By Greg Maki
Djent schment. Never one for subgenre labels, I’ve always thought of Periphery as a progressive metal band—and one of the leading progressive metal bands in the world at that. So while the members of Periphery take a stand—with their tongues at least somewhat in their cheeks—against the label with the title of their seventh album, “Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre,” it’s an apt statement, pushing back against a classification that boils a remarkably diverse and adventurous sound down to just one of its many, many ingredients.
“Periphery V” is the work of a band at its most varied, inventive and experimental—at times furiously heavy, at others achingly beautiful. The players—guitarists Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb, and drummer Matt Halpern plus former bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood still contributing in the studio—truly have outdone themselves as the nine tracks (totaling about 76 minutes) roll through an astonishing array of styles and moods. This is not just a collection of songs; it’s an album with an ebb and flow, and tracks gain increased value from the context of their sequencing. Taken on its own, the synth ballad “Silhouette,” on which all three of the band’s guitarists are virtually absent, seemingly has no place in the Periphery songbook. But hearing it as a comedown after the furiously focused “Everything Is Fine!” and a lead-in to the hard rock-leaning “Dying Star,” which then gives way to the metallic onslaught of “Zagreus,” gives the song a greater purpose.
Sometimes, a single selection takes as many twists and turns. For example, the opener, “Wildfire,” begins with a heavy, chugging riff and relentless drumming, and employs a diverse, dynamic attack from vocalist Spencer Sotelo—both his harshes and cleans have becoming truly exceptional—then makes way for a jazzy piano/saxophone interlude and later finds its way to an orchestral finale. With so much to grab the listener’s attention, the track’s seven-minute runtime feels positively brisk.
A trained musician could provide a more detailed analysis of the various tunings, time changes and other techniques the band employs. To me, the biggest skill on display is taking such a complex, technical approach to music and turning it into cohesive, satisfying songs—tracks that take the listener on a journey, shifting and building within themselves and off of each other. “Djent” seems like such a demeaning label to slap on something that has been crafted with so much ability and care. Periphery has followed its last borderline masterpiece, “Periphery IV: HAIL STAN” (2019), with another one, continuing to set the standard for modern progressive metal.
3DOT Recordings – March 10, 2023
Buy “Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre”
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