For years, Periphery has been taking the progressive metal scene by storm with ridiculously powerful and complex music, humbling thousands of people who thought they were good at guitar. This is still the case with their latest album, “Periphery III: Select Difficulty,” as the band has managed to evolve its sound with unique new styles and some of its best songwriting yet.
In keeping with Periphery’s history of humorous song titles, the album opens with a song called “The Price Is Wrong.” With this song, Periphery immediately shows that, despite growing in popularity among the radio rock crowd, they are still keeping their heavy metal sound very much alive. This song is a complete explosion of erratic guitar over fast drums and brutal screams from the band’s vocalist, Spencer Sotelo. While it’s a great song instrumentally, its lyrics seem somewhat thrown together without thought and come across as bland and nonsensical — something that comes up in other areas throughout the album.
The second track, “Motormouth,” is another heavy one with the complex guitar licks, fast tempo and low bass Periphery is known for. As with many songs on the album, “Motormouth” contains strong elements of the “Periphery II” album when it comes to its complexity and overall instrumental sound.
“Marigold” is the first song on the album that is comprised of mostly clean vocals and the first track where Sotelo gets to show off his incredible singing voice and range. This track has some of Sotelo’s most creative and impressive vocal work to date. “Marigold” has a catchy chorus and interesting twists, which balances Periphery’s heavy and melodic sides extremely well.
The next track, “The Way The News Goes…”, takes the softer side of Periphery even further with hints of atmospheric guitar and mellow backup vocals mixed in with Sotelo’s powerful singing. While Sotelo’s vocals shine in this song, it’s in the following track, “Remain Indoors,” where he truly takes the spotlight.
“Remain Indoors” is an incredible song that takes the sound Periphery has built over the years and mixes it with something entirely different. From the very beginning it’s clear that Sotelo is going for a different style as he extends the last note of each verse with a soulful twang and an impressive change of pitch. Between Sotelo’s impressive vocal performance and some of the best keyboard Periphery has ever included in a song, “Remain Indoors” is a huge standout for the album.
Periphery continues to deliver with “Habitual Line-Stepper,” which is a multi-part, nearly seven-minute-long song with multiple changes in style and a beautiful violin section. The way these different sections flow together smoothly makes this song a prime example of Periphery’s great skill at songwriting.
Periphery has always been known first and foremost for its highly technical and quality instrumentals. This is still true, but the biggest takeaway from “Periphery III” is that Sotelo’s vocals have undoubtedly reached equal ground with the rest of the band. This is clear in “Catch Fire,” where Sotelo completely steals the song, shifting seamlessly from fast, R&B-inspired singing to brutal screams and then to a catchy, melodic chorus. Sotelo has greatly improved his vocal ability with each album the band releases, but his work on this album is on a completely different level.
While two songs in the back half of the album, “Absolomb” and “Prayer Position,” aren’t quite as memorable as some of the other songs on the album, they still pack a punch and contribute to the work’s overall sound. However, the song that is sure to have the biggest effect on the listener is the epic and emotional closing song, “Lune.”
I never would have expected that the band that made a song called “Make Total Destroy” would be able to make a song about love with the lyrics, “Never ever gonna let you go.” On top of that, I never would have expected it to work half as well as this song does. “Lune” features calming guitar, touching lyrics and beautiful violin and vocals that all build up to a big, climactic sound that sends the album out in the best possible way.
“Periphery III” takes everything that makes Periphery a progressive metal icon and injects it with brand new sounds to create an exhilarating, complex and impressive album that stands with the band’s best work, despite a few minor missteps.