Periphery Laugh In The Face Of Brutality On New Album Hail Stan
Periphery have always tried to have fun with their music — they just haven’t always been given the chance. The Washington, DC-based progressive metal quintet have consistently brought a dry sense of humor to the beautiful, nuanced sound they’ve cultivated over the years, yet it has often fallen on deaf ears among both fans and haters alike. The band became so quickly swept up in the Internet squabbles over the fledgling “djent” genre that people began regarding them without a sense of humor, even as the band gave their sophomore album the title Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal.
But with their new album, Periphery IV: Hail Stan, the band has traveled to both poles of metal’s gravity spectrum. On the one hand, the record sees Periphery going to new levels of crushing aural ugliness, adding their traditional wily guitars and unorthodox time signatures to some of most crushing riffs, rhythms, and subject matters they’ve explored in their entire career. On the other hand, well, the album’s called Hail Stan, a play on evil metal’s traditional rallying cry and an allegiance to a dark lord in a rayon shirt pushing his glasses up on his nose.
When asked what Stan would look like when confronted at the gates of Heck, Periphery guitarist Jake Bowen chuckles. “I feel like, if we are talking about some sort of deity who’s responsible for all of the bad things that happens, and feeds of the misery of life, he would be someone who’s completely inconspicuous,” says Jake. “I feel like deceit is one of those core tenets of an entity like that. It would be like an old woman — someone you wouldn’t expect. A sweet old lady, like Grandma!”
Where’d you come up with the title for the album? Was it specifically designed to confuse and bewilder serious metalheads?
I think that’s right along our nature, is to keep people guessing, and keep playing with the idea of what metal is and what it can be, and who can be a part of what scene. We try not to take ourselves very seriously, even though the music is very serious.
Does it ever bother you that the fans take the music so seriously, when you have a more laid-back relationship with it?
Nah, we’ve always like to dabble with different styles and different aesthetics, and if it confuses people, that’s kind of on them. We like having fun with the music, and fun with the imagery, and just doing what we’re doing. I know that’s a lazy answer, but it’s true that…when we were naming the album, we went through hundreds and hundreds of possible titles, and when somebody said, ‘Hail Stan,’ we said, ‘That’s perfect — people are going to mess that up because people are going to say Hail Satan, and the imagery is going to suggest that it should say Hail Satan.’ It’s just us being silly about it in a subtle, or not so subtle way, depending on how you look at it.
Have you encountered a lot of people accidentally saying ‘Hail Satan’ a lot?
I’ve never seen it in print or online like that yet, but I was just talking to someone on a radio program who called it ‘Hail Satan’ on-air, so I got a kick out of that. The whole point is that people are going to mess this up.
It definitely feels refreshing to see a band as serious about music as you guys are, laughing in the face of metal’s darkness.
Good, I’m glad it comes off that way! It can be a bit pretentious on our end to kind of, like, constantly be fucking with people. But we’re constantly fucking with each other, so we want to share our senses of humor with everyone.
Along those lines, were you taking a more ironic approach when writing the track Blood Eagle? That’s a super Viking metal topic for you guys…
I think the songs individually can actually be very serious. I mean, like, there’s nothing good about Vikings slaughtering people, and I think the historical significance of that subject matter is what makes it interesting to write about. So while there are some humorous elements to the aesthetic of the album, Blood Eagle’s a very serious song. It’s a musical representation of that act in our mind. I mean, honestly, it should be a much uglier song, but we still need to make it sound like Periphery.
Is it hard to strike that balance — to write something beautiful and transcendent about something dark and brutal?
We write in phases. When we were writing Blood Eagle, I think we were just kind of having fun with some heavy grooves. It’s actually a song that me and Mark wrote, and then Mischa came in and added his parts. We didn’t know that it was going to be that brutal. We had imagined that that’s the direction Spencer would go just because the attitude of the song lends itself perfectly to something like that, but we just didn’t know. So after hearing the song for the first time with the vocals, we decided that this was perfect for this song.
Are there any other tracks on the album that up that ante? Any songs that’ll have people saying, ‘I didn’t know Periphery could get that brutal?’
Quite possibly Church Burner, the song after that. That one’s more of a frenetic, almost industrial or punk songs. I wouldn’t say it’s as heavy as Blood Eagle, but it’s definitely an ugly song. I think it’s easy to just assume Periphery is capable of writing certain types of melodies or ethereal-sounding passages or whatever, but a lot of the aspects about metal are not pleasant to listen to and fill you with a certain type of energy, so we really like exploring them. A few of us listen to some really brutal metal, and we always talk about how much fun it would be to do stuff like that. So to finally sit down and do it feels pretty good — it feels like a catharsis.
Is there any aspect of the metal you like that you wouldn’t want included in Periphery’s music?
I don’t know yet! I think we do what we do, and we don’t really talk about it too much. I think there’s stuff that we want to explore in the future but haven’t yet, I just don’t know exactly what that would be. But with this album, we explored a lot more of the darker side of what we do. There’s a lot of minor keys on this record, a lot of high gain stuff. Even the production varies between songs, because we wanted to have different drum sounds for the songs.
Did you go into this record with that in hand? Did you guys say, ‘This is going to be the dark one?’
I don’t think it was ever intentional, but just, with the state of the world right now, people are just generally more negative than I remember. If you look around the world right now, at least politically or in a society sort of way, people are starting to move more toward nationalism or authoritarianism, and people are starting to really draw the line in the sand on where they stand on certain issues, and are faced with a lot of stuff they don’t like to see, a lot of ideologies that are not pleasant to deal with. This may be an unintentional reaction to that.
It’s interesting that you guys respond to that by both reflecting the darkness, but also laughing in its face by calling it ‘Stan.’
That’s definitely part of it. I think when it all comes down to it, we’re just animals with opposable thumbs who can communicate some abstract thoughts to one another, but other than that, there’s not too much to us.
Periphery’s IV: Hail Stan drops Friday, April 5th, on 3DOT Recordings, and is already available for pre-order.
Posted on March 28th 2019, 7:00pm