[28th January 2014]
02. The Summer Jam: Jake
03. Feed The Ground: Matt
04. Zero: Misha
05. The Parade of Ashes: Spencer
06. Extraneous: Nolly
07. Pale Aura: Mark
Periphery are releasing a bit of a head scratcher with their latest ‘long play record’ Clear. As a band that seem to constantly be white hot in terms of both press and social media at all times, they had been quite open about their forthcoming release Juggernaught being the follow up to 2012′s Periphery II, and yet they took everyone for a left turn this winter when they announced this ‘side quest’ of an album, and it seems pretty clear from the original unveiling of the album that it is just that: a side quest of sorts.
In case anyone reading isn’t already keyed in on what the concept of what Clear is, the band decided to take an overture that band leader Misha Mansoor had made and give each member of the group a song of their own to all be tied together with a general melodic theme. The result is a mish-mosh of songs that hardly sound like a cohesive release, despite the seeming connection the album pitches there will be.
Clear starts simply enough; as mentioned, it’s rooted in that initial overture, which wouldn’t sound out of place on any Final Fantasy game – which isn’t at all surprising, since Mansoor is a known fan of the games and their soundtracks. It’s a delightful start with big guitar tones and simple yet fun arrangements, as is ever the Periphery way.
Immediately following is Jake Bowen‘s track “The Summer Jam.” It’s another fun track; the vocals are very poppy, and the overture’s melody sweeps in towards the back end in a fitting and exciting way. Matt Halpern‘s track comes in with a similarly (I guess, maybe, surprisingly) large amount of poppy vocals and a very infectious chorus. The song structure on this one is definitely simpler, and maybe Halpern was trying to show the range the band could have, but already the album is beginning to feel pretty disjointed at only three tracks in.
Mansoor’s track follows, with what sounds like a complete return to form: instrumental, atmospheric, video gamey, and most of all that signature percussive assault of guitars. At first it’s a bit of a forgettable track next to all the others, with their pop-influenced-djent stylings, but after a few listens Mansoor’s begins to feel like the only ‘genuine’ Periphery track on the album. Maybe it’s because the sound of the band is so rooted in his own design, but maybe it’s because his track is the only one not striving for shock value or trying to grab attention with unexpected genre switching. It feels a bit more honest and humble with knowing what it actually is and sticking to that.
Periphery have always been willing to shamelessly delve into their poppier side and utilize sweet-as-candy vocal melodies and for the most part they’ve used it to their advantage over the years, however Clear might be the point where they’re trying a bit too hard to challenge, and therefore further alienate their metal listeners. And maybe (obviously) they don’t give a flying shit, but that doesn’t change the fact that as the album continues into Spencer Sotelo‘s boppy industrial song it continues to yell “look how diverse and poppy we are!” in a way that starts to sound a bit too desperate for some anti-metal-scene image crafting. Now, that’s not to say the song isn’t actually quite good, as it goes into a bridge of heaviness that’s definitely unrivaled by some of the other tracks on the album – bar maybe the obnoxious-in-a-good-way, crushingly heavy djent goodness of Nolly’s “Extraneous” - but it does further the anti-point that Periphery are trying so hard to communicate to the world. The chorus even says: “Fuck your theories, we are the way we are” which might be a tongue in cheek preface to reviews like these that are harping on their “we’re so different” agenda.
It utilizes some great traps and tricks but as a band Periphery seems to be demonstrating that they are much stronger as a unit then they are as individual parts. Third guitarist Mark Holcomb‘s track “Pale Aura” finishes the album off in a very “Holcomby” way. The guitars are intricate and riff-tastic, the song dips and turns, utilizing blast beats with slow sweet vocal melodies busting in right after. The song is decent but still seems a bit like a b-side. It does some interesting experimental stuff vocally, and it (allegedly) steps out of their comfort zone a bit but it feels weak as an ending track to this short romp of an experiment.
Clear boasts some very fun ideas, and very enjoyable tracks when listened to in isolation, but from a front to back listen it feels like a completely disjointed effort and seems completely masturbatory. Periphery cashed in on their in-between-albums phase last time with the Icarus EP and this seems no different. It’s a release for the diehard fans; the members are obviously just stretching their legs and having a bit of fun with something a little different.
Either way, Clear‘s songs are fun and worth listening to, but as a full release it completely pales in comparison to Periphery II and it will probably pale in comparison to whatever comes next for these djentlemen, which will probably be great, thoughtful, and deep. Should we lambast them for making such a shameless and ego-inflating release? An album whose concept is to give every member a track with his name actually attached to it? Is this some weird pissing contest between band members? This reviewer doesn’t think so. Clear is as meaningless as it makes itself out to be – even the name suggests itself as a see-through transparency of pointless masturbation – and it’s quite possible that Mansoor and the Periphs have already realised that, and are having a bit of fun with the title. However, the preemptive self-trolling and internet savvy antics of Periphery won’t protect them forever as they’ll have to legitimately prove their worth as artists and staying power as a brand in a big way with whatever comes next, because pretty much everyone is watching them under a magnifying glass now, trying as hard as they can to debunk and disprove their “all-sunshine-and-farts” djent parade.