Periphery Juggernaut Album Review
Periphery’s Juggernaut has been the album that progressive metal fans have been looking forward to for a long, long time. This album has been under development for several years and on January 27th, 2015 we finally got it. Periphery is one of my favorite bands and because of this I hold them to a very high expectation. Because of the density of the subject matter, I am going to do this review a little more thoroughly than I normally do.
Alpha begins with a slow and anticipating intro. In this track “A Black Minute” the listener gets introduced to the storyline and musical themes. About half way through, the song drops and kicks into their signature heavy wall of sound.
The next track “Mk Ultra” demonstrates some of Spencer's continually developing screaming voice. What happens near the end reminded me of something Between The Buried and Me would do with a sudden genre switch to jazzy elevator music. From this point on Alpha launches itself into a new gear and soars until the end.
“HeavyHeart” is what I would call Periphery’s most radio friendly song. This track made me think "They are going to lose a lot of fans with this song." I personally like Spencer's “pop” sounding vocals. I would describe them as light, but powerful. This type off singing has always been present in their music, but Juggernaut is spotlighting it more than their other two albums. I like the contrast of heavy instrumentals and clean soaring vocal lines making this a good choice in my opinion. For their type of music you need to differentiate your singer as unique and this is an excellent way to do this.
“TheEvent” is the first of two interlude tracks within Juggernaut. This is the first time you hear their new, humongous guitar sound. While Misha stayed constant as a producer, they included the bassist Nolly Getgood as well, making it a self-produced album. I think the edition of Nolly is what helped in this new-found massive guitar/bass tone.
The 5th track “The Scourge” was released as the first single and did not have positive reception. This is a good example of how the songs work better within the album instead out of context as a single. In my mind the song splits off into two unique parts. First, is a buildup and the second half picks up into a running, rhythmic adventure. Around 2:28 there is this wonderful, exotic sounding guitar riff that you should pay attention to. This one also demonstrates Spencer's developing vocals and writing talent. And how about that scream at 1:37? Talent.
“Collapsed ceilings above drop rage upon them
Stone cold fist and a memory running on the blunt end of a blade
The blood that is spilled shall start my serenade”
Lyrics from "The Scourge"
Lyrics like this are riddled among both Alpha and Omega and help solidify the story of a main character's born into oppression and follows his lifelong journey of breaking free of this.
The title track "Alpha" is yet another where lead singer Spencer Sotelo vocally shines. Super impressive singing wise with an extremely catchy chorus. Again the musical recurring theme comes back and includes 3 distinct changes in the song. Periphery also introduces group background vocals in Juggernaut; something they have not done before. For me it gave it a very heroic and protagonist feel to the song.“22 Faces” is one of my favorites from both albums. It really shows why the band is nicknamed pure-riffery. It has deceivingly heavy verses and and unbelievable ending. I’ll let this one speak for itself.“Rainbow Gravity” as well as a goofy title has some extremely djenty rhythms throughout it . I hear a Tesseract influence coming through on this one. It has that tight, clean sound that people praise them for and includes another jazzy part in the middle.
"Can we find a place where we finally can think for ourselves?
Our thoughts are unspoken
We can fly, yes, we can soar
Staring in the face what we choose to accept, but can't ignore
Life is knocking at your door
This is calling to the human race
We are alone the more we segregate
And I won't be part of this in the end"
Lyrics from "Rainbow Gravity"
Track 9 “Four lights” is arguably the heaviest track off Juggernaut. Its an instrumental jam that reminds me of New Groove from The Icarus EP. In this one I hear some Gorjira influence with the massive attack, chugging guitar sound.
The last track from Alpha titled “Psychosphere” is an off beat take on a song with an interesting eerie sound . This incredible last track on Alpha appropriately leads us into Omega.
Up until this point, I have been extremely impressed with the album so far. I give Alpha 9/10. Omega takes a different, I would say darker spin on the concept. It begins with “Reprise” and the title says it all... It’s a reprise of the first track “A Black Minute” off Alpha.
It is a smooth transition into "TheBad Thing". What I liked about this track is their experimentation with the metal core sounding breakdown at 2:35. Not to mention the very impressive scream that quickly follows.
“Priestess” was the first track I was not totally consumed by within Juggernaut. It is the only song that involves an acoustic guitar, which kind of took me out of the story. There are very tasty acoustic melodies throughout. I did enjoy the 8 bit sequence in the middle but overall I feel it didn’t fit in with the others.
“Graveless” is the fast aggressive track off the album. It entails a very chorus another includes a very jazzy solo. Pay attention to the extremely heavy outro.
After this, they keep the heavy going with "Hell Below". This is the part where the main character gets dragged down to Hell for his sins. Sounds like a song deeply influenced by the forefathers of Djent, Messuggah. Absolutely massive sounding bass tones. I was also a big fan of the “live die burn” vocal theme at the end.
The title track "Omega" demonstrates some of the best musicianship out of both parts. Lyrically heavy verses, over an equally heavy ensemble. Spencer delivers an awesome vocal part about 4 minutes in. You hear all the recurring themes from Alpha and Omega. It was truly remarkable to me how they wrapped 2 whole albums in this one song. At the end of the song you get a beautiful euphoric chorus, followed by the heaviest riff Periphery has ever wrote. After that last note, I was floored and thought that the album was over. Then “StrangerThings” began. And if you look into the storyline (which I encourage you to do) it makes totally makes sense. I love how the album is like a cycle. He repeats life. That being said, it’s so hard for me to get over "Omega"! I think it's the best song on the album, and I wish they had ended it there. Musically speaking, I just simply don’t think that "Stranger Things" wrapped up the album as well as Omega.
Overall, there is no denying that Juggernaut moves away from the technical instrumentals and focuses more on vocals and unity of their overall sound. This is a change that I enjoyed. I think just as Spencer’s vocal style is changing, the instrumentals are too. It has an incredible story, and a group of musicians who refuse to settle for mediocrity. Periphery’s Juggernaut will not disappoint and their ever evolving, fresh sound finds them in top form.