Sound — 8
Might as well start off with this: I'd never heard a note of Periphery before I bought this album yesterday. I knew that they were billed as leaders in the "djent" movement, and that their first album blew the f--k up. Oh yeah, and apparently people hate the vocalist, Spencer Sotelo. Other than that, I'm going on just this album for a referendum on the sound of Periphery. Basically, they're a progressive metal band, with elements of groove metal, post-hardcore, and electronica. I refuse to call them "djent" mainly because I think the word is f--king stupid and sounds like something a fifth grader would say. I prefer to call Periphery "clusterf--k" metal, as in there's so much going on in each song, it sometimes comes across as one big clusterf--k. I've heard Periphery compared to Protest The Hero, albeit heavier, and I think that's accurate. Both bands use multiple tempo shifts, multiple riff patterns, and singers with dramatic vocal styles. A lot of the songs are very metallic in tone, and yes, they do sometimes sound like a Meshuggah ripoff. However, they do incorporate atmosphere into several songs, be it the strings on "Have A Blast", or the blips on "Muramasa" and "Epoch". Periphery's mastermind, guitarist/producer Misha "Bulb" Mansoor used to produce solo music under the name "Bulb", and he has brought the sometimes more electronic elements of Bulb into Periphery. These guys can write decent riffs, and their drummer is pretty talented. Of course, the bass is almost entirely inaudible. Basically, prog-metal with post-hardcore and electronic elements. By the way, guitar greats Guthrie Govan and John Petrucci contribute guest solos to "Periphery II", as does The Faceless guitarist Wes Hauch.
Lyrics — 8
A lot of the hate directed at Periphery seems to center around vocalist Spencer "Spence" Sotelo. People either complain about his clean vocals, or say that his harsh vocals are too thin. For the record, I like his harsh vocals. Unlike most singers in bands with post-hardcore/metalcore influences, he roars instead of screaming mindlessly, and that makes the lyrics more decipherable. His cleans do get annoying at times, but dude does have range. With most prog-influenced bands, you would expect fantasy-based or sci-fi lyrics, but with Periphery, you get more realism lyrics. The lyrics on "Periphery II" seem to often revolve around politics or religion, although the song "Mile Zero" is about the death of a loved one. The songs "Muramasa", "Ragnarok", and "Masamune" are named after swords in the "Final Fantasy" gaming series, but there seems to be no clear sci-fi or fantasy lyrics here.
Overall Impression — 8
Overall, this record is decent. The riffs are sometimes genius, other times derivative of Meshuggah. The vocals soar to the heavens or crash to the depths of hell depending on the intensity of the song. The drums are decent, but the bass is barely there. The electronic elements add to some songs, while subtract from others. "Periphery II" is a decent record.