Every opportunity I get here at Bucketlist Music Reviews has presented some serious torments. Sometimes it’s explaining something I unadulterated love without seeming like I’m trying to suck somebody off. Other times, I’m forced to stifle my rage and provide gentle criticism in an effort to prevent potential stabbings and snot-nosed internet crying. This particular piece is, unfortunately, neither. Today I have to try and figure out whether not I like something and I’m going to be singing Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” the entire fucking time, but here goes nothing. I got the immense privilege of getting an advanced listen to the Washington, DC, Periphery‘s new record, Select Difficulty.
First and foremost, a little background for you greenhorns: Periphery have been on the up and up for every record and EP release since 2010. Take note that their last record, a dual release rightfully titled as Juggernaut: Alpha and Omega, was released on January 27, 2015, and peaked on US billboard charts at twenty-two and twenty-five respectively. Shortly after that, I was honoured enough to both interview Frontman Spencer Sotelo and spill my guts on our gorgeous website about how phenomenal these cats are on a stage. Now, fast forward to the present. It’s been exactly a year and a half later and Select Difficulty has hit the shelves for us to drool over.
I gave this record a full listen and I didn’t fall in love with it. I gave it a second listen and it still didn’t grab me. I gave it four more full fucking play-throughs and it was in this moment that I started to notice things I liked. This is still Periphery, it’s still a big and tight record, but I spent my entire time wondering when I was going to get hit with that signature tune that tended to make me rethink my existence. It happened on Periphery II with “Facepalm Mute.” It happened several times on Juggernaut, most notably with the title track “Alpha,” and even farther back into the catalogue, but here we are with Select Difficulty and I’m begging for that tune. It slowly started to happen towards the end of the seventh track, “Flatline.” Then upon circling back, moments of both “Marigold” and “Catch Fire” (both of which are rather killer tunes) have the kind of emotion and heat that I’ve come to love and respect from this act. What the fuck am I getting at you might ask? With a heavy heart (Juggernaut pun intended) I say that this record has a TON of filler and is unnecessarily long.
The package comes weighing in at a little over sixty-four minutes across eleven tracks. Little stringalongs and full tunes that don’t tickle the palette tend to plague the entire work, making it a tough listen. It’s still Periphery; its complex, its deep, it’s audibly pleasing (like only bassist and chief Engineer of the band, Nolly, knows to spit out), but the writing and structuring of the songs are what irk me. Sixty-four minutes and there’s not one tune that I need to hear over and over just get it out of my head. That’s the Periphery I’ve known these last six years of my life. Hooks and disgusting song structures that leave you with a vicious cancer that only more Periphery can cure. Guitar work to be praised for decades to come, tones across the board that were not of this realm of thought, drum patterns that only a jazz machine with the deepest V-neck in existence could possibly think of, and vocals, MY LORD, the vocals and all their diverse glory.
Some may see my 6.5/10 rating as harsh, and that’s OK. If you were a first-time listener, then this record probably rocked your shit. But, at the end of the day, this piece needed another six or twelve months in the oven. Look at everything that has come out this year and tell me, as a Periphery fan, that this isn’t going to fizzle out before your eyes by the time the next heavy-weight metal act steps into the ring.
Written by Jason Greenberg
*edited by Danielle Kenedy