Periphery: We like to take the piss out of the whole djent thing

They might be originators of the djent scene, but Periphery refuse to be defined by one guitar sound. In fact, they’re more interested in subverting the genre entirely…

Periphery: We like to take the piss out of the whole djent thing
James Hingle
Ekaterina Gorbacheva

In the spring of 2010, an explosion of chuggy riffs, subsonic booms and futuristic metal sounds carved a corner for itself in metal. It was called djent, so named because of the djent-djent sounds of the guitars, and U.S. outfit Periphery had unwittingly found themselves as its leaders.

Since then, the genre has wavered, meandered and often seen others point and laugh at it. Even Periphery themselves have grown out of it, continuing with their progressive metal mantra, and now, over a decade later, they’re a GRAMMY-nominated band, who have just released the fifth instalment in their catalogue, Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre.

Instantly, that title alone has turned heads. The Wikipedia page for the album even classifies the genre of it as, er, djent. To some this might be some tragic irony, but for the members it was an intentional play, and they relish the debates around this topic.

“We named the album this because it genuinely made us laugh,” quips guitarist and founding member Misha Mansoor. “It’s the one that we all agreed on – and to borrow some of your [British] phrases: we're just taking the piss.

“If it helps people categorise us and puts us in a place where people might find us, then that's a good thing,” he continues with a shrug. “And there isn't any downside to being called [djent] as our approach is still that of a progressive metal band. Ultimately it doesn't have to affect anything, and we can have a little bit of fun with it.”

Djent Is Not A Genre is a 70-minute behemoth of what you would expect from Periphery, but it feels like a different beast. It’s more assured than ever before, taking the band to places they’ve not yet explored while also maintaining some nods to their heritage.

“It was a difficult album, and it did take a long time to get up there,” says Misha. “Our standards are higher because we have reference material and we've been around a while. But we wouldn't put an album out just because it's good or good enough – you'd have to feel excited about it.

"We’ve been sitting on this album for a little bit,” continues the guitarist. “But there are certain things about this album that I've never felt before. For example, at this point, I'm usually really over the album, but I feel like this album is really something special. I don't know why, but we've talked about it as a band, because everyone seems to feel that way, but this one is very, very special.”

Indeed, the band were in the midst of deciding whether or not to do another concept album, like a follow-up to 2015’s Juggernaut, but that “idea felt like a chore, so we ditched it,” shrugs Misha. What eventually came fit their vision in myriad other ways.

“There's really no point in being in a progressive metal band, or a good band, unless you're having a good time,” says Misha. “This isn't our career, really; we do this band for fun, this is our hobby. So, we wouldn't want to turn our hobby into stress or something that's an obligation, like, it needs to be something that's fulfilling on an artistic level.”

Singles Zagreus and Wildfire have some reimagined sounds from previous Periphery material, particularly nodding to their Juggernaut concept albums, which Misha admits to being “a little Easter egg or secret handshake to OG fans”. It’s an influence that comes from similarly forward-thinking bands like Dream Theater and Devin Townsend, reinterpreting songs years later down the line.

It’s not just their peers influencing their sound, as self-confessed nerds, video games have always had a huge impact on the Periphery sound. The indie game Hades has been cited as having influence, with Zagreus being named after the game's antagonist.

“Gaming has always been a big part of all of our albums, just because that's our downtime,” explains Misha. “We're all gamers and we do take a lot of influence from certain game soundtracks. Final Fantasy VII is one of my favourites, and that is a massive influence, even to this day, with Periphery.”

Like their musical endeavours, they’re no stranger to embracing the future and being creatively out there. Latest single Atropos saw them work with a creative agency to create an accompanying AI video. Ironically it depicts society's incessant obsession with technology whilst everything collapses around them. The thought of artificial intelligence on a moral, human level can seem like an exciting piece of technology, but there’s also this very real, dark-natured beast that could change the fabric of our existence.

Asked about the ethical nature behind AI, vocalist Spencer Sotelo muses, “I guess anything's possible. But I think it's too early to know right now – it's a big question that's on everybody's minds.”

“I think we're in a time where we're figuring it out,” adds Misha. “We're gonna sort of see and hear Black Mirror-style episodes on thought experiments about this kind of stuff. But a lot of the stuff, we won't find out until it happens; you won't really see all the little moving parts of this and how it affects society until it sort of happens. Or maybe it's too late. Who knows?”

And just like AI, djent doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. While the band may be pioneers of the movement, it's not something that defines Periphery – even when they continuously find themselves front and centre, embracing the irony that is intentionally littered within their work.

“I feel the same way about it now as I felt about it then,” says Spencer. “When I first joined the band and when this became a thing, it doesn't really matter to me. With the new album title we’re just ruffling some feathers just for fun.”

He laughs. “It’s kind of fun to see people's reaction to it because it's so polarising.”

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

Read this next:

Check out more:

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?