Album review: Periphery – Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre

Washington, D.C. prog-metal overlords make a definitive statement on Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre…

Album review: Periphery – Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre
Sam Law

Few albums arrive with such a purposeful message as Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre. The Washington, D.C. prog-metal maestros’ seventh album – 2015’s Juggernaut: Alpha and Omega releases dropping outside the self-titled chronology – feels like an exercise in straining against perceived limitations, proving they’re defined not so much by the sound of their guitars as the vast sweep of their imagination. At 70 minutes, it’s an extravagant, unequivocal statement.

From the concussive first riff of aptly-titled opener Wildfire, it’s also a record built on high tension. Having already been pushed to their logistical and artistic limits in the making of 2019’s Periphery IV: HAIL STAN, the uncertainty, claustrophobia and unlimited time to dig into their psyches over lockdown opened new avenues of fraught possibility. Even when jazzy keys and saxophone bleed into the chaos, there’s less relaxation than discombobulation. Spencer Sotelo’s sublime vocal on Altropos evokes peak Coheed & Cambria, but it’s eventually overwhelmed by the tangly triple-guitar attack. Wax Wings sweeps into the open air, through heavenly ambience and vast solos, but, like Icarus himself, there’s a perilous uncertainty about rising so far from the comfort zone.

As with every Periphery release over the past 13 years, this is made for – and sure to delight – those hungry for a musical challenge. There’s too much detail to even begin to unpick in short order, and precious little of the mainstream listenability that we’ve seen from virtuoso contemporaries Polyphia of late. The alternately savage/soothing five minute blasts of Everything Is Fine!, Silhouette and Dying Star are the closest that we get. But then a trio of escalating epics – Zagreus, Dracul Gras, Thanks Nobuo – eat up the remaining run time in a shape-shifting, head-spinning, unapologetically proggy show of strength, skill and unquenched ambition.

Ultimately, there is plenty of down-tuned, palm-muted, polyrhythmic madness here for those looking. But Periphery V feels like definitive proof that they’re so much more than that.

Verdict: 4/5

For fans of: Animals As Leaders, Polyphia, The Devin Townsend Project

Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre is out now via 3DOT

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