Periphery – ‘Clear’ [Review]

Periphery clearWhether you love or hate these guys, one thing cannot be denied: Periphery are not your standard metal band. While many acts continue to follow the well-travelled offline career path – centred primarily around toilet circuit gigs, the occasional EP, and appeals to labels to fund an album – Periphery head honcho Misha Mansoor made his name online, releasing solo material under the alias ‘Bulb’ and constructing his brand through unconventional (but clearly super effective) communication channels. Although it is popular in some circles to regard online audience-building as the mark of the heretical, double-dealing cheater, in the music business it’s just good sense.

Today, as if to affirm that conclusion, new YouTube bands are born on a daily basis, while labels focus increasingly on ‘platform size’ and ‘audience engagement’ as key metrics when considering a future signing. In a world where everything is on the table – not just the likes of Alex Day and Dorje but more or less every musical performance that has ever taken place in front of a functional video camera – sitting on your laurels guarantees, now more than ever, the inexorable certainty of crushing failure.

Fortunately, Periphery have proven more than aware of this fact, making a clear and conscious effort to consistently push themselves out of their collective comfort zones. Of their work so far, nothing proves this point as effectively as Clear.

A seven-track mini-album comprised of an opening overture and one additional track per Periphery member, in which each instrumentalist offers his own take on said overture’s central theme, Clear is unlikely to delight traditionally-minded metal fans. It is, however, guaranteed to drop the open-minded proghead into an overflowing vat of syrupy manna from heaven. The Overture provides a clear Dream Theater vibe, with cheeky then lilting Rudess-esque piano collapsing into fully-fledged 6/8 epicness; The Summer Jam contains shades of Biffy Clyro’s odd-time-pop songwriting, all fascinatingly catchy hooks over complex polyrhythmic layers; and Feed The Ground goes a little pop-punky – albeit with a crushing downtuned Slipknot-level riff break, Protest The Hero-style vocal highs, and a beautifully ethereal clean section.

All of that, just in the first three tracks. You average run-of-the-mill riff fest this is not. Track 4 – Misha Mansoor’s Zero – is a five-and-a-half-minute tour de force, all twisting labyrinthine riffs underpinned by Meshuggah-influenced stabs; The Parade Of Ashes gives us pounding drums, production-heavy industrial/electronic complications, traces of Nine Inch Nails and badass soloing courtesy of guitar whiz Nick Johnston; the basslines in Extraneous sound like the Hulk twisting steel pipes into pretzels; and Pale Aura tops it all off with false-sense-of-security cleans and falling-down-the-stairs-in-slow-motion grooves, before concluding with fat double-kick drumming and some final fading cleans bringing the set to an intense and fully satisfying close.

Whether experimental metal is your thing or not, failing to appreciate the sheer amount of passion and dedication shining through every moment of Clear‘s running time is, to this mind, incomprehensible. This is the sound of a band giving themselves the freedom to explore new territory, and risking / guaranteeing more than their share of flaming critical arrows. For those of us who look for nothing less than that, Clear is stunning. For the rest of the music-listening population, perhaps these guys will make your day instead.


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Posted on 18 January 2014

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