I first heard this band on their Myspace page and Insomnia was the first song that I had played. I remember being very thrilled to hear such a fresh take on metal music. I didn’t know you were allowed to be heavy, technical and melodic at the same time. I also didn’t know that this new band would go on to become the torchbearer and barometer of modern progressive metal. Periphery changed things up, didn’t they? The acceptance rate of soaring, clean vocals skyrocketed at an alarming level among ‘true metalheads’. They were responsible for influencing the very playing styles of guitarists on a global level. They forced other bands to up their social media game. Also, who knew you had to reduce the gain to sound heavier. It is exciting to witness the evolution of a genre-defining band, isn’t it?
After showing off their individual talent on Clear Periphery are back, more cohesive than ever, with a double album – Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega. The official release date is January 27th via Sumerian Records.
Right from the time of the studio updates you could tell this album was going to be different; and it actually is different from anything that they’ve done before. The debut album was nothing short of magical, P1 took modern metal to new places. Periphery II: TTIP had, in my opinion, more emphasis on hooks and creating really well structured songs. Combine these two aspects along with the fact that this is their most collaborative effort yet and you get two juggernauts – Alpha and Omega. This is what Misha’s vision of Periphery was from the start, each member contributing to the music equally. This is a concept album in the truest sense, a central story in the lyrics and music that is literally an aural journey with motifs that transport you through the peaks and troughs.
What I like about Periphery’s music is the drama. There are parts that are tense, mellow, happy and sad – all in one song. Their sound is such that it takes you through whatever it wants to take you through. Think of All New Materials, Jetpacks Was Yes!, Facepalm Mute and Ragnarock. See what I mean? I don’t exaggerate when I say there’s more drama this time around. Even if you listen to Periphery just for the riffs you can’t help but take note of the fact that each song has a certain personality to it. And each one of those personalities come together seamlessly to become the two-part epic that is Alpha and Omega. ‘A Black Minute’ is the perfect start to the whole experience, from the haunting tune to Spencer’s vocals, the song gradually builds up to an almost anthem-like part which gives you a fair idea of what the rest of the album is going to be like. As Juggernaut: Alpha progresses you can hear the sonic landscape constantly changing but it also keeps reminding you of the central musical themes. ‘Psychosphere’ is a fitting end to Alpha, a wall of sound followed by silence. Omega begins with ‘Reprise’, an intro track which carries on the vocal theme of ‘A Black Minute’. This second album sees the music get more intense and heavier as opposed to the more poppy but patient Juggernaut: Alpha. Doing a track by track for Juggernaut would not be of any use, it would be damaging if anything. But if I had to name a few, songs that stand out for me are ‘MK Ultra’ (which, by the way, is ‘Mr. Person’ from the Bulb days), ‘22 Faces’, ‘Priestess’, ‘Omega’ and ‘Stranger Things’.
With this record, each member has had their moment to shine in the songs but this wasn’t distracting at all. On the contrary, it has worked out quite well. But one guy that shines the most is Spencer Sotelo. It is safe to say that he has outdone himself this time. From the poppy, radio friendly vocals to the screams and growls, Sotelo’s palette has definitely grown. Most noticeable this time were the lack of Jake Bowen’s interludes at the end of the songs. His electronic sections are present but in a different form, they have been used judiciously and are only present where the part requires them. Listen to ‘Alpha’ to hear what I mean. I’m totally digging the dark guitar tones as opposed to their super bright first album. Even some electronic parts possess a dark, brooding vibe. Apart from obvious Misha-parts, I had fun trying to guess which parts were Mark’s or Jake’s. Even though all three of them have distinct styles, it wasn’t easy; which tells us how well their styles now complement each other’s. Drummer Matt Halpern is as brilliant as ever, there are some fills that are just insane. Last but in no way the least, Nolly deserves a respectful mention because producing and mixing this behemoth must have been quite a task and the result is impeccable.
So to conclude, Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are heavier, softer, faster, slower, poppier and jazzier than any of their previous records. I think this album will weed out the fickle-minded, song-skipping crowd as this two part saga is meant to be listened to from start to finish. I will have to listen to it a few more times to fully appreciate the whole thing. Be patient with this one and let it grow on you. Yp!