They’ve been widely acknowledged as leading lights in the tech-metal scene over the last few years, and Periphery’s new EP plainly represents the moment the band shrug off the shackles of that association and make a concerted bid to stand alone. Far more than a simple stopgap exercise, this half-hour creative splurge is inherently experimental, not least because each of its tracks has been conceived by a different member of the band.
As a result, Clear is by far the most diverse and brave thing that Periphery have released to date. It is also, by a significant margin, their most accessible record, but with no hint of the usual compromises that strangle progressive bands’ creativity when they attempt to reach a wider audience.
Instead, from the deliciously proggy Overture onwards, this eschews those now well-worn djent clichés in favour of towering melodies enshrined within intricate webs of rhythmic ingenuity and arrangements that embrace technical dexterity and emotional oomph in equal measure. It’s the insanely focused and intense Feed The Ground that seems likely to have the most impact: direct, destructive and far more pointedly metallic than anything on their two albums, it veers from coruscating riffs to shimmering grandeur, and wielding its devastating central hook like a sledgehammer.
Similarly, the closing Pale Aura marries insistent melodic heft to untamed angularity and bursts of extreme metal velocity, as vocalist Spencer Sotelo delivers a thrillingly impassioned performance that emphasises just how swiftly his voice has grown and matured since 2012’s Periphery II. The song’s climactic pay-off is as elegant and soulful as anything the tech-metal realm has conjured to date. In contrast, Extraneous is underpinned by a lolloping, Meshuggah-esque groove that belies the true complexity of what is erupting around it.
The most straightforwardly tech-friendly track here, it suggests that Periphery have outgrown the scene they helped to spawn and are taking this young genre into uncharted territory, eyes wide with excitement at limitless possibilities. Elsewhere, exhibiting their usual mastery of subtle electronic touches designed to enhance the irresistible forward motion of their riffs, The Parade Of Ashes paints Periphery as a band in tune with their funky side, replete with disco hi-hats and momentary detours into sparse digital beat worship.
Progressive in the truest sense, Clear is a wonderfully diverse and strident expansion of this band’s sound, one that is catchier and more creative than maybe even the musicians themselves thought possible. The clever bastards.