Review by Greg Maki
Curious about what kind of band Periphery will be now that it has ventured out on its own label (3DOT Recordings)? I point you to “Reptile,” the nearly 17-minute opening track of the new record “Periphery IV: Hail Stan.” Most bands would save an epic like this for the finale or place it a few songs in to serve as a sort of centerpiece. Periphery, though, comes out guns blazing, trusting its audience to follow this monster of an opener through its many dynamic twists and turns, and then stick around for eight more progressive, polyrhythmic tracks ranging from hauntingly beautiful to brutally heavy.
That same description also applies to “Reptile,” which switches gears enough—while remaining cohesive as a whole—that it feels more like suite than a single song. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a stunning display of virtuoso musicianship and inventive songcraft, and a surefire song-of-the-year contender.
What’s even more surprising than kicking off an album with your most progressive piece to date is that the rest of the record lives up to its promise. Songs range from full-blast bangers like “Blood Eagle” and “CHVRCH BVRNER” to more accessible selections such as “Garden in the Bones” and “It’s Only Smiles” to the seamless melding of the two approaches on “Sentient Glow” to the synthwave-influenced “Crush” to the dynamic, soft-to-hard closer “Satellites.” Throughout the album, the band augments its sound with more orchestration and electronics—and even a choir—than it’s used before, giving it an almost cinematic feel.
The players—Misha Mansoor (guitar, programming), Jake Bowen (guitar, programming), Matt Halpern (drums) and Mark Holcomb (guitar)—rightfully receive piles of praise for their work, but let’s not discount the contributions of vocalist Spencer Sotelo. I don’t know if there’s a more versatile voice in metal today, ranging as he does from melodic, emotive tones to a monstrous bark with varying shades and levels of intensity. And he shifts between styles without employing the all-too-familiar good cop/bad cop routine. In a band fueled by technical precision and experimentation, Sotelo is the heart and soul that brings it all together.
Periphery spent an entire year writing “Hail Stan,” and all that work is evident in every note. Yet, largely due to Sotelo’s impassioned performance, it doesn’t come across as cold or over-produced as prog so often does. It’s simply a spectacular album, the best of Periphery’s career and a record that raises the bar for modern progressive metal.
(3DOT Recordings, April 5, 2019)