Periphery III: Select Difficulty
22nd July 2016 – Sumerian Records
01. The Price Is Wrong
04. The Way The News Goes…
05. Remain Indoors
06. Habitual Line Stepper
09. Catch Fire
10. Prayer Position
Back in 2014 when Periphery announced plans to release a double album, collective groans could be heard the world over; unsurprising when you consider the track record for such endeavours. Against all odds however, the Marylanders pulled together and released Juggernaut Alpha and Juggernaut Omega, both of which ranked among the best albums of last year. Then, about a year later, there was another odd announcement: Periphery were planning to follow this up with a new full length album just 18 months later.
This time the collective feeling wasn’t one of groaning and moaning but one of genuine worry; how were we to expect Periphery III: Select Difficulty to live up to the hype? To answer that question quickly, it doesn’t.
Where Juggernaut felt like a group of people coming together to create the best album they could, with a concept complete with lyrical nods and musical motifs, PIII feels more like a group of people writing some cool riffs and arranging them into pretty cool songs.
So right off the bat let’s get one thing clear: these songs are in no way bad and neither is the album. For all intents and purposes PIII is a good album; it doesn’t, however, feel quite consistent enough or cohesive after the epic nature of Juggernaut. There are glimpses of really exciting elements we haven’t seen a lot of before – the orchestration in “Marigold” and “Absolomb” spring to mind – but then singles “The Price Is Wrong” and “Flatline”, which are decent enough, don’t really feel inspired or creative; they’re both are fairly straight forward, riff-driven djent songs that could have been a good fit on the band’s debut, but when compared to their strongest material – or even this album’s strongest material – they come off as underwhelming.
It seems the title may have a deeper meaning; Perhaps Periphery had difficulty selecting where to go with PIII. It’s understandable that, after a massive undertaking like Juggernaut, the band wanted to take a step away from the conceptual and release an album that’s more of a collection of songs, but even then, being more brutal with selecting only the strongest material for the album would’ve given us a tighter, more consistent album.
Spencer Sotelo always appears to be the make-or-break aspect for listeners, who either love or hate his poppy tendencies and it’s difficult to imagine that changing on this album, especially when combined with some slight Pattonisms, most prevalent in “Catch Fire”. For those who already love his vocals, there’s nothing to fear; Sotelo’s on top form – however the move away from the conceptual has yielded some questionable lyrics.
In terms of performance, the whole band continues to show mastery of their craft; each of them wielding their respective instruments with great skill. The production is silky smooth as usual, and therefore the only place where disappointment sets in is that after Juggernaut it would have been nice to see the band take more creative risks, even if it resulted in a longer wait or a shorter album. Whereas the band’s second LP was subtitled This Time It’s Personal, perhaps III should be This Time It Should’ve Been An EP.