PERIPHERY – Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre (Album Review)

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Founded nearly 20 years ago, American progressive metal quintet Periphery have always stood out amongst their peers and influences. That’s as true of their self-titled 2010 debut LP as it was 2019’s “Periphery IV: Hail Stan,” and it’s quite an accomplishment considering the pedigree of bands perpetuating the same style (such as TesseracT, Spiritbox, Monuments, The Contortionist, and Animals as Leaders).

Fortunately, their latest collection—“Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre”—is no exception. Not only does its title uphold the habitually tongue-in-cheek nature of its predecessor’s (all the while commenting on a long-standing debate within the metal scene), but its contents are more or less equally satisfying. It’s not  as immediately gratifying as some of the group’s other full-length works, yet with repeated listens, it reveals itself to be every bit as special.

In the corresponding bio/press release, guitarists Misha Mansoor and Mark Holcomb admit that creating it truly tested the limits of Periphery’s artistic and interpersonal unity. Mansoor explains:

There were times where I didn’t know how this album would ever come out. I didn’t know how I’d ever feel good about the album, and I’d rather quit the band than put out an album that I don’t feel great about. . . . We ended up in a very difficult place where we had to ask if we were retreading ground. I always say it’s very simple to make a Periphery record – the only thing we need it to do is excite us. That hasn’t changed, but it’s gotten harder and harder for us to make music that passes muster because we’re ultimately doing it for ourselves. . . . Material that we would’ve thought was great in the past isn’t cutting it anymore.

Holcomb adds: “Our standards are higher than ever, so we all pushed ourselves on this album much harder than we ever have before. It was a hard process because we had to keep ourselves honest to those standards.”

Surprisingly (if understandably), it took the guys about a year to make it—with the COVID-19 pandemic providing its own share of setbacks—resulting in the longest gap between releases in their history. Luckily, the end result was worth all of the trials and tribulations the quintet endured. Supported by former official bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood, saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, and even a choir, “Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre” is a relentlessly impressive and fulfilling journey that both Periphery and their fans should indeed be excited about.

“Periphery V: Djent is Not A Genre” Album Artwork

Although “Wildfire” isn’t as epically and multifacetedly eccentric as the last album’s opener (“Reptile”), it’s nonetheless a typically resourceful and intense way to begin. Frontman Spencer Sotelo’s verses have never sounded more assuredly demonic, just as the complementary arrangement is among Periphery’s most relentlessly hostile. Of course, the cleanly sung chorus is predictably hooky and emotive, and the track’s imaginatively jazzy and soothing detour (complete with delicate pianowork and flamboyant horns) is a characteristically inventive touch.

Naturally, a few subsequent songs uphold that traditional yet invigorating balance of heavenly and hellish attributes. For instance, “Atropos” offsets its dynamically chaotic rhythms and screams with plenty of soaring melodies and cosmic synths. Likewise, “Wax Wings” is ripe with sing-along choral chants, dizzyingly intricate guitar patterns, beautiful string bellows, and mournful piano notes. Near the end, “Dracul Gras” offers some of the LP’s catchiest and craftiest moments (including a remarkably moving coda built upon programmed beats and tones).

What’s more, the record showcases Periphery’s softer side in several spots. Namely, there’s electro pop ode “Silhouette,” a touching ballad bursting with dreamily creative instrumentation (with orchestration), heartfelt singing, and poignant lyricism. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been out of place on, say, TesseracT’s “Polaris” or Linkin Park’s criminally underappreciated “A Thousand Suns.”

The same can be said for the comparably divine “Dying Star.” As cliché as it is to say, closer “Thanks Nobuo” feels like the cathartic culmination of what’s preceded it. Full of both harsh and calming elements—such as crushing riffs, celestial soundscapes, erratic percussion, and dense vocal harmonies—it’s a richly profound and ambitious composition.

While “Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre” is certainly less silly and peculiar than “Periphery IV: Hail Stan” (if not other earlier LPs), it’s likely the quintet’s most mature and focused statement to date. As such, it’s not definitively better or worse than its immediate predecessor. Instead, it’s just as rewarding and accomplished but in different ways. Above all else, it continues Periphery’s reign as modern djent’s superlative act (even if they’d clearly reject the classification), and it absolutely shouldn’t be missed.

Release Date: March 10th, 2023
Record Label: 3DOT Recordings
Genre: Progressive Metal / Progressive Metalcore / Djent (debatably)

Musicians:

  • Spencer Sotelo / Vocals
  • Jake Bowen / Guitars, synths, programming
  • Matt Halpern: Drums
  • Misha Mansoor: Guitars, synths, orchestration
  • Mark Holcomb: Guitars / Bass

“Djent Is Not A Genre” track listing:

1. Wildfire
2. Atropos
3. Wax Wings
4. Everything is Fine!
5. Silhouette
6. Dying Star
7. Zagreus
8. Dracul Gras
9. Thanks Nobuo

Order “Periphery V: Djent Is Not a GenreHERE

9.3 Excellent

“Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre” is the band’s most mature and focused release, abandoning much of the tongue-in-cheek vibe that permeated their earlier records. No matter how you feel about that, there’s no doubt that he LP continues Periphery’s reign as modern djent’s superlative act (even if they’d clearly reject the classification).

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 9.5
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