Periphery’s ascendancy from guitarist Misha Mansoor’s bedroom project to progressive metal heavyweights has been as swift as it has been deserved, on the back of almost two years of global touring on their 74-minute self-titled debut. Possessing much more skill and range in their songwriting than the majority of the djent scene they were initially lumbered with, expectations for their sophomore effort have been understandably high. That they’ve been reached with the goofily titled Periphery II – This Time It’s Personal after losing two members in 2011 and so much time spent on the road is impressive enough, but managing to exceed that album’s quality, production and poise makes it all the more enjoyable.
As with its self-titled predecessor, Periphery II’s strength lies in its diversity. This isn’t a band of one trick ponies stuck in a vacuum of low-tuned chugs like many of their peers; they’re capable songwriters who don’t like making the same sort of song twice. The best example of this is the crushing, spastic mania of Make Total Destroy being immediately followed and contrasted by the ultra-melodic hooks of Erised. The former is the album’s centrepiece and an incredible metal assault, whilst the latter is much more emotional and a powerful display of vocalist Spencer Sotelo’s clean singing. The frontman has upped his game considerably this time around, adding more range, emotion and the occasional burst of the dramatic to his singing to the benefit of every song on the record.
Whereas Periphery’s debut was the culmination of 4/5 years worth of Mansoor’s demos, Periphery II benefits from increased output, the Sotelo-penned Facepalm Mute a lurching beast and guitarist Mark Holcomb’s Scarlet, a thoroughly accessible, jagged melodic attack. His axe-toting colleague Jake Bowen has been afforded even greater freedom with his electronic talents, adding spots of beauty with ambient interludes and the short, cleansing Epoch to the din surrounding it.
Even more impressive is that the album’s only missteps are so small that they only slightly disappoint. Erised and thudding closer Masamune don’t quite fulfil the promise of their stirring openings but are still thoroughly decent songs, and Luck As A Constant is album’s only entry that doesn’t provoke some form of marvel. Even when Periphery are coasting, as on the rhythmically generic The Gods Must Be Crazy!, they’re still so far ahead of the pack and able to throw in a skilfully addictive discordant beatdown with ease.
At this point in time, Periphery are so far ahead most of the metal genre that it’s quite shocking. Periphery II has so much strength in its composition, production and delivery that it has the effect of making other music feel listless and tired, and as such, it’s one the best example of heavy music 2012 can offer.