Periphery II : This Time It’s Personal (2012)

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As time has gone on, rock music has evolved. To me, Led Zeppelin was the first rock band to combine incredible musicianship with great songwriting. Before that, most bands could only muster one or the other. History has shown that pulling off both at the same time has proved to be quite an elusive trick. While Led Zeppelin might sound almost nothing like Periphery, the core elements that made that band amazing, are the same ones that solidify Periphery as indelible game changers. They have the power to harness their virtuoso talents and manifest them into palatable, original compositions – a.k.a., badass, mind-blowing songs that push the envelope into a brave new genre of rock. Yeah, there are the Joe Satrianis of the world. And yes, they indeed are proficient at their instrument. But, they basically just jerk off with a guitar and try to show how complicated they can make things. That’s great and all, but it becomes almost a chore to get through an album. The novelty wears off quickly, and over time, reveals itself to be a cheap form of art. And then we have the Green Days of the world – fantastic songwriting, with the ability to listen to it repeatedly, but not quite earth-shattering originality. It’s just not terribly interesting or challenging to the ear. You won’t find yourself picking out some new sonic treat you missed in all the layers the first few times you heard the song. Periphery, like Led Zeppelin, have that special something where the songs can offer you something new every time you give a listen. That’s the hallmark of a great work of art.

This is all very exciting!

“WHY does the audience at our live shows have to be 84% MALE ?!?!”

At the core of every great rock band you will find two things. First, they will have great songs everyone likes to sing along to. Second, the drummer and the guitarist/songwriter will be the best in the world for their time. Thinking of my favorite bands, let me name the duos that come to mind : Bonham/Page, Alex/Eddie Van Halen, Ulrich/Hammett, Grohl/Cobain, and now, Halpern/Mansoor.

Now, I can hear the skepticism from the masses, doubting that a drummer really matters. While I am not much of a drummer, I feel they are an underrated, often overlooked component beating at the heart of every great band. There are three main ingredients in songwriting – rhythm, melody, and lyrics. And without pushing those rhythmic boundaries, you are missing a major part of the equation. Make no mistake, the best rock drummers of each generation ARE more than just timekeepers, they are true songwriters. Periphery’s Matt Halpern can write some great songs, and below he and guitarist Misha Mansoor show you don’t need melody to move the masses.

Together, the band craft intricately woven polyrhythms and melodies. Guitars shift from screaming to djenting within the span of a second. This can be heard in almost every song the album has to offer. From the sonic explosion that is “Have a Blast” to the dark and melodic “Mile Zero”, the album takes head banging to a whole other level. This ain’t your daddy’s 4/4 timing. You’d best learn all the proper stops, drops, twists, and turns or you’ll find yourself quite discombobulated in the mosh pit. It took me a good 4 months of solid steering wheel drumming to be able to properly thrash out to this album. My personal favorites are “Luck as a Constant” and “Ji”.

Just take a look at this concert footage from Paris 2013, and tell me they aren’t doing something special….

I can’t wait for their next album. I have high expectations for this band and feel confident there will be more gems to come. If you haven’t heard of Periphery yet, give it a year or two. elitism801_1024x1024Maybe you don’t dig all the screaming. And at times, it can be a bit much, even for me. If I were their producer, I’d keep most of the hostility confined to the non-vocal instrumentation. Fingers crossed, for Periphery III, they will be secure enough in their masculinity to let some of the anger dissipate, and allow a wee bit more melody to creep into the vocals. But, I won’t be holding my breath for that to happen – just for the release date.

Overall Rating : 9.6/10

– JA

It Hates You (2009 Album by He Is Legend)

I would give anything to hear Neal Degrasse Tyson’s interpretation of this album cover.

Well, this is my first review of anything on the site, so I figured I’d start with something I absolutely, unequivocally love. He Is Legend is not only the best band no one has ever heard of, they are also the best band of any and all bands to this point in history. Biased hyperbole? Nope. You just haven’t given them a fair chance yet. Either that, or you are over the age of 36 and/or enjoy listening to Akon in your $22,000 Miata tricked out with $36k worth of neon undercarriage lights, Tokyo drift double spoilers, and brown-note inducing muffler enhancements. And speaking of brown note inducing sounds…..”That’s Nasty”, the appropriately titled 11th track on the album, does a great job of giving you an O-Ring blowout; only, in a good way. This track is actually my second favorite on the album, and if you turn it up just loud enough, you will feel your testicles drop for a second time in your life(and if you are a woman, you will drop some luscious lady-balls that you never knew existed). But, before we dive further into the album, let’s talk about the band a bit first.

HIL are based out of Wilmington N.C. and have been around since about 2004ish. They are amazingly talented at every position. No exaggeration, Steve Bache is the best drummer I’ve ever seen/heard. His greatness isn’t just derived from pure talent(although there’s no shortage of that), but more in contributing to the creative process of a song. Steve’s drum parts are ones that you can basically sing along to with your hands while pounding a steering wheel. If Steve were to tour with AC/DC it would be like making Beethoven gig with Savage Garden. On guitar, or should I say, many, many guitars, as in 59 overlayed tracks of perfectly crafted guitar genius…. we have Adam Tanbouz. One of the few guitarists who can resist letting their sick chops get in the way of finding the best path to write a good song(apologies for using the term “sick chops”). Matty Williams(bass) doesn’t just follow the root notes and let you forget he’s there. He finds just the right balance of going between locking in with the rhythm section, and filling in melody where space makes itself available in the course of a song. Which brings us to Schuylar Croom, the enigmatic frontman. His performances can be as moody as his lyrics. But, being unpredictable can be a good quality in a lead singer. He writes terrific lyrics and delivers them with real character and passion. He also, for better or worse, mirrors whatever energy his audience is putting out. Sometimes, that’s mostly anger and frustration rather than joyous exuberance. But, that is a symptom of misguided band management. As a result, HIL far too often found themselves propped up in front of audiences that didn’t really relate to them, and more often than not, demanded to be impressed. And these boys don’t negotiate with terrorists. I guess I can’t get too upset about that.

Schuylar shows the importance of staying limber during a show.

If one thing is for sure : this band is not in the business of kissing anyone’s ass or bending over backwards for applause and approval. I mean, it’s now been literally years and they still won’t play their most popular song : “I Am Hollywood”. They claim the song is an anomaly, in that it doesn’t really represent who the band is. Further, they are also sick of playing it, and having people ask for them to play it repeatedly. Fair enough. But occasionally, you gotta take one for the team and throw the fans a bone. I mean, sometimes they go so far as to tease audiences with the first few notes and walk off stage. Granted, this is fucking hilarious to watch on YouTube :    But, I imagine you might feel a bit less psyched about the whole thing in person. I don’t think they should admonish fans for requesting it or liking it. Luckily, they have so many other great songs that they can get away with this unwavering stance. On the other hand, the silver lining to this kind of attitude is that having no rules can allow a band to be both more amusing and creative.

Now, getting back to this album…. Most bands would take the subsonic limit-pushing drop-G tuning that Adam is using on “That’s Nasty” and just create some novelty “song” with it. Something that only burnouts who worked weekends at a Guitar Center would enjoy. A song where the only redeeming feature is that it’s mildly amusing to listen to for the first thirty seconds. But, going far past some intro guitar gimmick, these pseudo-southern boys actually poured out a fucking gem of a song. This isn’t akin to Mr. Bungle where it’s just a descent into pure madness, without ever bringing us back to palatable melodic bliss. This song, like the rest of the album, is just great music.

Yup, that just about sums it up.

Starting off with the cool, spontaneous, layer building groove of “Dicephalous”, and flowing all the way to the cacophonous, ultra head-bangable fadeout of “Mean Shadows”, the band (yet again) orders the tracks in perfect succession. My favorite track on the album is “Future’s Bright, Man”. It’s just everything I could ask for in a song. It’s got a great hook, and stays engaging at every turn. It’s heavy and dark, but still incredibly melodic. Just a great balance of everything. Other notable tracks include “Cult of She”, which at first seems difficult to swallow, but grows on you like a fantastically fractal fungus. “The Primarily Blues” is another incredibly original and impeccably recorded song. Speaking of which, the overall mix and tone of the album are stellar. It  punches you square in the taint, and then tosses your salad until you are all better. Errr,  it was nicely done.

It’s no coincidence that Nirvana is one of the bands’ biggest influences. Like Kurt & Co., they took the loud/soft/loud dynamic and pushed it to new extremes and destinations. The only modern-day band to rival this seamless flipping of the switch from controlled metallic chaos to overflowing beauty through layers of intricately woven melodies is Periphery. Apparently, I’m just a sucker for 12 guitar tracks and 15 vocal tracks all weaving in and out of each other underneath a f*cking sweet pounding rhythm section. But, as much as Periphery are at masters of their instruments, they just don’t write songs or lyrics consistently as well as the Legend boys do. I mean, pretty much every single song HIL have put out(90125 included), I have enjoyed in some way. And that’s 47 out of 47 released songs. That’s a pretty decent batting average.

“It Hates You” isn’t as catchy or accessible to the average listener as their previous 2004 release : “I Am Hollywood”. And I actually do enjoy “I Am Hollywood” a tiny bit more. The “Hollywood” album brought them decent initial success and thrust them into a Nirvanaesque psyche. A state of mind where fame is initially desired, but eventually reviled once the spotlight begins to shine too brightly. The spotlight never got all that bright mind you, which is why most people have no clue who they are. Perhaps that is the secret to making ridiculously good music. There can be no higher corporate interest involved pushing for that almighty dollar. Instead of being pressured to regurgitate a formula that has already been proven to work, the music remains in its purest form : untainted, unapologetic, creative awesomeness.

Overall Rating : 9.6/10

– JA