Periphery III: Select Difficulty review by Periphery

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  • Released: Jul 22, 2016
  • Sound: 9
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 8.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (85 votes)
Periphery: Periphery III: Select Difficulty

Sound — 9
The first five years of their career may have been a slow-plodding journey from their formation to their eventual 2010 debut self-titled album, but Periphery would put themselves in recording overdrive in the next five years. With their follow-up album, 2012's "Periphery II: This Time It's Personal," gaining extra buzz with guest performances from tenured guitarists like John Petrucci and Guthrie Govan, Periphery would finally take the next step as a progressive-minded metal band by making their next albums a two-part concept in its composition and lyrical matter, releasing both "Juggernaut: Alpha" and "Juggernaut: Omega" in 2015 to well acclaim.

While the composition of their fifth album, "Periphery III: Select Difficulty," abstains from the conceptual songwriting of the previous "Juggernaut" albums, Periphery move forward a lot in terms of their sonic repertoire. Still maintaining their deft prog metal performance in nearly every song (especially in the techy riffs of "Habitual Line-Stepper," "Flatline" and "Prayer Position"), Periphery offer a wider array of sections to contrast those heady foundations. The post-rock interlude at the end of "Marigold" is a clear callback to "Periphery II," and a hint of jazz influence in "Lune" echoes that similarly used in the "Juggernaut" series, but the main genre infusion used in "Periphery III" is a symphonic one, where string sections lay the melodic groundwork for the frenetic "Marigold," bolster the anthemic "Lune," and close out "Absolomb" with a high-brow orchestral epilogue.

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But to look at the grandiose mashing of prog metal and symphonic sections as the only example of contrast in "Periphery III" would be to overlook so many other great examples, all showing how the album oscillates properly between an angry, aggressive side and a melodically rich side. The grungy bass djents throbbing in the center of "Absolomb" juxtapose nicely with the delicate guitars on the edges, the primarily positive disposition of "Remain Indoors" hits a substantial wave of turbulence with a bridge of tense string sections, and the aggressive blastbeat drumming intensifies the triumphant vocals and guitars in the soaring choruses of "The Way the News Goes..." Even on a more compartmentalized level, Periphery dish out straight-up heavy tracks (heard in the opening stretch of "The Price Is Wrong" and "Motormouth") as well as they do straight-up righteous tracks (heard in the harmonious "Catch Fire"). And lest it be overlooked among everything previously mentioned, Periphery make a couple nods to their nu-metal influences, with Spencer Sotelo's snarly singspeak/rap vocals in "Motormouth" pay homage to Corey Taylor, and the triplet riffing in "Prayer Position" rings similar to Deftones.

Lyrics — 7
As opposed to the linear concept constructed in the lyrics of the "Juggernaut" albums, Sotelo's lyrics in "Periphery III" revert back to a mixed offering of topics revolving around set themes and emotions. Heading back to his inspirational well of social commentary, Sotelo goes from railing against the ignorant hoi polloi ("And thank God I'm not alive to see the slack-jawed generation spread it's fucking seed" in "The Price Is Wrong"), materialism ("Tell me, mannequin, what brings you to move? / Is it all of the colors in the magazine?... Paint your face now pose and filter the mood" in "Motormouth"), and authoritarian leaders ("We walked the line / Living in a state of mind controlled by a tyrant" in "Habitual Line-Stepper"), to agonizing over one's nihility in response to a world so bleak, heard in the existential turmoil of "Marigold" ("I'm just another one wandering aimlessly on to the grave"), the suicidal thoughts of "Flatline" ("The lack of motivation keeps the soul from bettering / It's no life / Now reach the next level with a bottle and a blade"), and the lust for escape through substances in "Prayer Position" ("Scratch the itch and murder the body for pleasure / Sparking it up / Breathing the fire that we crave / Guzzle it down").

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Sotelo does a good job bringing this tandem worldview of rage and despair to the table - paradoxically refusing to be fooled by the matrix of a tinselly society, yet being powerless to change it or transcend it - but the way he articulates those thoughts is encumbering. Perhaps runoff from the characteristically aggressive narration in "Juggernaut," Sotelo seethes with an abundance of violent symbolism - whether "Every word is like a shotgun shell so burn inside my hell" in "The Price Is Wrong," "It sure is something when we all catch fire / Bodies burning like the sunrise" in "Catch Fire," or "Another day pulls me down to my knees and / Holds the gun to my fucking head" in "Prayer Position" - that ends up being literal overkill when coloring the emotions he wants to portray, coming off more brutish than necessary.

Overall Impression — 9
With the previous "Juggernaut" albums acting as a learning experience for Periphery to compose music with more gears and moods, they take that experience and apply it to an even stronger degree in "Periphery III." Periphery's heightened sense of contrast in their songwriting provides even more intrigue to the album as a whole, and with a wider set of extra sounds and tricks applied to the backbone of their stellar prog metal performances, "Periphery III" shows improvement in nearly all categories.

53 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I really like this one and I also like that they keep doing different stuff with each release while maintaining their core sound. Can't wait to hear what they're up to on their next release. I would really suggest anyone that likes the band to check out their documentary 'Remain Indoors' you can find it on youtube for free. It's really interesting.
    I just saw them two nights ago, they played a good amount of material from this release. I've been a fan since P1 but as you said, I love that they keep branching out and trying new things. Definitely enjoyed the documentary, especially the album naming proces.
    To me, Alpha/Omega were a little overproduced, like the songs were over thought and a bit cluttered; this album definitely feels a lot more raw, which I think is a step in the right direction. I still can't get used to Spencer's vocals, too melodramatic for me, but I can appreciate the steps towards better songwriting these guys are taking. Not my cup of tea, but I can't deny improvement when I see it.
    I feel the same way about Spencer at times. Hopefully this album makes me at least enjoy him more because I notice the improvement as well.
    I remember when I tried tabbing Priestess in GP6, I couldn't even fit all the guitars into 12 guitar tracks. Meanwhile I'm tabbing Price Is Wrong and 5 guitars is almost overkill.
    I dug this more than Juggernaut. Not that Juggernaut was a bad album or anything, it just seemed too "big", like, it was trying too hard to be epic and proggy and kind of just felt like a standard Periphery album with more songs that reference other songs. I dunno, something about the flow of it didn't sit all that right with me. The individual songs on those albums are pretty great, though. But PIII just seems like an album where they decided to just go in, write some really cool songs, and call it a day and put them out there, without any pretension. And while I love most concept albums, sometimes I feel like having a band put out just an album of some really good songs is the better idea, and that's where Periphery seems to succeed the most here. I'm disappointed by the lack of lead guitar parts on the record, though. I really do like each guitarist's soloing style, and when it's not there, it makes the music feel like it's lacking something to me.
    agree to disagree. don't you think they were trying to sound "big and epic" with all the added strings and orchesta sections on P3? Juggernaut is way better IMO. P3 just sounds bland to me compared to their previous stuff. not many memorable riffs (that prayer position riff is godly though), or songs. the choruses sounds too poppy to me and the lyrics are pretty bad.
    "don't you think they were trying to sound "big and epic" with all the added strings and orchesta sections on P3?" I thought that was just on "Lune", not throughout the album. I dunno, I still don't think Juggernaut "flowed" right. It's kind of an intangible thing, the reason why I can't sit through the whole album, but Juggernaut was the first Periphery release that made me feel kind of mixed emotions.
    a lot of strings on marigold and absolomb too. each to his own. the songs on this album didn't really catch my attention like MK ultra, 22 faces, alpha, priestess, hell below, stranger things etc. did. there are very few of the songs on this album that I can recall how they sound like after listening to them.
    Curious what you thought didn't flow about jiggernaut? I thought it was excellent and all the songs went together amazingly. I could be biased though, p1 doesn't do anything for me and I didn't become a fan until p2. I'm suprised juggernaut is catching as much flak as it has. I thought it was exceptional. I love it when I can just throw an album on and not skip songs. I have musical ADD in that way where I can't not change songs. P2 and juggernaut being exceptions.
    The lack of lead guitar is probably the only negative point of the whole record, which is a very solid record. Production is polished, tones are great, songs finally show their collective imagination. Watch the making of that record. It shows how they approched the writing and recording, really informative and nicely filmed. I would give an 8/10 too.
    I agree. Does Mark usually take over leads? I get confused because the band has 2 other guitar players.
    I find it's split pretty evenly between Misha and Mark, with Jake doing a few here and there. When Mark was doing a column for Guitar World this past year, he was showing off some of the techniques in a few of his solos on the Juggernaut albums. Jake doesn't get many solos (and I hear none of them on PIII are his), but the ones he does get are amazing, like the last one in "Luck As A Constant".
    From what I could tell the other night, Mark definitely held down most of the lead work. Misha had about three solos, and I think maybe two or three for Jake.
    I don't know about lead work but as far as solos go, Mark played Price is Wrong, Misha played on Absolomb. I did see a video of a Q&A with Mark at a music shop in Sydney, Australia where he mentioned he and Mark are panned right/left and Jake centre when playing live so I'd assume Jake does a lot of the leads whereas Mark and Misha do the chugging riffs.
    jake usually does all the ambient clean stuff live. are you sure Jake doesn't play the second absolomb solo? sounds very Jake-y to me (listen to the second solo on luck as constant), I've never heard Misha do crazy shredding like that, he's usually more melodic.
    a drummer
    Not positive but i would agree that the second solo in Absolomb is Jake. Misha doesn't really shred like that and it doesn't sound like Mark's playing.
    Amazing album. I'd say this is my third favorite release of the year so far, next to Jason Richardson's solo album.
    I felt like this was a very solid album. Sure I would've liked some solos but I felt like it wasn't actually needed in any song to elevate it above what it already is. I will say there are a lot less hooks than the previous albums but the album as a whole sounds more coherent and full. I feel like in the past Periphery mixed and matched different things almost like it was an experiment to see what would come out and most of the time it worked but sometimes it felt forced. This feels completely natural. My last thought is that this is one of those albums that sounds better as a whole than on a song to song basis while in previous albums I would pick and choose which songs I liked.
    this one is a bit fruity for me. definitely more of a hard rock album than prog metal. it's not bad but I just can't get into it.
    That's how I felt about the Juggernaut releases, but I guess I can see how most songs on here fit under that.
    Amazing album, you either like it or you don't. I love every single bit of it but I consider myself as a huge Periphery fan because I don't think they ever wrote a bad song, lol.
    I think this is already my favourite Periphery album, as there seems to be more memorable songs than the other releases. I have to admit, I didn't even notice the lack of solos, which I guess means that the extended musical parts all do a job without them. There weren't any bits where I thought "this is lacking something", I guess is what I'm trying to say. I thought Absolomb sounded familiar - it's from the demos from years back. Possibly my favourite track on the album too.
    I think that this album is possibly their best one behind P1. Every song had a uniqueness to it and I even felt alot of previous P1 elements on it especially in Absolomb. While there isn't much for lead and for solos I still think that there was enough to convince me that this album should definitely be at least a 9/10.
    The lyrics are the weakest part of this album, imo. Spencer was never a mindblowing lyricist but a lot of his lines on this album are just way too far into the cliched teen angst realm. He's mixed just a touch too high too...drowns out the other instruments.
    Imagine how dated this shits going to be in a few years. Every pseudofuturistic music trend ends up that way.
    Sounds dated as fuck already
    these le dj0nt kiddies dont realise that this is going to look dated as fuck in 10years time. The pseudofuturistic aesthetic is like something from the 80s. itll be as tacky and useless as the 8string guitars that none of these kids can play.
    Who gives a fuck? Pink Floyd is dated and still regarded as one of the greatest groups of all time. People like it now, your elitist prick mentality won't do anything to change that. Grow up.
    This is not 'prog' in any sense of the word, and will sound extremely dated very soon (it does even now tbh). It sounds so plastic and sterile.
    We'll have to find a way to let the band and Sumerian know they're not prog. Just so we're all on the same page, what is prog?
    Even a modern King Crimson record like The Power To Believe is much proggier than this. Like I say, this already sounds dated.
    I'm glad people are diggin this album. unfortunately, this album doesn't really do it for me. it's not bad, just not as good as their previous albums. hopefully they'll get me with their next album.
    Every entry Periphery creates gets better and better, the instrumental work, production, vocals (i didnt have a problem with the more aggressive lyrics because we have already seen this in The Bad Thing from Juggernaut). This album has really won me over, Periphery are up there with one of my favorite bands of all time