It’s hard to imagine now that Periphery was once the humble bedroom project of Misha Mansoor. In the past five years they’ve cobbled together a stable line up, signed to Sumerian Records, toured the world, and have put themselves at the forefront of modern metal. And now they’ve taken yet another leap, in the form of the two-disc concept album Juggernaut.
That’s no easy feat – especially for a band who have never truly, fully collaborated from start to finish on any album prior. It would’ve been simple, even expected, for them to stumble and make a mockery of themselves. Instead, they stuck to their strengths and used them to create a fully realized and cohesive work, proving that there’s a place for Periphery the band, and not just Periphery the bedroom project.
Juggernaut is the full package when it comes to concept albums. Woven throughout are repeating motifs and choruses, and a once-over of the lyrics provides a general idea of the story and events of its plot (which I’ll leave for you to figure out for yourself, because it’s so much more fun that way). It’s a dark story and a dark album in general, descending from the generally more mild-mannered disc Alpha into the almost purely metal disc Omega, and rarely does it take a breather (aside from the exceptional acoustic-based Priestess and a handful of interludes). But for all its darkness, Juggernaut still retains plenty of Periphery’s ear for melody, smoothly inserting soaring choruses as well as well-timed instrumentals and interludes to break up the mood. In fact, this is one of the qualities that has set them apart from the “djent” scene and their progressive metal peers in general – their willingness to incorporate melody and poppy songwriting into otherwise heavy music is what gives their music a distinctive quality, and ensures that each song is different than the last (instead of just creating an album full of 8 string Meshuggah rip offs like so many bands in the djent scene).
The concept also has another effect on the band: this is far and away the band’s most cohesive, consistent album to date. While their earlier work had a tendency to jump around from style to style, and was sometimes guilty of stitching together disparate musical elements into the same songs, Juggernaut has finally put those pieces together in a way that makes sense. Not much here has changed for them stylistically, though. If you’re familiar with Periphery, you can pretty much expect the same sort of progressive metal sound they’ve built their reputation on so far. But this time around, it’s so much clearer that this album was a fully collaborative work between the entire band, rather than each individual member bringing in their own mostly-finished ideas. And because each member was involved from Day 1, it wasn’t necessary to try and shoehorn their ideas into existing pieces of music, instead letting them find a balance between each personality and style in the band. For being a double album, its runtime passes by incredibly quickly, due to the record’s flow, cohesion, and variety of sounds and hooks.
There’s few flaws to be found on Juggernaut. Spencer does gives into oversinging occasionally, rarely restraining his voice like he does on A Black Minute and Reprise, and the album could have used a few more songs to help flesh out the story a little more (while it’s easy to get a general grasp on the concept, some parts of it are still very vague and require more assumption and speculation than anything else). But these are just minor nits to pick on an album that’s otherwise the strongest release of the band’s career, an album that prides itself on being a complete work in an age where the album format is being increasingly marginalized. Juggernaut sets Periphery up as a band who has entered the prime of their creative powers, and underlines each and every one of their strengths in striking relief.
The name ‘Periphery’ is now nothing but a complete misdirection – because they are truly front and center at the head of the pack.
KEY TRACKS (ALPHA): Heavy Heart, Alpha, 22 Faces, Rainbow Gravity
KEY TRACKS (OMEGA): The Bad Thing, Priestess, Omega, Stranger Things