Monday, November 26, 2012

Album Review: Periphery - Periphery II: This Time It's Personal

Album Rating: B
I'm known as the progressive / djent guy at Muzik Dizcovery, and that's fine by me. It's definitely the type of music I've spent the most time with, considering my dad raised me on Dream Theater and Joe Satriani. So when an album in the modern progressive realm receives as much backlash as Periphery's latest album, Periphery II: This Time It's Personal, I have to look into the controversy and see how credible it is.

Upon first listen, I was underwhelmed. The sense of importance was there, but the album really blends together on the first listen. However, I have to admit that the more I hear the album the more I enjoy it. Particular songs have different moods,  ones that really come out with repeated listens. "Have A Blast" is surprisingly focused for being such an instrumentally proficient track, a mellow introduction morphing into something really powerful. And "Scarlet," definitely the best track here, is a success on all fronts. Spencer Sotelo's vocals work incredibly well here, drawing influence from Rody Walker in the best way. The song's structure is very cohesive, revolving around one central riff (one that happens to also be infectious.)

Another track that really gripped me on the first listen is "Masamune." What an exciting opening riff, so bouncy and controlled but powerful. And the song's a great closer for the album, a stellar way to end the progressive journey. The heavy moments in this song are highly effective, too, working with the calmer moments to operate alongside musical coherency. The song gains momentum as it goes along, eventually turning into a chugfest but a warranted one. Alongside blistering percussive work and electronic effects, the end of the album turns its previous sense of melody upside down. From the album's humble beginnings, a certifiable monster is made.

The biggest flaw with Periphery II: This Time It's Personal, though, is Spencer Sotelo's vocals. It's a shame that they falter more often than succeed, and in both the singing and harsh vocals realms. Sotelo's singing range is only truly effective when he hits the really high notes; it feels particularly forced in mid-range. In addition, his singing style simply feels cheesy - many otherwise solid tracks lose credibility because of what his vocals bring into the picture. At least we have moments like 2:12 in "Masamune," where Sotelo croons "cast away," and the light breaks through the clouds. Once the clearly talented singer finds an effective way to utilize his voice, Periphery's music will be more enjoyable.

So overall, this album is neither as bad as the naysayers claim it to be, nor as perfect as Periphery fanboys admit. Most answers lie in the middle, after all, and Periphery II: This Time It's Personal is no different. The album's an enjoyable enough journey, and with some minor alterations the group could be onto something even more special next time.

1. Muramasa
2. Have A Blast (Guthrie Govan guest solo)
3. Facepalm Mute
4. Ji
5. Scarlet
6. Luck As a Constant
7. Ragnarok
8. The Gods Must Be Crazy!
10. Erised (John Petrucci guest solo)
11. Epoch
12. Froggin' Bullfish
13. Mile Zero (Wes Hauch guest solo)
14. Masamune


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