I’ve heard the name Periphery before around the alternative metal circles. I remember a few years ago hearing a song or two off of their self-titled debut album and really liking what I heard, but being unable to find it anywhere to purchase I just kind of forgot about them. I was thrilled when I was recently given their upcoming albums Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega for review. In true Guns N’ Roses fashion, Periphery is releasing both albums on the same day, but they are stressing that this is not a double album, both albums stand alone, so in that case I’ll be splitting up the albums in two different reviews, starting, obviously, with Juggernaut: Alpha.
Juggernaut: Alpha‘s journey starts with A Black Minute. It’s not the most dominating of opening tracks that I’d select to open an album with, but the more I listen to the album, the more this song grows on me. Vocalist Spencer Sotelo has a unique voice in that it can go from sounding like that of a nice clean punk singer, to adding rasp and power to that very voice, all the way to screaming bloody murder. All three vocal capabilities are captured in A Black Minute. It takes three minutes but the song ends with a full orchestration on heavy and loud instruments, which is what really got me first interested in continuing the album.
Periphery go straight into the heavy stuff with MK Ultra. A true contradiction to its predecessor track, MK Ultra has a crazy offbeat drum beat and guitar riff while Spencer screams his balls off before the song takes a complete turn in the last minute with a jazz inspired instrumental section. Already in two tracks we see the true experimental mentality of a good progressive rock band, and Periphery aren’t failing to disappoint. The only other time on Juggernaut: Alpha that Periphery come close to making a song equally as heavy as MK Ultra is at practically the other end of the album with Rainbow Gravity. The songs sound different from one another, they are both very progressive and uniquely offbeat, but like a good progressive metal band, Periphery aren’t a one trick pony and know how to write quality songs.
A lot more songs on Juggernaut: Alpha are like Heavy Heart. A typical (as typical as progressive metal can get) unique drum beat with impressive instrumentation to go along with it. Heavy Heart specifically keeps the intensity to a minimum and hides itself well as an easily listenable metal song, even possibly a punk song thanks to the vocals at points. One thing that’s done at the end of the song that I absolutely LOVE that very few bands do is when Spencer Sotelo starts screaming at the end, he’s screaming while singing – rather than just screaming the same note – which further impresses me in regards to his capabilities as a singer.
The Scourge is another progressive track disguised well as a melodic metal/punk song. The first half or so of the song is slow and kind of effectively creepy sounding, and continues to build up to an intense middle section before breaking in to the last minute of the song which makes Periphery for just that brief minute sound kind of unforgivably like a pop band. Yet somehow, I can’t help but appreciate how damn unique that makes the song and album.
Then we get to the title track, Alpha. It starts off with a keyboard (or maybe just a some sort of programming) riff that sounds like it’s come out of a video game, so already there is something unique about the song. That riff is then turned into a heavy guitar riff and the rest of the song becomes another mix of melodic and intense progressive metal. I’d expect a progressive band like Periphery to choose their title track to be one of the albums most epic moments, and I should say they don’t disappoint. It covers all of the bands bases shown so far and then some, with some great vocal and guitar hooks. 22 Faces is kind of like a shorter and less epic Alpha in that it’s more intense than not, and it has vocal hooks unlike most on the album. The track just doesn’t stand out like others on Juggernaut: Alpha. It does have what is probably my favourite guitar solo by guitarist and founder Misha Mansoor.
There are two instrumentals on Juggernaur: Alpha. The first is a simple almost two minute track called The Event which merely serves as a well written album break between Heavy Heart and The Scourge. The other instrumental track is Four Lights. Now after my first listen to any album I have to review, every other time I listen to an album I listen to it on shuffle, for no particular reason other than me wanting to change things up, and in doing so I can tell you that Four Lights fits after just about every song. Unlike The Event which had to be played after Heavy Heart do to the fact that one leads in to the other, Four Lights stands as its own track, and just like a good instrumental it has many entertaining points that make it go by faster than one may expect.
Much like what I’d expect from a band like Periphery’s title track, I’d expect Juggernaut: Alpha to have one hell of a closing track. Psychosphere is the longest song on the album, clocking in at over six minutes. That six minutes gives Periphery a lot of time to make a progressive masterpiece, and if I may say so I don’t think they disappoint. It’s not the best song from the album, but I can see it being listeners favourite, as it has many likeable parts in its vocals and instrumentation. It also hits just about all of the bases that the band has covered throughout the album; there are soft and melodic parts, there are heavy and melodic parts, there are heavy and intense parts, there are parts that are more offbeat than others, and because of all this, the song feels like it goes by in half the time it actually does.
I can say I don’t believe I’ve ever really heard another progressive metal album quite like Juggernaut: Alpha. Periphery show the intelligence of progressive veterans like Symphony X (just less symphonic) while providing the young attitude of Escape The Fate. I may not like Escape the Fate much, or many bands like them, but Periphery find that young punk sound and make it sound intelligent which just makes Juggernaut: Alpha the most interesting of progressive metal album I think I’ve ever reviewed.
“Alpha” – This decision came right down to the wire. It wasn’t easy to pick a true highlight – hell I don’t even have a favourite from the album – because all of the songs are just so damn unique. I pick Juggernaut: Alpha‘s title track because it’s just as epic as I’d hoped and gives listeners the perfect taste of what they are in for in terms of intensity and instrumentation. I’ll also admit that the fact that there is a YouTube sample of the song that I can provide helped the decision too.
8.5 (Out of 10)
- A Black Minute (4:16)
- MK Ultra (2:50)
- Heavy Heart (4:22)
- The Event (1:45)
- The Scourge (5:36)
- Alpha (5:31)
- 22 Faces (3:52)
- Rainbow Gravity (4:39)
- Four Lights (2:18)
- Psychosphere (6:16)