Album Review: PERIPHERY Periphery IV: HAIL STAN
You are not ready for Periphery IV. You probably think you are, but you are wrong. Not even one single part of you or your existence is currently prepared for what you’re going to experience from April 5 onwards.
Let’s rewind before looking ahead. As you’re probably already aware, Periphery are one of a small number of bands who’ve defined the cutting edge of heavy music for over a decade. Along with the likes of Animals As Leaders and Tesseract, these guys constantly seek to defy and expand the limits of progressive metal—and they have succeeded in doing so.
Initially birthed in 2005 by Misha Mansoor as an extension of his online production-guru persona Bulb, Periphery eventually became a fully-fledged band amid multiple personnel changes before settling into a stable lineup comprising Mansoor, guitarists Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb, drummer Matt Halpern, vocalist Spencer Sotelo, and now-studio bassist Adam “Nolly” Getgood. Each of their previous records, from core offerings Periphery, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, and Periphery III: Select Difficulty to double-sided monolith Juggernaut and earlier EP Clear, have become instant and impressively durable classics. Periphery haters do exist, but they’ve been perpetually stomped into the ground by a band so highly respected that their Grammy nomination for Periphery III opener “The Price Is Wrong” was all but inevitable.
It’s important to bear this history in mind when listening to Periphery IV, because it highlights just how far these guys have come over the past 13 years. Although Periphery have been pioneers since the day they first emerged, this record represents yet another peak performance from a group of musicians who hit virtuoso status an entire career arc ago. Periphery III—which has now been streamed over 35 million times—was an absolute beast, while Periphery II contains all-time fan favorites like "Scarlet" and "Make Total Destroy", but Periphery IV operates on another level altogether.
For the first time ever, Periphery gave themselves an entire year to create a record and will release Periphery IV on their own 3DOT Recordings label, having split from Sumerian Records last year. Space and time have not been issues this time around, and Periphery have made the most of their new-found freedom. They’ve hardly been keen to compromise their vision at any stage of their collective career, but again, Periphery IV exists in a league of its own.
For starters, consider the fact that this album’s opening track, “Reptile”, runs just 16 seconds shy of the 17-minute mark. That’s a bold move by anyone’s standards—but “Reptile” is so perfectly structured that you’ll barely notice its length. Even if you do, you probably won’t care; that song contains everything from lush strings to a guest spot from SikTh vocalist Mikee Goodman, as well as some of Periphery’s most punishingly percussive riffs to date. It’s going to be interesting to see how that one goes over live.
Post-“Reptile", advance single “Blood Eagle”—named after a particularly harsh Viking execution ritual—lives up to its name. Periphery IV is largely marked out by the presence of super-saturated guitar tones that lend an industrial edge to Periphery’s signature sound, and “Blood Eagle” sets the scene emphatically before we move on to the petrifying “CHVRCH BVRNER”, the now-old-school “Garden in the Bones”, the surprisingly poppy “It’s Only Smiles”, basement-dwelling filth odyssey “Follow Your Ghost”, and cinematic stomper “Crush”. Beyond that point comes “Sentient Glow” (based around an idea that dates back to Sotelo’s initial Periphery audition), near-10-minute closer “Satellites” (another peak moment, building from lush balladry to Tesseract-evoking riffage), and silence filled with a sense of total satisfaction.
The only possible issue with Periphery IV: HAIL STAN is that subtitle. If it’s just a joke, that’s cool—but it could’ve been better, especially after the hilarity that ensued as fans debated such potential candidates as Shrek 3, A New Hope, Die Hard 7, and Age of Ultron. Still, there’s always next time. Leave your own suggestions in the comments, and make sure that Periphery V gets the subtitle it deserves.