I don't have a good history with Periphery. Their debut album, though it had a few good moments, left a very sour taste in my mouth. Given that a lot of the issues I had with it could be chalked up to growing pains of a new band, however, I decided it was only fair to give their second album, Periphery II: This Time It's Personal, a sporting chance, with the hopes that they may have gotten over some of the problems that beleaguered them before. How very, very wrong I was.
The main problem with Periphery isn't their musicianship—even I'll admit that's fine enough. What's irksome about them is found in their entire misguided aesthetic. Periphery take a semi-humourous and questionably-ironic “heylookatme!” approach to writing music, and it's seriously to their detriment. They try so hard to be eyebrow-raising and ironic that, instead of funny or endearing, their music just sounds off-putting. It's like listening to someone going through his mid-life crisis and trying to force himself into identifying with the younger generation, except the younger generation he's trying to relate to grew up in the Internet era, and he somehow managed to reach middle-age at age 24.
It's not that Periphery are necessarily a bad band, it's just that they never really figured out how to mature, and no one ever bothered to tell them that they aren't nearly as clever as they think they were. They're like the kid who has just graduated high school and still thinks that making fart noises with your armpits is the pinnacle of wit; it's as if no one ever took them aside and said “Look, this kind of thing was cute when you were about ten years younger and people still thought nu metal was a good idea, but now it's just sad.”
Though sometimes dumb and silly music can be excused if it is awesome enough (I believe this is called the “DragonForce Principle”), Periphery's deficiencies are just too glaring and off-putting to make it worth it. Instead of songwriting merely taking a back seat to the failed attempts at irony, it's ditched entirely. The band winds up writing aimless, meandering pieces of musical drudgery that only occasionally resemble actual songs in a vague manner.
And it doesn't help that the album just goes on too damn long. Though I'm usually appreciative when a band uses all of the space available to them on an album, by the time I've listened to 69 full minutes of this crap, I'm ready to sever my own vestibulocochlear nerve to get some relief. This is to say nothing of the band's choice to eschew album cohesion entirely.
Okay, okay, there are some moments that aren't as bad as the others. The numerous guest solos (including Wes Hauch from The Faceless, John Petrucci of Dream Theater, and Guthrie Govan of Guthrie Govan) are at least all good, and deep in all of the cookie-cutter djent, there are a few grooves here and there that I found enjoyable (no matter how reluctantly, by that point). But it doesn't change the fact that listening to Periphery II is a chore, and a cringe-worthy chore at that.
I can appreciate what Periphery are trying to accomplish here—an aggressive mix of lightly-ironic humour and technicality—and I really, really do want to like it. The problem is they fall so far short of the mark that it's painful to listen to them trying, and a couple of solid guest solos aren't going to save this incondite album from mediocrity. If you want some fresh djent, go listen to Skyharbor's debut or the new album from The Korea instead, and if you want some hilarity in your metal, check out Devin Townsend's Ziltoid, the Omniscient or literally anything by Machinae Supremacy. You can do so much better than this (both you, the listener, and you, the band).
3.0 / 10
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