Periphery has slowly been becoming the boy band of the djent scene. Rising like a phoenix, Periphery brought the virtual reality of djent and brought it success in the realm of metal, giving it a true messenger. Their fifth record Periphery III: Select Difficulty, however, doesn't pigeonhole them into the small space that djent is commonly labeled with (those clichéd open and first fret notes, as part of the meme). It's one of the band's most diverse records, following the same elements they experimented with in the past, as well as adding new ones in.
My favorite part of this record is that it feels like the natural progression for the band. Their last releases were a double-album, Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega. The albums' songs needed the context of the story of the concept of the record to really balance them out - I didn't fully enjoy Omega because of this. The songs didn't really work too great outside the context of the album. Alpha was a much more enjoyable listen, however, because while it did also have the context of a conceptualization backing it, the album made great use of melody. The melodies on that album soared and really made the songs feel a lot more powerful. Select Difficulty brought that a step further, which is exactly what I wanted.
Melody is huge on this record. Vocalist Spencer Soleto has some truly defining moments on this record. The note he hits at the end of 'Catch Fire' is one of the most epic moments on the album. The way he belts out certain notes adds a whole other level of energy to the track. His singing style also has a certain swagger to it - it almost feels like the same pop fusions style Issues is known for. The back-half is a lot more melody-centric, and just generally less heavy in the grand scheme of things. The songs all have a softer and more alternative rock/metal sound to them. This only stays true for about every other track after the halfway mark, though. The vocals don't start making a mark on the album until the second track 'Motormouth', but they're not the focus until about 'Flatline' - the first track that feels like melody has importance and is not a backing to the thrashing instrumentals. The latter of the two songs has a massive ending to go with it, too.
Misha Mansoor is essentially the being of Periphery. His guitar work is what brought them into the spotlight, after all. Every track feels like a guitar feat - there's not one that doesn't have guitar anything less than epic. Whether it's the trashing, low-tuned pounding notes of 'Motormouth' or the sweet licks in 'The Way The News Goes...', there's always something going on. The album is full of massive instrumental movements and moments. The epic screams in the bridge of 'Marigold' are backed by a masterful metal instrumental complete with an orchestral intro and complex guitar riffs. There are layers upon layers of guitar goodness in 'Prayer Position', all of which build to an absolutely mindbending ending.
The softer moments on the record cannot be ignored, too. Massive orchestras can be easily missed if you're not careful, and they add a lot of dimension to the music. Closing track 'Lune' is half orchestral, half jamming, with beautiful symphonic pieces found interspersed within the track making it a very climactic closure to the record. 'Marigold' ends on an ambient piece for two minutes that adds a sense of aftermath to the track. The piano outro following 'The Way The News Goes...' is also a great touch.
Sadly, an album given so much acclaim does have some negatives. There are songs on this record that feels unfinished. The chorus instrumentals of 'The Way The News Goes...' are a mess, though the rest of the song leaves little to complain about. 'Habitual Line-Stepper' is another song that has great parts but feels very incohesive. And paired with their boy band position in the metal world, their lyrics sometimes don't support them. There are a lot of very cringey lyrics on the record, but one that immediately stood out that had me check the lyrics to make sure I had heard correctly are in 'Marigold': "Suck on the mother's dead tit" is a true feat of a lyric. And let's not get started on the title of 'The Price Is Wrong'...
Select Difficulty was the natural progression for Periphery. Sometimes band go in a direction that didn't fit what they were ready for, or they moved on too quickly from something they were just beginning to get a grasp of. Periphery is taking their time, and is hitting all the right stops along the way. Select Difficulty isn't a perfect album, but it's definitely up there with some of the band's best works. Lots of big moments make this album the Alpha (my personal favorite record from the band) with more riffs. There's room to grow, but the storm that is Periphery isn't going to be slowing down any time soon.
Favorite Tracks: Marigold, Catch Fire, Lune, Flatline
Least Favorite Tracks: Motormouth, Habitual Line-Stepper
Rating: 78 / 100