You’d think Periphery would always be laughing. Ketchup fights, hailing Stan, and naming a fifth full-length to disparage a style of music you helped craft: these are just some choice chucklesome moments in the history of Washington DC’s cult heroes. But while Periphery V continues the band’s humorous yet mindblowing eponymous lore, the members face the difficulty that, well, they’re so darn good at what they do, excitement gleaned from their own writing sometimes eludes them.
Djent (fuck…) comes easily to Misha Mansoor. A swashbuckler whose guitar chops found fame in the nether regions of internet blogs as Bulb way way back in a decade called the ‘two thousands’. But since then, musical instrument flexers Matt Halpern, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb took solo-Periphery’s wildly inventive style to electronic pastures, orchestral splendour, and even make stadiums feel homely with Spencer Sotelo’s ever-increasing lung capacity. If Mansoor’s early experiments (the still gleaming Racecar) defined what self-produced guitar wizardry should be over a decade ago, his fellow Peripherians helped bring a solidified songwriting focus into view. We can safely say that djent is no longer a genre (maybe!) when the band defies their own expectations of 2023’s metal sound this far into their career.
Fellow fans will be delighted by tracklist nods to Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu, Morai and surrounding Grecian myths (does Wax Wings prove that Icarus [still] Lives!?); it’s those repeated blasé nerdisms that let the five piece’s compositions handle the serious talk. They’ve never let us down in the opener department. Wildfire’s not quite the gargantuan Reptile, but instead shows Sotelo’s confident “Wiiiiild-fiiiiiire” earworm over heavy low ends, a skittering pre chorus, piano ‘n’ sax jazz, and a midsection exercise in pure solo-overlaid dje-
Wait! Just because Djent Is Not A Genre does not mean that the style doesn’t make up the backbone to a chunky run. Storyboard-like single Atropos plays out like its animated video accompaniment with palm muted 1s and 0s giving way to ever building duels between the three axes and Halpern’s once groovy, once blastbeating kit. Sotelo dips into cooing pop vocal territory when he’s not giving it attitude here. He also goes full George Michael (Silhouette), and supplies texture and bounce to “this is is still life / make it mine / I used to do it all the time” on Wax Wings, also opened by Holcomb’s signature chord-based tinkling that is as catchy as it is a source for Guitar World DVD tutorials. Don’t worry djent discourse fanatics, Meshuggah’s rhythmic whiplash is on show all across Zagreus which also reframes Four Lights’ stonking main riff from their underrated Juggernaut double record. Go figure.
Testament to the grandiose nature of the band’s playing is Periphery V’s bookending tapestries. Wildfire’s chorus alone is a masterclass, but 12 minute Dracul Gras supplies intrigue and release courtesy of flaming fretboards and subtle four-on-the-floor electronica. The cartoonishly wondrous 11-minute closer Thanks Nobuo is an easycore track that decides to go to space. The middle third succumbs to the group’s short(er) offerings, but still screws newfound puzzle pieces into an overall complex picture. Everything Is Fine! sees every member morph into Ben Weinman and Silhouette’s straightforward ambience rubs shoulders with epic-in-a-bottle Dying Star.
Other albums experimented with hardy prog-metal cuts, soft industrial and the emotional climax (pretty much the makeup of Periphery 3: Select Difficulty). Yet with this fifth stab, again using the delightful production tones of Nolly Getgood, the scene’s forerunners have been able to make each element strike harder and weave together as a full mark of their combined showmanship. For all their hunting for new inspiration, they’ll always riff off of their love for hardware, F1, video games, internet memes and general in-jokes that make their mockery and reinvention of djent such a glorious thing to follow. Even harkening back to former fan favourite easter eggs, none of the creativity seems to have diminished. Instalment V certainly lives up to the esteemed Periphery-titled album series and emanates its closing resolve: “you’re shining and it shows”.
NB: Djent is not a genre.
For fans of: Protest the Hero, Veil of Maya, Plini
‘Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre’ by Periphery is released on 10th March on 3DOT Recordings.
Words by Elliot Burr