo sounds greater than ever and fits this band well. In the scheme of all vocalists, he isn't bringing much bottom end; he's a high-pitched guy, and that's just it. This, in my opinion, leaves something to be desired if you're being constantly bombarded by notes you'll never be able to hit convincingly. Music is nice when it's easy to get involved. But it's a small complaint. Since Spencer has improved, he is much more enticing to listen to and appreciate. He's "found himself" more. His growls have acquired some real brutality, in contrast with the thin rasp we found on the first album, probably displayed best on "The Walk". As far as melody, Spencer is an incredible vocalist. What he does, he does well. Although at times, it seems like he has this young feel to him, as if he is still fresh to the feel of the band and exposing your heart and soul through the vocals, he's maturing, so it'll come. For now, he's on the right track: I give him an "A" on this effort.
Overall Impression — 10
It's a great album. It brings a wide range of djent, progressive ideas to the table. It has smooth production and amazing instrumental passages. I'd say the best tracks were "Luck As a Constant", "Ragnarok", and "Erised", the latter of which features Dream Theater's own John Petrucci, a self-proclaimed guitar idol for Misha. "Luck As a Constant" simply has some banging-a-s rhythms and a beast-ass solo by Jake Bowen. "Ragnarok" has some seriously beast-ass polyrhythms and a turn that drops the song to a whole new level. It's a seriously bad-ass song which backs its naming up well. If you haven't noticed, Misha has paid homage to the classic SNES RPG Chrono Trigger, one of THE greatest games ever conceived by mankind, by making the title of two songs named "Epoch" (an instrumental track) and "Masamune". Epoch was the name of the time-traveling aircraft you received later in the game, and Masamune was the title of a blade, composed of two entities, appropriately named "Masa" and "Mune". When I think of the word "ragnarok", I instantly think of epic dragons and lightning, mostly courteous of exposure to Japanese animes like Yu-Gi-Oh! Well Misha brings some bad ass music to back up such a title. "Ji" is a track featuring more Major-keyed melodies and either 8-string riffing or really detuned 7-stringers. It's another one of my favorites. The first real opening track, "Have a Blast", is another great piece that sets the tone of the album well. "Scarlet" and "Make Total Destroy" are the two songs released as singles before the album dropped. "Scarlet" comes across as a song you'd have as a radio single if you're going to have one, but it still has Periphery's unique style peppering it nicely. If I'm going to critique this album, then I must mention where I think there needs to be improvement. Firstly, I appreciate the wealth of music to be found on this compact disc I have purchased. And admittedly, Periphery makes it damn hard for any part of the album to recede away from memory any faster than any other part. Each song is so original. But there comes a point in the balance when what you are hearing overall is more of the same. A lot of this music is face-melting progressions of rhythm melody. Within the context, its all gravy. But as an entire idea, I might prefer a later release to be more "refined", let's say. I don't want the album to feel like a mash-up of every cool riff you came up with (although all the riffs are pretty bad-a-s to be blunt). And although I really love all the music on the album and am hooked on most of it, it's true to say that at some point, it's just too much damn music. If you're Periphery, and you find a way to present yourself in 40 to 45 minutes, you're doing well for a progressive band. But the Periphery we have now, no matter how brilliant, gives us 70 minute debuts and near-70 minute follow-ups. Misha, your music is amazing, and I really love all of it. But if you'll find a way to condense it to a tighter, more pure, harder-hitting package, you'll ascend even higher, comrade! Other than this, it's hard to find fault here. This was some of the best money I've ever spent. Periphery really stepped it up here, and this is simply an album worth having. Mark my words: this band isn't done. By a long shot. What is coming in the future is worth anticipating. Enjoy this band now, and keep them on your radar for the future.