Periphery - Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre review
|Album:||Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre|
|Release date:||March 2023|
03. Wax Wings
04. Everything Is Fine!
06. Dying Star
08. Dracul Gras
09. Thanks Nobuo
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, the world has never been less predictable, and “djent” is not a genre”. So say Periphery, but the bands that have been labelled as djent all sound similar enough to merit a genre tag for ease of discussion, and I can’t figure out how to type the Prince symbol in Word and thus represent ‘the genre formerly known as djent’. Therefore, for the purposes of this review only, I’ll borrow a Wordle answer from this week and say that Periphery play horsecore: an improvement, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Even more than most horsecore bands, Periphery are by no means everyone’s cup of tea; however, as our resident horsecore enthusiast, I am unsurprisingly fond of the band. Even if I found their previous record, Periphery IV: Hail Stan, to be slightly inconsistent, its peaks were excellent, particularly the amazing opener “Reptile” and emphatic closing song “Satellites”. According to the text blurb in the promo copy, the writing process for Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre was fraught with challenges, with the future of the group seemingly in question. Periphery V has been a labour of love; as such, I wish I loved it a bit more than I actually do.
Periphery V is a long album, clocking in around the 70-minute mark; this isn’t particularly unusual for Periphery, with all of Periphery I-IV lasting for between 64 and 73 minutes. What is unusual with Periphery V is the length of the songs themselves; 6 of 9 songs on the tracklist are over 7 minutes long. In comparison, across all of their previous full-lengths, there is a combined total of 8 songs over this threshold. Periphery have really pushed the songwriting on this album in an even proggier direction than previously; given that most of those aforementioned 8 long songs from previous records feature in my top Periphery songs list, this should theoretically be a positive steps, but there are some downsides to the approach.
Stylistically, on the one hand, Periphery V very much sees Periphery retaining a lot of the horsecore elements that they are so renowned for: the signature gnarly guitar tone; the polyrhythmic, syncopated guitars and drums; the muscular grooviness; the vocal contrast between screams and Spencer Sotelo’s clean singing; the exquisite production values. However, it also continues the expansion of musical elements and interests that had appeared on recent albums; the orchestral/soundtrack dabblings that featured in several songs on Periphery III: Select Difficulty make multiple appearances here, and the group’s passions for ‘poppier’ sounds (think “Catch Fire”, “It’s Only Smiles” and “Satellites” for past examples) are only more evident this time around.
Periphery V is clearly an ambitious record, and I want to embrace that ambition, but much like another recent ambitious horsecore record, the fact that I’m nearly 10 listens in and, even having warmed to the record compared with initial listens, I still find myself ambivalent towards it suggests that there’s something that’s not entirely right. One thing that arguably has come with the increased frequency of longs songs is that the ideas fused together within songs, while mostly being solid in and of themselves, lack a touch of cohesion together.
The track that I felt this most with is “Thanks Nobuo”, the 11-minute closing track that is presumably a tribute to the Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu; I don’t know enough Final Fantasy music to tell if it’s a medley, but even if it is, the first half of the song feels very awkward in its flow, with sometimes even consecutive lines of lyrics feeling mismatched. These cohesion issues aren’t greatly detrimental; one of the songs I feel it more keenly with, “Zagreus”, is one of the stronger cuts here in my eyes. From the early horsecore grooves, the clean vocal passage a bit past the halfway mark, a brief yet killer riff that quickly follows, and the dramatic soundtrack-style outro, it’s very decent; it’s just the way it comes together, and some of the more awkward passages I’ve not highlighted above, give a bit of whiplash. The cohesion isn’t always necessarily down to hectic jumping either; “Wildfires” is a pretty predominantly gnarly horsecore effort, and I don’t mind the jazz lounge segue near the end, but the vocal phrasing in the clean vocal/chorus sections feels rather awkward to me, and I don’t think the chorus pairs well with the surrounding riffs.
That was all a bit negative, and I want to move onto the positives, but to avoid making a reverse compliment sandwich, I’ll round out my reservations with Periphery V first. One song that absolutely cannot be accused of being internally inconsistent is the centrepiece “Silhouette”, but it conversely makes the album more disjointed as a whole; coming right after a sonic juggernaut in the form of “Everything Is Fine!”, this frankly sappy indietronica song gives off even more of a sense of whiplash than the synth-heavy “Crush” did on Hail Stan. As such a stylistic shift, there’s really no predicting from your opinion of the rest of this album whether you’ll like this song; I really enjoyed “Crush” on the last record, but the Owl City synths and vocals really don’t do it for me here, and the fact that, despite being the album’s shortest song, it lasts a full five minutes is a lot to handle. Experimentation with electronic/pop sounds has grown more on recent Periphery albums; so have dabblings with symphonic, soundtrack or ambient passages, which continues here, but while I don’t have any issue with such moments by themselves, having all of the 3 songs that close out the record end with multiple minutes of such music is frankly overkill.
I’m almost at 1000 words, but I don’t want this to be a hit piece on an album I do still generally dig, so let’s talk about the positives. There aren’t any songs here that I’ve taken with in the way I did “Reptile” when Hail Stan first came out, but there’s plenty of solid tracks. “Atropos” is a more melodic horsecore song with some nice vocal and instrumental melodies, the latter of which are paired with blasts in an impressive moment later on. “Wax Wings” is one of the highlights for me here; it’s highly melodic, but the vocal hooks are more consistently rewarding here than on any other song, and the passionate climax on this song is really stirring. “Everything Is Fine!” goes in the complete opposite direction, throwing bulldozing riffs at the listener throughout before culminating in a bruising final breakdown. Last but not least, “Dracul Gras” contends for the best song on Periphery V across its grooves, vocal melodies and a really nice guitar solo, not to mention a great softer passage that carries very similar vibes to “Stranger Things” from Juggernaut: Omega.
Overall, Periphery V is a bold record, and one can hear the perspiration that went into its creation. It has some great elements to it, and it encapsulates most of what Periphery have accomplished to date. Everything is there for fans of the band to bestow it with adulation (and for existing detractors to move further away); ultimately, though, as a fan of the band, I have to concede that I’m just not that excited when listening to it, for multiple reasons. This is one of those reviews where I can envisage in time coming to rate the album far higher than the score I’m giving it; however, having shied away from rating Hail Stan in my review at the time due to similar mixed feelings, the mark I’m giving Periphery V isn’t far off what I would probably rate Hail Stan today.
||Written on 10.03.2023 by|
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