Sound — 8
This Maryland based sextext are currently doing the rounds being (in my opinion) the new face of modern progressive metal. And it is really not hard to see why. The sound this band is able to put across is pretty huge, with outrageous instrumental ability across the board, weird and wacky guitar tunings, fantastic but not overbearing use of electronic sounds and some utterly fantastic production from founding member/guitar player Misha Mansoor. This album also signifies massive changes for the band in terms of multiple changes in line-up, changing bassist and guitar player in the process so to see a band settle in this quickly is a fantastic sign.
Lyrics — 8
Lyrics were something that Periphery had not struggled with writing songs that always had a great meaning to them and took the art of saying something without saying it directly and ran with it. This skill is largely continued on this album now that the current vocalist Spencer Sotelo is writing them unlike on the previous record where it was the rest of the band and their previous vocalist Chris Barretto. Some of the best lyrics come from the album's desperately emotional penultimate track 'Mile Zero' which is a song sung about Spencer's friend Shawn Bennet who passed away during the writing of this album. On the band's first album Spencer Sotelo was probably the weakest part of the band as a whole. However on this album he has come across as a completely different beast. Previously his voice did not sound especially unique and was perhaps on memorable for having quite a large pitch rage but on this album all elements are a massive improvement. Everything from the power and diversity of his harsher vocals to the identity and memorability of his cleans and even his tone range has come on so much he can now comfortably match the immense talent of the rest of his band mates.
Overall Impression — 9
1. "Muramasa" - This serves as an intro track in a way because it is quite short and not a technically minded as the other tracks of the album. What is does have a lovely full sounding chord sequence, some nice guitar harmonies and a lovely opening clean vocal. A very good way to set up the rest of the album. This track is also the first part of a trilogy of songs within the album. 2. "Have A Blast" - The slightly mental intro uses synthesizers allied to a live violin sets up a very technical opening riff which staggeringly continues over the vocals. However the 'chorus' type section (if you can call it that) is extremely calm though, using more ambient guitar tones, straighter rhythms and a genuinely catchy vocal melody which gives the song a fantastic use of contrast. A wonderful way to explode the album into life. As an extra note this song features a big guitar solo from former Asia guitarist Guthrie Govan. 3. "Faceplam Mute" - An immediate guitar intro shows that this song is definitely not here to mess around. This is the first song where an actual chorus to speak of arrives. It's a big one being lead by that "We Are One" refrain. What impresses most here however is the use of synthesizers after the main body of the song is finished. Such a relaxing and drastic contrast to the rest of the song it shows a sign of real musical diversity. 4. "Ji" - An 8 string guitar is perhaps the most defining feature of this song. The sound of the extra low strings on the guitars gives the song extra meat. However that's not all that there is to this song. This song I surprisingly upbeat. The use of a lot of major key phrases is something that is not often used in very, very heavy music so it is a nice tonal change. 5. "Scarlet" - A song with perhaps the most subtle yet technical guitar lines on the album. Using the seemingly simple E minor to C major chord sequence in the verse it can come across as very simple but the high end lines are always moving and for the first time the bass is the sole instrument holding things together for large chunks of the song. The best part of the song for me is the intense, overlapped harsh vocals in the second verse. Sotelo does a brilliant job of convincing us that there is more than one person in the vocal booth with him, or at least that's the impression I was getting. 6. "Luck As A Constant" - It starts off as if it's going to go into a ballad type song but then explodes into a heavy, disjointed, aggressive yet mainly major key number. This song has the most overt use of different time signatures within sections songs on the album to date which at this point makes it the most purely progressive. Also high credit should be given to Misha Mansoor for an excellent guitar solo 7. "Ragnarok" - The sort of jazzy drum fill in the opening seconds of the song is very misleading as it once again explodes into a disjointed, rhythmically, off set guitar and harsh vocals. This song is perhaps a good time to highlight one of the strange guitar tunings that Periphery use. From top low to high the strings go F#-D#-G#-C#-F#-A#-D# which comes in very handy for massive clean vocal section in the middle of the song using the low F# to ground the key. This section also see's a huge high F# note from the vocalist that just exudes power and confidence. It's an absolute musical powerhouse and the best song on the album in my opinion. This is the second part of the trilogy that was started with the opening track. 8. "The Gods Must Be Crazy" - It almost seems that this song waits before starting, allowing the mellow electronic outro of the previous track to fully peter out before snapping us back into the album this this track contemplating the state of religion. There is something of mid 2000's Killswitch Engage about how this song is put together but even then the band and the vocalist are able to turn that around make it sound more unique to themselves in a very convincing way. 9. "Make Total Destroy" - Using the lower G# tuned 7 strings and slap bass techniques on both bass and guitars and well as taping this song in a sense is a bit of snap shot of what the whole album before and after is about. Little wonder I suppose it was chosen as the first of two singles released from the album to date. It's also probably the angriest song on the album to date in terms of lyrics. 10. "Erised" - The lyrics of this son and the previous one seem to be linked in topic: The failures of the world e live in and the people that inhabit it. However the two songs could not be more different. This song is more of a ballad with ambient high guitar lines going almost throughout the song and a lack of harsher vocals anywhere in the song. For the first I can note an especially good performance by the band's bassist Adam "Nolly" Getgood. There are really two huge standout moments in this song. The first is the brilliant drum solo by one of the best drummers around at the moment in Matt Halpern which followed directly by a guitar solo by (in my opinion) the best guitarist ever to step foot in a recording studio John Petrucci of Dream Theater, and it is a peach of a solo from harmonized section towards the end to the "Erotomania" style ending it is just so well put together. 11. "Epoch" - This little dance interlude is quite a strange track. It uses many cliches prevalent in modern dance music but in no way does it sound unoriginal or bland in anyway. It's also very calm and in a way very melancholy because it capitalizes on the calmer nature of Erised to leave the listener so mellow it's like they are somehow out of reality. 12. "Froggin Bullfish" - I think we know what the song title is actually trying to say. This song brings us back to reality with a violent yet very satisfying bump, reminding us that we are listening to a Metal record rather than easy listening dance. And it does with slices of the familiar with big disjointed riffs and power house vocal lines that the band are now becoming much better known for. However the acoustic guitar that comes in as the outro is not only a sudden change for song but it is very different from what the rest of the album has done because it has steered away from electronic interludes that listeners will have come accustomed to. 13. "Mile Zero" - As I have already mentioned above this song, entirely due to the Spencer Sotelo's lyrics and vocal performance is desperately emotional. It shows how the band did not go all out in terms of instrumental madness. This shows a maturity that quite a few bands that write metal these days seem to miss. Also top marks to guest guitarist Wes Hauch for nailing the emotion of the song perfectly in his guitar solo. 14. "Masamune" - This is the song that ends not only the album but the trilogy of songs that went on within the course of the album. This song is characterized in the same way Muramasa and Ragnarok are: Spectacularly heavy guitar lines, more use of straight rhythms, strangely tuned guitars and very very strong clean vocals. It brings every element of the bands music, mixes it up in a ball and throws it at the listener the same way they have for the rest of the album and adds an outro that is as dissonant and noisy as Muramasa was clean and melodic. Quite frankly a spectacularly terrifying way to this wonderful album. Overall I must say, even as a fan of the bands first album, this is not only an improvement it is on a different planet. From the massive instrumental prowess that is forever managing to make me gasp in astonishment in all departments, to the song writing craft that is somehow even more prevalent and amazing to the fact this is only the bands second album makes me think we could have a band that could take over in the circles of progressive metal and rule in same way Dream Theater have done for so many years.