Just putting this out there up front, this review is going to be somewhat biased as I am a long time fan of this band. Tracks like “Feed the Ground” and “Scarlet” are some of my favorite metal tunes to be released in the past several years. Periphery is one of a few bands right now I feel is really pushing the envelope in heavy music – and has been pushing it since their inception.
My brother, who has the same enthusiasm and love for music as I do introduced me to Misha Mansoor‘s “Bulb” page on MySpace what seems like an eternity ago but was probably 12 – 13 years at this point? Who knows… What’s important is that MySpace recently deleted all that music and it’s the stuff of legends now…
So this album by Periphery (Misha Mansoor’s band) has a lot of history behind it for me. I have always dug the way Periphery combined the best elements of groups like Dream Theater, Metallica, Rush and Pantera… Meshuggah and Fear Factory. It’s great technical… and yet heavy as fuck metal.
Periphery IV: Hail Stan marks the first time in their 13-year career, the band devoted an entire year to crafting the nine tracks comprising the new album. “We finally spent a year on a record,” says Jake Bowen (guitars / programming). “We’ve never been able to do that. The quality and pacing of the work show we really took our time with this one. That’s an important note about this. We really got to do everything we wanted to do in the space we had to do it.”
As the musicians commenced work on Periphery IV in late 2017, the circumstances differed from the outset. This time around, they operated as an entirely independent outfit, recording it as the first Periphery release for their own 3DOT Recordings. Additionally, Misha had recently moved to Texas, and it would be their introductory experience tracking outside of Maryland. The setting “breathed life into the music,” as Jake explains.
The opening track “Reptile” clocks in at 16:44 and does not disappoint. It is weaves in and out of all kinds of styles and grooves but never seems lacking… it feels fluid and complete like a single, coherent composition rather than 4 different songs they decided to smash together.
Exemplifying a penchant for progression, “Reptile” twists and turns through moments of bludgeoning groove, intricate fret fireworks, and melodic reprieve wrapped in what Mark calls a, “more saturated, aggressive, and darker tone than on the last albums.”
“Who begins a record with a 16-minute track?” he asks with a laugh. “We could finally do that, because we call the shots with our own label. It felt liberating. There were no rules.”
Track 2 “Blood Eagle” is where things get serious though… this song is a fucking monster. Without a doubt the heaviest thing I’ve heard the band put out to date. It wastes no time beating your face in with a brutal guitar riff that hits a high note reminiscent of the tone you get when you call someone and the line is busy… but done with a guitar. “It’s the most unrelenting, uncompromising, heavy, and pissed-off song on this thing,” grins Mark. “A ‘Blood Eagle’ was a style of Viking torture. It fits the vibe!” Since this is also the lead single from the record, you don’t even have to take our word for it… you can watch it right here:
“CHVRCH BVRNER” keeps the heavy and frantic vibe moving… just so much energy in this song. The beginning almost reminds me of what a train delivering a shipment of drums and guitars might sound like if it was whipping through a twisting canyon – about to derail at any moment – but somehow clinging firmly to the tracks. “CHVRCH BVRNER” might be “the most spastic Adderall-driven song we’ve ever written,” as Mark describes it. The glitchy breakdown at the end just ices off this cake very nicely.
The slow trudge of “Garden in the Bones” offsets a hypnotic vocal performance from Spencer and a lush clean guitar bridge. This is one of the more straight-forward tracks on the album. It has a much more typical song structure than the mathed out prog-metal the band is best known for.
“It’s Only Smiles” has a carefree, melodic feel to it as the title would suggest. Make no mistake this is the type of song that could be heard on rock radio and that’s not a bad thing. This is one of those gateway songs that will draw some new fans into the band and then expose them to the really heavy stuff. The song also helps to add additional texture to the overall flow of the album so you’re not constantly just being bludgeoned with screaming and kick drums – “light and shade” as Jimmy Page used to call it. The melodic soft stuff makes the dark and heavy stuff that much more intense.
“Follow Your Ghost” is built on a slow groove with an almost movie soundtrack style breakdown in the middle.
“Crush” starts out stripped down with just a churning electronic rhythm, drums and vocal melodies. It builds into something that’s quite heavy but relies almost completely on synthesizers and electronics paired with drums and percussion.
“Sentient Glow” began as an idea Spencer actually sang on during his audition for the band, making for a special full circle moment. This song is another dimension of heavy. It showcases a frantic, heavy yet melodically aggressive quality that stands out among the tracks on this album. It’s upbeat and happy – yet technical and brutally heavy at the same time.
The near ten-minute closer “Satellites” saw the musicians sit together in a room with practice amps in the center and perform face-to-face—a technique implemented on “Lune” from Periphery III: Select Difficulty. The song has great energy as a result and is a perfect cap off for the album.
We live in an era where musicians are rewarded for having shorter songs. The world of streaming has incentivized 2 minute rap songs and 3 minute pop songs. Musicians trying to make money will release 30 – 2 minute songs in hopes of collecting tons of streaming revenue. When you consider this paradigm it’s refreshing to hear a band that is unafraid to put out a 16 minute song. Periphery has always been a band that challenges their listeners and that continues with volume IV. I only wish I had more time to listen to more of the details intricacies contained on this album before writing this piece. Despite that though I can guarantee it will be in heavy rotation for days to come!