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Periphery - Periphery III: Select Difficulty album review

Nerdy aggro onslaught meets classical sophistication on Periphery's latest

Periphery, as their name suggests, have always resided on the outskirts of prog. Too ‘heavy’ for many traditional prog fans and overwrought for a lot of metal fans, against unlikely odds they’ve built a substantial following over the years and spearheaded a boom the style we describe as ‘djent’. Last year saw them release not one but two full length albums, released separately but forming one concept, and 18 months later they are rolling out another longplayer. From the early days of their eponymous debut and Icarus EP this band have come a long way, developing and expanding their jolty, mechanical and guttural odes into carefully perfected compositions that lean more on the TesseracT than the Meshuggah end of technically-minded metallic scale.

The lead single Marigold is a triumph in melody.

In particular, the second part of their double release ramped up the prog, piling in dissonant off-timed riffs with sojourns into unexplored sonic territories. Such an ambitious release would warrant a recording break in most bands’ book but not Periphery’s; they are back with Periphery III: Select Difficulty. They even had time to make a one-hour documentary about the making of which is viewable on YouTube and is worth a watch if only to watch Periphery powerhouse Misha Mansoor talk about equipment like it’s a mastermind subject.

Overall, Select Difficulty isn’t a huge departure from last year’s Juggernaut double release; both share crunchy palm-muted riffs and Spencer Sotelo’s forthright vocals that ping pong between screams and angsty, melodies.

But where in the past it’s taken a few tracks to be hit by the really interesting morsels, whether it be extreme freak-outs, lofty solos or Mansoor’s mind-bending mastery of the strings with Select Difficulty we get the full buffet. Lead single Marigold is a triumph in melody and one of the most emotive tracks they’ve done to date, heralding strings and big choruses into their repertoire. For those familiar with British metalcore titans Bring Me The Horizon, Marigold has more than a faint whiff of their inflammatory emo shtick.

With three records already under their belt written with the involvement of all members Periphery clearly benefit from a more rounded set of songwriting skills. There are features that will both attract and deter prog fans; the rapid aggression on Motormouth is not for the fainthearted, but the classical/orchestral motifs denote a richer musical tapestry while Catch Fire is very much in the latter-day TesseracT camp which will no doubt appease those seeking respite from Periphery’s nerdy aggro onslaught. Whichever way you look at it, the math metallers from DC are at the very least toying with new ideas and their grasp of melody gets better with each record.

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