If any metal band can reinforce my passion and snobbery, it’s Periphery. That wait is over on 1/27 as the progressive metal six piece poise to drop not one, but two new albums on the world. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on review copies of Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega, and I haven’t stopped listening since. Like many fans, the Clear album fell on my receptive ears and made me yearn all the more for the eventual release that we now call Juggernaut. Here we are a year later, and Periphery not only promised their best music thus far, but they pulled a rarity and delivered just that.
Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are concept albums that puts the characters through life, death, rebirth, and all with a central theme of duality. Drummer Matt Halpern (the guy in the perpetual V-Neck) said this about the records:
“Juggernaut: Alpha, the first part of the story, focuses on the back story and character development, while part two/album two, Juggernaut: Omega, focuses on some pretty serious and gut-wrenching events, taking you for a thrill ride along the main character’s complex journey. Although the albums are split in two physically, the story is only complete when the albums are digested consecutively, allowing the listener to recognize and hear the lyrical and musical overlapping themes, foreshadowing, and connected ideas.”
The first song on Juggernaut: Alpha, “A Black Minute” pulled me in lyrically and musically, setting the tone for what is nothing short of an amazing album. Clean guitars and ambient keyboards lull the listener in before as Spencer Sotelo’s soaring and soft voice gels the melancholic feel. This is how you launch a new progressive metal album. Unlike some of my most metal of friends, I love Spencer’s higher-toned voice and I think it not only sets Periphery apart, but it allows such a richer palette of material for the band to explore. Spencer can drop the death metal growls with the blink of an eye, and he does so on the next track “MK Ultra”. The band only slows its tone when the song breaks into a full salsa number out of nowhere. It still fits like a glove. Progressive music should always define progress.
The album continues with some of the band’s best and smoothest hooks thus far. “Heavy Heart” is a powerhouse, showcasing the individual talent and attack that makes Periphery the sum of its parts. Guitarists Misha Moore, Jake Bowen, and Mark Holcomb shine on tracks like “Alpha”, “22 Faces”, and the evolving 12 minute track “Omega”. The band made great strides in their already obsessive tone profile, creating an ambient, layered, and unique sound that is instantly identifiable to Periphery.
The use of reoccurring melodies woven into multiple songs reminds me of the jam band sensibility that more accomplished touring bands like Phish and Umprhey’s MsGee utilize. Spencer shines on every song, adding polish and sweeping emotion to an already accomplished musical makeup. “Priestess” allows for a more traditional ballad structure and continues to showcase the diversity of Periphery. Spencer’s melodies soar, ranging from beautiful and somber, to hypersonic and brutal; a trait fans of the band have to come to not only appreciate, but expect.
“Graveless” is a sucker punch, employing one of the most bad ass grooves in the history of the band. Bassist Adam “Nolly” Netgood, and drummer Matt Halpern aren’t content (nor are we) to just produce simple syncopated beats that follow the guitars. Instead, the duo provides a calculated and groove-heavy rhythm section that any pit will be happy to hear. All in all, these two albums defy contemporary logic, often bleeding into sublime territory in a way that’s challenging to properly identify. Powerful lyrics and themes, intricate shape-shifting beats, heavy guitars, crushing bass, and ambient electronic elements coalesce to create Periphery’s true magnum opus.
Fans of this band will assuredly love these new albums and find the wait to be more than worth it. You can preorder the Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega albums at http://sumerianmerch.com. Their tour kicked off 1/10 in Carlboro, NC and current dates run through 2/14.
Get excited for this one, kids.