Album: Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega by Periphery
Released: January 27th, 2015
Periphery is an American metal band formed in 2005 and based in Washington D.C. Known for their “djent” influence in the progressive metal scene, Periphery released their self-titled debut in 2010, which was followed by their sophomore album, Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, in 2012 before the 2015 release of the double concept album, Juggernaut. Comprised of vocalist Spencer Sotelo, drummer Matt Halpern, and guitarists Misha Mansoor, Mark Holcomb, Jake Bowen, Periphery released its third self-titled album, Periphery III: Select Difficulty, in 2016. The band is known for their self-produced material, dropped guitar tuning, and use of electronic elements in their songs.
**Spoiler Warning – Story Details Ahead**
The Story and the Songs:
“A Black Minute” introduces one of the main melodies and builds off of an urgent soundscape; the drums kick in under Sotelo’s clean vocals while clean guitars lay a foundation of wonder beneath. As the track continues and describes the protagonist, a boy born into a Satanic cult with no notions of morality, the clean vocals give way to a scream before allowing in a chorus of vocals singing the main hook. “MK Ultra” bashes through the carefully crafted crescendo of the previous song, easily the most brutal song on the album, as guitars chug and sweep through dissonant tones above guttural growls before giving way to a jazzy break that almost sounds like lounge music. After the boy is indoctrinated into the cult, “Heavy Heart” comes in as a more traditional metal song, albeit with a catchier chorus. The song features Sotelo’s different singing techniques before giving way to the instrumental track, “The Event”. “The Scourge” describes the character reflecting on the evil deeds he has committed in the name of the cult and he wonders at what else could be.
Giving its name to the first half of the double album, “Alpha” begins with an 8-bit version of the main riff before ripping in with guitar bends and double-kick drums. After some impressive time signature changes, another sing-along chorus makes its appearance with Sotelo switching between clean and guttural vocals. This song has become a staple of their live show in addition to its follow-up, “22 Faces”; beginning with heavy, chugging guitar that encourages headbanging, the track moves into syncopated beats with a guitar solo by guitarist Jake Bowen. “Rainbow Gravity” brings back the syncopation and strange time signatures that are so common among contemporary metal bands. Sotelo barks his vocals in the beginning before moving into another memorable chorus. The penultimate track on this half of the double album is “Four Lights”; another instrumental track that sets up the final song “Psychosphere”. This song introduces an additional lyrical motif that is picked up again in the second part of the piece and features distorted guitars juxtaposed beneath clean guitar melodies. “Psychosphere” is the character’s realization that he cannot move into the real world outside of the cult, no matter how much he wishes to.
“Reprise” is exactly what it describes; lyrical motifs from the first part of the double album are repeated with slight alterations. The character has been found by the cult and is re-indoctrinated in “The Bad Thing”, where he tries to describe the beauty he has seen, but finds only turned backs. He is forced to work in the prisons and falls in love with a “Priestess” who is imprisoned for trying to escape as well. The love ballad is a change of pace for the band and album, though the priestess feigns love her love for the protagonist in order to be set free. Before the character can release her, however, she is taken to be executed in “Graveless”, which describes his attempt to rescue her and his death in the process. He is sent to “Hell Below” and sees his actions for what they really were; he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong, but the joy he felt in taking lives for the cult has sent him to a realm full of shrieking and suffering. “Omega” finds him repentant and beseeching the powers that be for forgiveness and redemption; it reprises many of the motifs and melodies from earlier songs. The final track, “Stranger Things”, wraps up the album nicely as the character is able to ascend from his infernal prison after coming to terms with his actions and wishing for a second chance to do better.
Periphery typically has some sort of story in their lyrics, but it wasn’t until the Juggernaut albums that a fully-fleshed-out concept became part of their repertoire. Though the songs are all within the spectrum of heavy metal, there is enough variety here to bring about tonal shifts depending upon what is happening in the story, while maintaining the band’s signature sound. Each member is a master of his craft and this shines through in the composition and construction of the songs and story. This is not an album for anyone who enjoys concept records, but if you have a taste for the intense and guitar virtuosity, this is a great piece to pick up.
Please enjoy some song recommendations, songs from the album, and check out the band’s social media accounts below!
Song recommendations: Alpha: “Heavy Heart” , “ Alpha” , “22 Faces” Omega: “The Bad Thing” , “Omega” , “Stranger Things”