By: John Campbell
Wednesday, September 4
Welcome back to Oakland University for the 2019/2020 year! It’s good to be back, and to celebrate the start of this school year, I’m going to write a review for an album I reviewed on a live show last year. This album more than deserves a full-length review, and this band deserves critical acclaim for their most recent LP. That band would be no other than Periphery, a Progressive Metalcore (Or Progressive Djent, if you insist) band that’s carved a very uniqueniche and sound into the progressive subgenre of metal.
To start this review, I want to give my initial opinion of Periphery. When fellow bandmates first introduced me to them, I suffered from sensory overload because of their sound. There was so much to process, and the main vocals completely turned me off from liking them. I just couldn’t get into them. Back in March, I knew they were close to releasing another LP, but I really wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t care for their sound, but for the sake of inclusion, I decided I would review it anyway despite whatever opinions I had going in. Just as I had with other band’s LPs that I discovered through new release listings, I would give their new album a go, and see how it stands independently of my predisposition on the group. This was where it happened, I ended up falling in love with Periphery, and through the summer after my initial review, I fell more and more in love with an album I already deemed near-perfect. P4: HAIL STAN ushered me into loving Periphery, and I think it will do the same to many others that are on the fence about their sound.
The main part that dominates Periphery’s unique sound is their use of Djent and Industrial Metal elements mixed with progressive ideas and concepts. Having dabbled with their concept albums Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega back in 2015, they weren’t inexperienced with piecing together a competent and compelling story. They mix these sounds and ideas with something many consider unorthodox: Spencer Sotelo’s vocals. Performing both the dirty and clean vocals (as well as push vocals), his voice and style are reminiscent of the late great Chester Bennington. Keep this comparison in mind, for it will come up later. His singing is divisive among those I’ve observed listening to Periphery (They even turned me away from liking the sound), but the performance and skill necessary to produce them is nothing short of astonishing, regardless of opinion. The band is composed of powerhouse performers, there isn’t a single member that doesn’t pull their weight consistently through performance or production. Though their self-titled albums are further collections of their ability to write music, there is seldom a low point in them. This is especially the case in P4, as I couldn’t find one song I didn’t love. The opening prog masterpiece “Reptile” set the stage in a dazzling 17 minute story that builds up to a powerful conclusion (and has motifs referenced again later in “Garden in the Bones”). Songs like “Blood Eagle” and “Follow your Ghost” serve to explore hard hitting and brutal djent/metalcore ideas. There is also the song “It’s Only Smiles” that blends a happy chord progression and almost Owl City sounding electronic sounds with a deep and hard-hitting set of lyrics about losing a loved one.
To further build upon their impressive catalog of sounds and subgenre ideas that they’ve produced, the song “Crush” relies heavily on synthetic sounds and electronic motifs. Mind you, the production throughout every song is so meticulous and clean that every style that gets the spotlight throughout this LP sounds just as competent as the subgenres that they’re paying homage to. It should come as no surprise that the majority of this band are equipment nerds, each guitarist having profilers and hundreds of different pedals to try and many different synth sounds to work with. With everything they do in this album, it comes as a huge surprise to me that they’ve not bitten off more than they can chew. Periphery competently (and gracefully) wrote deep ideas into many different sounds, and this album strikes me as a sampler for what they can do in charge of their own production. The closing track “Satellites” serves as my favorite track, and the best possible closer for such an amazing album. The delicate engaging vocals sound almost indistinguishable from Chester Bennington on Linkin Park’s “Shadow of the Day”. Spencer then builds to an explosive conclusion, bringing out screams and push vocals one last time before a fade out that will leave you more than satisfied. And if you keep listening to the end of the track, there’s a very special gift for you.
To wrap this up in a neat little bow, Periphery IV: HAIL STAN converted me from an uninterested bystander to an avid fan of their work, and laid out a very nice path to enjoy their back catalog even more. If you can’t get into their sound, then I must suggest you sit through this album, because it has everything you need to really immerse yourself into what they are. This album is not only a great sampler for Periphery’s sound, but an outstanding LP that stands tall by itself. The level of astonishment this album continually put me through is what I love most about discovering and connecting with music, and I hope this album does the same for you.
Favorite Tracks: Satellites, Garden in the Bones, It’s Only Smiles, Reptile
Least Favorite Tracks: N/A