Periphery - Periphery 4: Hail Stan - (9.5/10)
Published on April 9, 2019
Everybody meet Stan!
Periphery is one of the trendsetters of djent as a genre and over time, they put so much more in this particular area of metal then most bands do. Their music evolved with every release, growing more cohesive and balanced with each album. I feel that the increasingly melodic direction that the band took as well as the use of choirs and orchestra became an essential part of their sound over time, allowing them to find a contrasting balance to the aggressive and mostly technical djent foundation that was so dominant on the debut. I really loved how their music became more and more accessible without losing a hint of their progressive side. This eventually led to what we heard on P3, showing the greatest amount of tasteful hooks and the highest emphasis on orchestral elements and choirs to balance out the complexity of the music. It was the climax of their discography in my humble opinion. However many people felt that it sent the band too far into mainstream territory. They may rest easy now as “Periphery IV: HAIL STAN” has fewer hooks and user-friendly features and instead sets out to tear down mountains in terms of complexity and crushing brutality. Take the first single “Blood Eagle” as a reference to just how savage and dynamic this album is.
The music is still balanced. They haven’t become one sided, so there are still lots of good melodies and despite not being exactly accessible to those who haven’t tasted prog, the album is still very captivating. They did this not by avoiding hooks but by going for less repetitive song structures then on P3, using a lot of clever variations and ideas and taking a more experimental approach to the writing process. As a result, the album keeps constantly surprising you but it rarely becomes tiring. From all of Periphery’s albums, Stan probably comes closest to the Juggernauts, only it’s better. So what else is new? Well apart from the 50 shades of heavy and experimental, it takes a slightly darker and harsher tone then most Periphery albums and also has a few aces up its sleeve that I will detail on later. I also felt like it’s the most cohesive and has a more natural flow then previous albums.
If you’ve heard this band before you probably know how great their sound quality is, but I still feel I have to mention it. To be fair it’s not the kind of music that has 14 million layers, but the utter clarity and depth of their sound never fails to amaze me. Despite parting ways with the band in 2017, I’m glad that Adam Nolly was still available for studio work recording bass and especially mixing the album. Up until now I haven’t heard anybody pull of a mix as perfect for a record as Nolly did on Periphery’s albums. His bass lines are usually complementary to the guitar patterns mostly just adding the deep end to the string quartet that this band has, so you don’t see the bass coming forward as a lead instrument. Still the mix allows it to become very present in the music and allowing for the riffs to achieve truly monstrous dimensions with this deep growl on the low end, and Matt Halpern’s immense grooves supporting them. It should also go without saying that the songwriting allows for some of the sickest catchy yet very dynamic riffs to come into being, and I have yet to find a band with a heavy rhythm section as great as what these guys pull off. As for leading melodies, few guitarists can have you drop your jaw like Misha’s technical flare and even fewer singers can tackle a vocal performance the way Spencer does. His style of growl and cleans has an incredible range, sustain and flexibility, he always finds perfectly suited ideas to work alongside the instrumental, and I’m baffled at how his voice hasn’t changed since the band’s debut album.
Now how about those aces that our boy Stan has up his sleeve? Well, some of it you may like, some of it you may frown upon. First off it’s “Reptile”, the albums epic 15 minute long opener that is the band’s most massive song to date. I don’t think anyone could dislike what Periphery did with this monster song considering the endless flow of perfectly puzzled ideas and massive riffing. Next up it’s the electronic influence that also takes more foreground on Stan at some points in “Reptile”, “CHVRCH BVRNER”, and leads to the appearance of the most unusual song in the band’s discography titled “Crush”. This is pretty much what happens when Periphery wants to write a (late) Muse song if you ask me, and its fuzzy electronic tone and repetitive melody bummed me when I first heard it, but the song actually works in the band’s favor in the context of the album. If that’s not enough aces, you may also consider the sudden twist from beauty to beast that the album closer “Satellites” takes at about the halfway point.
That’s all I had to say about Stan. If you’re a fan of Periphery it will not let you down, if you’ve never heard this band before I think it’s a great way to start, and if you aren’t familiar to any progressive music, you may still enjoy it but I would recommend starting with some of P3’s infectious hooky tunes first. Either way, Stan is definitely worth hailing and he’s one of THE progressive records of 2019, and so far the only one that plays in the same league of excellence as Devin Townsend’s “Empath”. The album was released on April 5th through the band’s own label “3DOT” Recordings and is also available on their YouTube channel.