Periphery – Juggernaut: Alpha + Juggernaut: Omega
What’s impressive is how the band have fine-tuned the interplay between each instrument, with each knowing when to sit back and enjoy the ride while another comes to the front. What we have here is not simply an assembly of riffs, nor even of songs – these are compositions.
It was bound to happen. A prog-metal band does not simply achieve the degree of scene domination that Periphery have experienced in their seemingly unstoppable rise without at some point saying, “It’s time do a full-blown concept album”.
For Periphery, one such album at a time simply wasn’t enough. Clocking a total of 81 minutes across two separate full-length albums (Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega) the saga lives up to its name. And just as well. Incepted and unofficially announced years ago, Juggernaut prematurely left fans on tenterhooks as they eagerly speculated what it would entail. The time for speculation is up. We have landed.
It’s difficult to assess the album’s lyrical concept and how it is reflected musically – Spencer Sotelo is a hard man to pin down, never one to spell everything out for the listener – but what can be said is that each song has a unique and distinct feel that flows seamlessly into the next, creating an ever-evolving and unpredictable musical landscape.
Instrumental showboating is not the focus here, though that’s not to say there isn’t a good helping of it. What’s impressive is how the band have fine-tuned the interplay between each instrument, with each knowing when to sit back and enjoy the ride while another comes to the front. The kind of mind-bending triple-guitar work that peppers much of the 11-minute “Omega” gives way to sparser textures exactly when such moments are needed, while Matt Halpern’s energetic drum grooves are merely complementary to the parts they accompany, only very occasionally breaking away into off-kilter flourishes. What we have here is not simply an assembly of riffs, nor even of songs – these are compositions.
Spencer Sotelo’s stilted scream patterns in the first verses of both “Rainbow Gravity” and “The Bad Thing” are irresistible; while “Stranger Things” contains some of his most diverse vocal performances yet, with smooth, almost Michael Jackson-esque croons leading into the kind of soaring freeform melodies he has become known for. Meanwhile, “MK Ultra” and “Hell Below” end with some of the most interesting clips of elevator jazz you’ve ever heard, while the chorus of “Heavy Heart” shows the band at their rockiest.
One thing has become abundantly clear – Periphery are not a “djent band”. That tag was proved inadequate by their second album, and seems virtually laughable now. The compositions and motifs on Juggernaut are so far from anything the band’s various imitators could have ever produced, so far from the genre cliché they themselves helped to create.