Periphery: Alpha and Omega

BY CHRISTOPHER HEIM

So Periphery finally released their long-awaited “Juggernaut” concept album: was it worth the wait?

For those not familiar, Periphery is a modern progressive metal sextet that was formed back in 2005 by guitarist Misha Mansoor. Releasing their self-titled debut in 2010, Periphery immediately distinguished themselves with their multi-layered poly-rhythmic triple eight-string guitar attack, virtuoso solos and Spencer Sotelo’s soaring melodic vocals (imagine the palm-muted riffs of Meshuggah laced with the vocals of Chester Bennington from Linkin Park) Periphery’s music can be un-apologetically complex and crushing but at the same time catchy and seductive.

While Misha and the other instrumentalists are constantly applauded for their compositional prowess (their 2012 sophomore effort “Periphery II” ranked #3 in Guitar Worlds’ “Top 50 Albums of 2012”), Spencer’s vocals can be an acquired taste for some. If you don’t like Spencer’s vocals, then the band’s latest offering will do little to change your mind.

For their third LP, this juggernaut not only offers one disc but two! The first disc is titled “Alpha” and the second is “Omega.” Each acts as two parts to the album’s overarching narrative. While each disc can offer a satisfying listening experience individually, they should be listened back-to-back to get the full effect, with each track flowing into the other.

“Alpha” demonstrates Periphery further experimenting with pop melodies and theatrical vocal delivery as previously heard in “Periphery II.” That’s not to say there still isn’t a fair share of brutal cuts (“22 Faces” and “The Scourge”), but songs like the title track and “Heavy Heart” possess infectious hooks.

“Omega” on the other hand, is the darker twin to “Alpha” and arguably superior. The compositions are edgier and the narrative conveyed in the lyrics is downright apocalyptic. Cuts like “The Bad Thing” and the epic 11-minute title track rank among Juggernaut’s best cuts. However, my personal favorite is the soothing “Priestess,” in which Spencer gets to demonstrate the full range of his amazing vocal talent and expert delivery.

Everything about this release feels very different from Periphery’s previous efforts. It feels less like a large collection of songs and more of a coherently composed (at times even jazzy) soundscape. It’s an album in every sense of the word.

It’s obvious that Misha and company put a ton of thought into these two LPs and it pays off in a huge way. Fans will not be disappointed.

Rating: 4.5/5

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