Periphery return with a whirlwind of prog metal brilliance in Periphery III: Select Difficulty.
As a band continues in their career and the members mature it can be a turning point for where they decide to push themselves to be creative or to rest on their laurels and deliver something similar to what already has worked in the past. With a standard rock band it can be easy to release the same material throughout the years, but when you are a six piece juggernaut of a band it becomes much easier to be creative and have more people involved in something new.
Periphery is that creativity pushing group that takes the name of prog metal and wields it like a flaming sword toward the current mainstream music scene. And with each passing year it feels like the men involved have not been content with sitting still. Guitarist Jake Bowen said in an interview: “For the past couple of years we’ve been refining our collaborative process as a band and we feel that it’s only getting better with the completion of this album. –Jake Bowen
After last year’s dual album Alpha and Omega cracked the top 20 of the Billboard top 200 albums it’s not a surprise for people who have been following the band that Periphery are not afraid to get heavy or dynamic in their music. Throughout Juggernaut was 17 tracks ranging from melodic and sweeping to riff heavy and brutal. Now with Select Difficulty we get a whole new entry of unbridled talent and creativity through 11 tracks, many of which are over five minutes long, and a form of escapism into the world that Periphery brings. Verbally describing or comparing their sound however is extremely difficult to do, so it’s better if the music speaks for itself.
While The Price Is Wrong was the first released song from the album, Marigold is the track that caught my attention. After two crushing and heavy tracks comes a song that is able to both capture that frantic energy but also turn it into a gorgeous progression in style. The riffs becoming well fretted high notes and Spencer’s vocals gives a strong performance with his elevated singing pitch and the chorus launches this song to another level. Even after the five minute mark where the tracks shifts into a connecting sequence filled with guitar feedback and effects this song still feels like a whole. That trait is felt on many songs throughout Select Difficulty as well as many songs feeling like they connect at the seams. Tracks like Marigold, The Way The News Goes and Remain Indoors feel separate but still flow into each other without losing momentum.
The heavier and louder tracks like The Price Is Wrong and Habitual Line-Stepper are definitely solid, but it’s the tracks that take their time a little more make use of the melody as well as incorporating more elements like background vocals and string selections that stand out most. Songs like Remain Indoors and Flatline really create a gorgeous mindscape when listening.
Flatline fluidly goes from forceful in the first half to focused and paced in the second. The ferocious drumming and guitars all go from metering out in volume to a silk smooth transition to close the song. All guitars involved create an atmospheric experience in this and many of the tracks on Select Difficulty and each one feels unique and memorable.
Only occasionally do you hear a moment in a track that doesn’t flow as well. Three guitars all on full volume layering harshly or a vocal repeat that feels like it doesn’t belong. But these moments are very few and far between. Chances are you will like both the heavier and more melodic in this album, and also love the final track that is one of the best album closers I have heard in years.
It’s difficult to dive more into Select Difficulty without playing more clips, especially the harder tracks, but I can honestly say that if you have been a fan of Periphery in the past and enjoyed what you’ve heard in this review, then you will find more than enough replay value throughout the album. Overall, Periphery have delivered another wildly created prog metal experience that does not hold back in pushing boundaries while still meeting expectations of the band’s fans. Whether you enjoy the more tense style or more flowing, Select Difficulty is not a hard task to listen though.