Peripherals rejoice! The Juggernaut has finally arrived! PERIPHERY’S long-awaited third album hits the stores January 27 through Sumerian Records. And not since Chinese Democracy have I seen an album so highly anticipated, so heavily rumored prior to its completion. Any longtime fans of the group will recall hearing internet buzz about the record since prior to the group’s second full-length. And yet, like the 2008 GUNS N’ ROSES release, the official details of the fabled concept record only served to push back its release. Not one to keep their fans waiting too long for new music, the group did release 2014’s Clear as an attempt to tide their fans over. Another concept, the record was an experiment, allowing each member to use a common melody as the foundation for an individual song. If you’re like me, you found the concept to be so much greater than its end product. But, alas, a new, collaborative effort has graced us in the form of a double record, titled Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega, respectively. Typically, when a group releases a double record, it ends up being 24-30 tracks, with maybe one record worth of decent material, if we’re lucky. However, what’s left is usually mindless drivel that would have been better suited as B-sides.
But the sextet of djent-lemen took the twin-release notion a different way. Juggernaut only features 17 songs total. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “This is only two more than their last effort, why not just release them on one disc?” Glad you asked. Alpha is a standard collection of ten individual songs. Omega turns many of the ideas from its predecessor into a concept, with a story being told over the span of the latter seven tracks.
But enough with the background details and on to the question that’s burning a hole in everyone’s mind: is the album that PERIPHERY fans have waited almost 4 years for any good? Well. . . yes and no.
But fear not. I don’t mean that to say the record is bad. The overwhelming majority of Juggernaut is amazing. Then why the convoluted response? I speak in riddle due to the vast density of the material and how much it differs from their previous releases, which may confuse or alienate some listeners. However, this is not exactly new territory for the group. I note the contrast between P1 and P2. The changes were so drastic that it took multiple listens for that batch of songs to grow on me. I found the same response from this release; yet it led to finding a great mix of the styles from both prior albums, as well as some areas that they had left previously uncharted. In fact, I only found one song to be absolutely dreadful, Alpha’s third track “Heavy Heart”. Unless you want to hear them sound like their impersonating an emo/alt rock band, I’d suggest skipping it. Nevertheless, I’m not here to talk trash, and the remaining 16 songs all bring great attributes to the table.
Things get started with “A Black Minute”, a slow building introduction to the maelstrom. The melody and lyrics will be revisited as the first track on Omega, in the aptly titled “Reprise”. In a song that shows nostalgia for their earlier sound, “MK Ultra” jumps in heavy with rolling, chugging palm mute chunks and dissonant anti-scale runs. Similar riffing can be found on “Rainbow Gravity” and “Four Lights”, the latter being a pummeling instrumental. As stated above, the lads throw several themes throughout the two discs. “The Scourge” and “Psychosphere” are great examples of this; with both sharing a common passage, yet standing as two very separate songs. In coming back to the idea of contrasts, I offer the title track for each side, where “Alpha” is similar to P2’s “Scarlet”, “Omega” is more like “Racecar” from P1.
Undoubtedly one of the coolest sections of the album “22 Faces” is an angsty tune that proves one can sound angry as hell with very minimal screaming. “The Bad Thing” is by far the hookiest heavy song that has ever graced my ears. I dare you not to find yourself singing along. For those who didn’t doubt me, we move into that aforementioned new territory. Acoustic guitars…on a PERIPHERY album. Thrilled? Well, you should be. “Priestess” is a gorgeous ballad, performed incredibly well in every detail. The fast paced “Graveless” is contradicted by the creeping grind of “Hell Below”, and yet they still manage to harmonize the each other effectively. Bringing the massive work to an end is “Stranger Things”, a mind-boggling saga that traverses numerous landscapes visited throughout the preceding songs. It serves as the perfect conclusion to such a bold statement, yet leaves the listener wanting more.
Speaking of conclusions, the time has come for me to sum up the results of my musical journey. Juggernaut, from Alpha to Omega, takes the listener on a dauntless odyssey that is larger than life, let alone larger than the sum of its parts. It fits precisely as the next line of djent-fused prog-metal for the group; combining elements of their earlier releases, as well as bringing some interesting new elements to the mix, to create a bold mix of the familiar and the nascent. Although, with such a complex amalgamation comes the problematic situation of how longtime fans will approach the record upon first listen. As stated above, it took a few spins to get the gist, thus, I suggest you take the same approach. Like a movie that requires multiple views to understand the entirety of the plot, PERIPHERY’S new set will ask the same of you. And trust me, it’s worth it. You can thank me later.
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL BUT “Heavy Heart”