Periphery is one of those bands that exploded upon arrival. Fast, melodic, engaging, and outrageous amounts of fun, they have amassed a strong following that grows with each passing moment. Formed in 2005, their self-titled debut album came out in 2010 to much acclaim. Now, two years later, their second album, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, is set for release. But has the group managed to maintain that same irresistible blend of intensity and melody that their debut held or have they lost their touch?
Opening with “Muramasa”, the first thing I noticed was the serious, almost desperately pleading emotion that hovered over the song. The trademark fascinating atmospheric tones, be they from electronics or heavily effected guitars, were still there in full glory. But there was something more here, something else that shone forth. This was a much more mature sounding Periphery. The instruments, the dynamics, the mix, they all combined together as something much more engaging and fascinating. Simply put, I was hooked.
As the album progresses, as each track goes into the next, this maturity shines more and more. Perhaps it’s the fact that the drums were recorded live and this adds a great deal of personality. Perhaps it’s because of the live orchestral elements, which added a warmth that was lacking in their debut. Perhaps it’s because Spencer Sotelo’s voice soars effortlessly through some astonishing vocal runs before crashing down to guttural, aggressive depths and yet sounds so pure and honest. Whatever it is, this album is leaps and bounds ahead of their debut.
Perhaps my favorite track is “Facepalm Mute”, which is a blend of incredibly heavy and fast guitar riffing and some truly fantastic and mesmerizing vocals. Waves of vocal harmonies undulate while Sotelo pours his heart into his runs during the choruses while he tears and gnashes his way through the verses.
From a production standpoint, this album sounds gorgeous. It is lush with layer after layer of synths, guitars, effects, vocal harmonies, and more to peel away. As I mentioned before, the album carries a warmth that was lacking in their debut. It makes for a much more pleasant, less harsh sound. I do recommend that this album be played at near ear-splitting levels for maximum enjoyment.
The Final Word: With their sophomore album, Periphery has set the bar very high for other similar acts. But, more importantly, they have a set a very high bar for themselves. Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal is a crowning achievement that might very well be something even they can’t surpass, much less repeat.