ALBUM REVIEW – “Clear” EP by Periphery

The clear frontrunners of an extremely healthy crop of young progressive metal bands fusing the crushing polyrhythms of Meshuggah with pleasing melodies and ambient influences, Periphery have come a long way since their genesis as the musical vehicle for guitarist Misha Mansoor. 2012’s sophomore full-length record, the wonderfully monikered Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal was a far more collaborative and fully realised band effort than what came before, that successfully carved a distinct niche for Periphery among the movement that followed in their wake. A more diverse collection than the band’s debut, it showed they had potential to transcend the scene they have become so fundamentally associated with.

Clear could for some prove a difficult release to get to grips with – an intriguing idea in principle that could easily have created a mess in practice. Following an ‘Overture’ of piano duelling with the band’s trademark guitar grooves, the EP consists of six songs, each member of the band having creative control over one track each. This unusual approach allows the diverse influences that first came through on Periphery II to shine more clearly on individual songs, the whole thing forming a surprisingly solid and consistently intriguing listen.

Jake Bowen’s ‘The Summer Jam’ kicks things off to a fun positive vibe, melodic guitar lines and a pop flavoured vocal melody forming an interesting contrast to the crunching rhythms typical to the Periphery sound, this ensuring it’s not a million miles from the band’s typical fare. The EP’s two instrumental pieces ‘Zero’ and ‘Extraneous’ are also quite close in tone to previous works, Mansoor’s contribution on the former a typically stunning display of guitar mastery. Indeed, performance levels are excellent throughout, vocalist Spencer Sotelo in particular turning in what might just be his best vocals with the band yet, dominating yet not overpowering the songs he features on.

While much of the EP is very recognisably Periphery, at times things are not so “business as usual”. Matt Halpern’s excellent ‘Feed the Ground’ is one of the most straightforward songs the band have put their name to yet, obvious hooks far more prominent than usual for Periphery. Most unusual of all is Sotelo’s contribution, ‘The Parade of Ashes’. A clear Nine Inch Nails influence is overt, the chorus so danceable it would probably work well enough as a club floor-filler, if it weren’t for the more metallic mid-section that keeps the song from sounding completely out of place.

That’s the lasting impression as ‘Pale Aura’ brings things to a suitably epic conclusion. Periphery have explored a myriad of different approaches to songwriting within this half hour of music, taking the broadened horizons of This Time it’s Personal to their logical conclusions, but kept enough of their core sound to ensure the Clear EP works as a whole. What could have been a throwaway mess of disparate tracks has instead provided an exciting indication of the wealth of potential Periphery have to expand their sound, and the sound of their scene as a whole, into exciting new territories.

Rating: 8/10

[Michael Bird]

‘The Summer Jam’

‘Feed the Ground’

Periphery

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