Founded as a solo project by Misha Mansoor, the US progressive metal band Periphery made it to one of the most important acts worldwide with only two albums and two EPs. As many know, the songwriting and recording process for the two albums "Juggernaut: Alpha" and "Juggernaut: Omega" has been delayed due to several events - Misha Mansoor had the idea of a concept album called "Juggernaut" already seven years ago - but this month, "Juggernaut" is finally here and I think I'm speaking for every fan when I'm telling you that we are all losing our minds about that.
With the first two albums, Periphery basically presented a row of more or less isolated songs. “Juggernaut” however is the first album the whole band worked together towards a distinct goal: To tell a story through music by creating a conceptual album. Being given a detailed self-written story that revolves around a character, his feelings and his intense experiences, Periphery were given the opportunity to include as many different musical elements into “Juggernaut” as possible in order to illustrate the different moods and events in the character’s life. The first part called “Alpha” focuses on the character’s development, whereby “Omega” reveals some gut-wrenching events in his life.
Known as a band whose members are willing to constantly grow as musicians and songwriters, it's still nearly incredible how these guys pushed themselves in terms of songwriting this time: "Juggernaut" indeed turned out to be an overly mature record and a great leap forward compared to "Periphery II" - not only because of the increasing average song length. The tracks aren't arranged as typical "songs" so to speak, but as parts of an overall experience you have while listening to the two albums "Alpha" and "Omega". You will need some time to digest them, but it's more than worth to take your time.
In general, I've always had the feeling that concept albums make bands restrict their sound spectrum in order to make it fit into the story - instead, Periphery's "Juggernaut" displays a very wide spectrum of sounds and arouses different emotions. I've always admired the way Periphery manage to experiment around with ideas and different sounds while keeping up their unique style. They achieved a massive djent sound and still had enough space left for acoustic guitars or piano and, most importantly, building up climaxes and certain moods depending on the song (title track "Omega" or "A Black Minute"). You can hear everything from heavy djent songs ("Hell Below"), complex riffing and drumming ("MK Ultra") and atmospheric and slightly darker songs ("The Scourge", "Psychosphere") to almost happy sounding electronic melodies (title track "Alpha"), catchy vocals (chorus of "22 Faces", title track "Alpha") and overall acoustic tracks ("Priestess") to name some examples.
I highly approve that the albums concentrate a lot on vocals, as well as I’m very happy to hear even more clean (often aggressive or distorted, but not growling or screaming) vocals from Spencer Sotelo. A versatile vocalist like him who gives such utterance to the music just needs room to express himself in my opinion. This time, the vocals also act as a guide through the story.
Only very few people are able to relate to the way I get attached to a vocalist’s voice. Some singers touch my heart extremely profoundly, as if they could actually feel what I feel. For the first time since I know Periphery, I got this feeling while listening to “Juggernaut”. Spencer Sotelo sings with such confidence, skill and emotion. At the same time, he writes absolutely mind-blowing vocal lines. His clean and partially aggressive voice literally shines during tracks like "Priestess", "Alpha", "22 Faces" or "The Scourge", and in addition to that, one can hear some pretty impressive notes: On "A Black Minute" he sings a B4, jumps to a C5 and to a glass-clean E5 right after. On "22 Faces" Spencer reaches an E5 with distortion during the bridge, which is insane. One of the best parts on the two albums regarding vocals is the ending of "The Scourge" when he is holding that freaking powerful D#5 for no less than 11 seconds! I mean, come on! This is as cool as that C6 (live!) sung from nowhere during "Make Total Destroy".
As mentioned, the gutturals got substantially less (although "Omega" covers a good amount of screaming and growling) but that doesn't make them sound less flawless, powerful and emotional. Tracks like "The Bad Thing" or "Hell Below" really show off Spencer's great guttural voice.
All I can say is hats off to these guys and their effort: It will take quite a bit to find a band in the same genre that plays at the same level and with the same passion as Periphery do. "Juggernaut: Alpha" and "Juggernaut: Omega" very soon made their way straight into my heart and I'm convinced that these two albums will remain there for a long time.