This news story was originally published here:

I always found Hugh Hopper and Mike Ratledge somewhat musically abrasive at times, although undoubtedly brilliant. I know, it’s probably some sort of sacrilege saying that and I can expect hanging at dawn from the rabid Softs fraternity no doubt. It’s only a subjective opinion… calm down, calm down! The Soft Machine eras raise almost as much late middle-aged hot wind as the same pointless debate among Genesis fans, and among the Softs clans there are probably even some fools who think (The) Soft Machine ended when Daevid Allen was refused re-entry into the U.K. 51 years ago! Damn fools all of them!

We are now in a new Soft Machine era and this current line-up have probably been playing together longer than any previous incarnation, so another debate, “are Etheridge/Marshall/Travis/Babbington entitled to have dropped the ‘Legacy’ from their name?” is equally daft, and frankly, a non-starter. Fans really are a pain in the ‘arris, are they not?

Back to the matter in hand, and Hidden Details, the first album to bear the Soft Machine name in 37 years, will be released a few weeks short of the 50th anniversary of the release of the band’s 1968 self-titled debut. Opening with the title track, the album gets off to a scintillating start. Hidden Details, whose main melody craftily references an earlier Softs excursion (or may not… my addled memory synapses are not always reliable!), is probably the heaviest thing on this record, heck, it may even be the heaviest thing this incarnation of the band have written. After the opening riff, which is reprised towards the end, Theo Travis lets rip with some fine and fearsome blowing on the trusty tenor sax. This serves as a substantial taster, for following that is a mesmerising jazz fusion rollercoaster excursion from John Etheridge that will have you pinned to your seat in appreciation. This track neatly captures the stark colour clash of the album’s cover, and like that garish blue/orange face off is two distinct halves colliding as one blindingly good whole.

The intuitively funky rhythm section of John Marshall and Roy Babbington is a monster on the title track, and is an essential ingredient throughout, with not a beat missed or misused. The band is touring soon and it will be a joy to behold these two in action again at The Borderline in November, anchoring the dextrous front line with a Zen-like calm authority.

Theo Travis adds a fair amount of atmospheric electric piano on Hidden Details, evoking earlier eras, and there are two interpretations of older Softs tunes on the album, which is fitting given the anniversarial nature of this release. The first of those reimaginings, both Mike Ratledge tunes and as different as can be, is The Man Who Waved At Trains, from 1975’s superb Bundles album, that starred John’s predecessor in the band, the enigmatic and brilliant Allan Holdsworth. Bundles also happens to be my favourite Softs album, another sacrilegious comment, I’ve no doubt. This version is dominated by Theo’s flute, using looping techniques to create a full soundscape, and fits with the rest of the album seamlessly.

John Etheridge is a highly expressive guitarist, in whatever style in his huge range he happens to be playing. While probably most at home in this particular setting flying off on exploratory flights of fusion fancy as on One Glove, on Broken Hill a decidedly Floydian air descends, and John takes on the Gilmour Solo, reimagined as if Dave had been steeped in a history of jazz rather than the blues. Elsewhere we witness John’s accomplished classically inclined playing on the sublime Heart Off Guard, performing a lovely duet with Theo’s reeds.

One of the shorter linking pieces, entitled Out Bloody Intro, sees Theo’s beguiling electric piano create an almost subliminal entry into Out Bloody Rageous, Part 1, a far gentler trip into the wilder recesses of the Ratledge original from 1970’s Third than might have been anticipated, by yours truly at least. For all that, it still works a treat, the ensemble playing showing all the class the many decades of experience this wily old troupe (and that includes Theo too, relative youngster that he is!) have between them. This version multi-tracks Theo on clarinet and sax, and entwined within the shifting coils of the snake-charmer rhythm, it makes for a gorgeous feast of music.

The last track Breathe is a lovely way to end the album, an extended ambient piece sailing along on a becalmed sea with Theo evoking swooping seabirds riding warm air currents in the wake of a fishing boat slowly returning to port in the sunset of a long day. That’s my take on it anyway! Thankfully, the bonus track extends that atmosphere, but then… why call it a bonus track at all? A very minor gripe, admittedly.

I would guess all those who run for their Genesis albums at the very mention of “Soft Machine” or the dreaded “jazz” word haven’t read this far, but if you have, try Hidden Details on Bandcamp streaming when it emerges blinking into the harsh light of this mad world on September 8th, it really is very good and highlights four seasoned professional musicians at the height of their powers, and it won’t scare you… much. The rest of you already have it on your “to buy” list, right?

1. Hidden Details (Travis) (7:36)
2. The Man Who Waved At Trains (Ratledge) (5:00)
3. Ground Lift (Travis/Babbington) (5:21)
4. Heart Off Guard (Etheridge) (2:29)
5. Broken Hill (Etheridge) (3:49)
6. Flight Of The Jet (Etheridge/Travis/Babbington/Marshall) (2:12)
7. One Glove (Etheridge) (4:30)
8. Out Bloody Intro (Ratledge/Travis) (2:41)
9. Out Bloody Rageous, Part 1 (Ratledge) (4:56)
10. Drifting White (Etheridge) (1:47)
11. Life On Bridges (Travis) (8:05)
12. Fourteen Hour Dream (Travis) (6:24)
13. Breathe (Travis/Marshall) (5:31)
14. Night Sky (Bonus Track) (Travis/Etheridge) (3:19)

Total Time – 56:54

John Etheridge – Electric & Acoustic guitar
Theo Travis – Sax, Flute, Fender Rhodes Piano
Roy Babbington – Bass Guitar
John Marshall – Drums
~ Special Guest:
Nick Utteridge – Wind Chimes (track 13)

Record Label: MoonJune Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 8th September 2018

Soft Machine – Facebook | Bandcamp

This news story was originally published here:

It can easily be said that a debut album by Norwegian post-metallers Subnoir, titled ‘A Long Way from Home‘, is one of the releases that surprised us pleasantly this year.* Comprised of seasoned musicians, Subnoir has created a record that is well-architected and executed flawlessly. 

Guitarist and lead vocalist Kenneth Mellum and bassist Oliver Øien spoke for Prog Sphere about the album which has been in making for quite some time before it was launched this past February.

Define the mission of Subnoir.

K: Our mission is to create music that moves people. Both emotionally and physically.

Tell me about the creative process that informed your debut album A Long Way from Home and the themes it captures.

K: It all started about 6 years ago. Me and my drummer jammed on this post-metal kinda music. At that time it wasn’t serious, but after a few years, we decided to sit down and arrange some songs. We worked on the songs throughout the summer, and after a few months, we had a rough draft of an album. We took the songs to our guitarist`s studio and recorded preprods of all the songs. And during the next years, there was a lot of experimenting with various amps, guitars and effects to make the sound of the album.

O: I know Kenneth dabbled with a few different themes lyrically on the album. I know for a fact that he touch on some occult stuff, some folklore, some fantasy and I’m sure he brought in some personal touches here and there from his own life. Since there is no overlying theme, its open to interpretation from anyone. I myself connect some of it to conspiracy theory or even sci fi fantasy.

Subnoir - A Long Way from Home

What is the message you are trying to give with A Long Way from Home

O: I don’t think we sat out with a defined goal in mind, regarding a message. But for myself, the purpose of the album has become to explore the inner visualisations and the emotions that follow the moods of the music. I hope that other people get similar experiences listening to our music as well. I think the album makes room for the listener to make their own interpretation and lets them have an individual journey.

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

K: When I got an idea or an riff, I used my phone to record the riff, then I brought it to my drummer, and we sat down to arrange the songs. There is always a combination of several recordings and tablature.

O: A wonderfully healthy, creative chaos!

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

K: Yes, we spent a lot of time trying out different approaches to the riffs and various parts, and after a while it just feels right.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

K: After we spent a summer in the studio making preprods, we went trough a jamming process, where we tried out different things. Then we progressed to the studio, recorded the album and whent through a long grooling postproduction stage. All in all we spent the better part of three years creating the album.

How long A Long Way from Home was in the making?

K: We started to write the songs in may/june 2014, and the preprods were finished during that summer. We started to record the album easter 2015, and the recordings ended spring 2017. Rest of 2017 was spent on post production.

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Which bands or artists influenced your work on the release?

O: All the guys in the band have backgrounds playing hard, aggressive and dark music in one form or another. I think its safe to say that we listen to music from all genres and that we all draw from our personal inspirations in individual ways. When Kenneth hears an influence from one band, it can make me think of something entirely different when I hear it. All in all, we have different inspirations in the band, and we mix it up to make amazing music.

What is your view on technology in music?

O: Its not one straight and easy answer to that question. On one hand, technology enables us to write music and get the sounds, moods, compositions and arrangements that we want faster than we would be able to, if at all possible, than with older technology from previous eras. Technology also enables us to reach out to a potentially bigger audience than ever before. The problem with this is that we are in the same boat as all the other thousands of bands, trying to get your attention on the web.

I think we all could benefit from taking a step back from the newest, fastest and most modern tech once in awhile. Maybe the old delay pedal from the old days of rock and roll just sounds better than the fanciest of digital delay plugins?


Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

K: I hope our music will take the listener through a inward journey both in darkness and light.  Music is good therapy.

What are your plans for the future?

K: We are planning to make a music video for one of the songs from the album. And we’ll be releasing some live footage as well.  Our second album is also in the making.

A Long Way from Home is available on Bandcamp. Make sure to follow Subnoir on Facebook.

* Thanks to Moshpit PR for delivering promotional material and hooking us with Subnoir.

Cover photo by Marius Martinsen

This news story was originally published here:


Glass Hammer have announced an October release for their new studio album, `Chronomonaut’. We’re not talking prequel or `reboot’ here (everyone loves those, eh? ) , the new album is actually a sequel/follow-up to their `Chronometree’ CD from 2000, an album that has quite a cult following amongst GH fans.

That original was a slyly amusing concept album that told the story of Tom, a prog-rock obsessed teenager in the late seventies who heard alien voices communicating to him through his favourite albums (ha, we’ve all been there, right?! ). Tom has since grown up and is apparently none-the-wiser. `Chronomonaut’ will tell the story of his recent mid-life crises. Bassist and songwriter Steve Babb explained to the Progreport site `Apparently, the voices have returned and have been urging Tom to time-travel back to the glory days of the early prog scene.’

The band decided to have some fun with the `Chronomonaut’ story by having the character of Tom posting his own music and theories on time travel to YouTube and some progressive rock forums several months ago using the name `The Elf King’. They’ve also been releasing `found footage’ videos of him, supposedly from 1983, which documents his time travel experiments as well as the failure of his own prog band to secure a record deal.

Babb continues. `Many of our albums deal with intense emotions or very serious storylines. But `Chronomonaut’ represents the less serious side of the band, as well as the extremes and quirkiness of our beloved progressive-rock genre. Tom was and remains the ultimate prog-rock fan, that guy who just takes his music way too seriously. In other words, he’s someone we can all relate to.’

The line-up for the new album will be Glass Hammer mainstays Babb, keyboardist Fred Schendel, singer Susie Bogdanowicz and drummer Aaron Raulston (guitarist Alan Shikoh having recently departed the group), and it boasts guest appearances from Matthew Parmenter and Chris Herin of US symphonic proggers Discipline.

`Chronomonaut’ will be released on Friday, October 12th. Pre-orders for autographed copies will begin one month ahead of the release on September 12th from the band’s website.

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*NOTE: Some information here was first published by the Progreport site, so credit due where it’s due, just relayed here for the interest of fans*

This news story was originally published here:

This is why I go interwebbing:

I inhabit several Worlds. In one, which I shall call Reality 1.0, I am a Stick Player. Through that FaceTube I know a Boston-based Stickist called Josh Goldberg. Occasionally Josh sends me the heads-up on new music. I also like to watch Family Guy and I’ve visited Boston… albeit the one in Lincolnshire, U.K. so naturally, with such very strong links to the commonwealth, Stick, Family Guy; I am the first choice for anyone in Massachusetts to bring the World’s attention to a new Boston-based ensemble: Shibui.

“Shibui (渋い) (adjective)” is a word that “refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Like other Japanese aesthetics terms, such as iki and wabi-sabi, shibui can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion”.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

In another conjoined reality, Reality 1.5, I am an on-line “journalist”, writing album reviews. These tie up quite well. This means that I can post words here, in The Progressive Aspect, about the new music.

In Reality 2.0 I am living in a place called “Kent” and working as an IT Manager for a language school in the mythical city of Canterbury. I much prefer the other realities.

This is an interesting album. It sometimes fails to touch me on any deep emotional level, yet I still find it immensely enjoyable. I’ve listened to it intently. I also put it on and did other things, my attention dipping in and out, trying to analyse it, wondering how the patterns will evolve. Funny that we should use the word “evolve” to describe music, isn’t it? Sometimes music seems to take on a life of its own.

Of course, music is not a living organism and sounds are just vibrations in the air. But like life, music is created and does evolve. We sometimes hear it in a song, as our favourite bands go through their life cycle and sometimes in a musical revolution… like Rock’n’Roll. Sometimes we can even witness parallel evolution. That’s why we can say: “ooh, that sounds like…” when what we really mean is “that reminds me of…”. Sometimes music evolves within a single song, without fuss, as if a little woodwind or added percussion here or there might help the creature survive and retain our attention. The creature that is Track 2, 1.5, is such a beast.

What should you expect from Shibui? The metadata on their album says, “Contemporary Jazz”. This said, Shibui certainly aren’t your clichéd piano, double-bass, piano trio. Neither are they a five-piece guitar/bass/drums/keyboard/vocals jazz-rock ensemble. Bassist and composer Tim Doherty has brought together some polyrhythmic musical structures and a predominantly six-member ensemble with additional quintet of strings. This combination of talents has resulted in music that continually seems to support this idea of musical evolution and fits my own personal idea of Progressive Music.

Shibui by Shibui

From the off, then, you’re not going to be bombarded by guitar-hand-gymnastics or crazy trumpet solos. This is cleverly composed music played by skilled musicians and there’s no need for overt showing off. There’s complexity in the interaction between the sounds and the rhythms, not with some ego driven soloing. This appeals to me. What is the point of being able to play 27 notes per second if the result isn’t musical?

Apart from the music being obviously instrumental, their choice of instrumentation and reliance on interweaving rhythmical progressions leads me to comparisons with artists who don’t operate within the established Rock’n’Roll or Jazz idioms. You might draw comparison with Philip Glass. This music, I’d guess, also evolved out of the use of similar building blocks; melody and polyrhythm and chamber music and strings and woodwind and subtlety. Strip away the rhythm and you might compare it with other avant-garde, ambient or experimental music. Parallel musical evolution [Pretentious? Moi?].

I sometimes wonder why bands come up with their song names. Not when there’s lyrical content, as this is usually obvious, but when there’s no lyrical content. Sometimes it is onomatopoeic. For example, Truck by The Fierce And The Dead, is what a truck would be, were it music. Perhaps I’m too literal, as I’m often left wondering how a piece of music, undoubtedly fine though it is, evokes association with, say, an albatross or saying goodbye to a pork pie hat. Now, Jazzists may be all too aware of the significance of this title, but in my ignorance I Googled it. In fact, Mingus’s tune is a tribute to a lost friend. A beautiful sentiment. But there’s nothing in the title and no lyric that says goodbye or conjures up images of recent bereavement or mourning had you been unaware of his loss. I was once co-author of a piece of music called Tobleraubergine, but the music was neither chocolaty nor vegetably. Nor good. Once again, my ignorance has let me down, but still… instrumental titles, eh?

Mercifully, I am spared the embarrassment of revealing the scope of my dullardry with Shibui [EDITOR: Good job you didn’t type all that out loud] as their music is given numbers, in the format n.n, leading me to the conclusion that on the left-hand side of the point is the album number and on the right-hand side, the track number. They are not sequential. Perhaps the order was changed to make the album flow. This appeals to my own sense of logic and is a completely spurious assertion based on absolutely no insight whatsoever.

And there’s some splendid rhythm.

I have always been fascinated by rhythm. There’s something deeply satisfying in working out the time signatures of a piece and finding that, say, the piano is playing 5 to a bar and another instrument, perhaps marimba, is playing 3 to the bar and the two distinct patterns are interweaving and intersecting; creating one perfectly synchronised rhythm. It is all best explained with the old joke: 9/8; 17/16; 13/8 – These are difficult times. Despite this being more accurately explained with mathematics and sorcery there’s still something beautiful and mysterious about the process. There are also rather classical, benign and beautiful sounds being used to instil a sense of tension or unease or expectation or calm. You could put this on in the background and just chill to it or you could sit there and count beats and get caught up in it all. I think Shibui sounds good, whether it touches me on an emotional level or not.

Before you start with your accusations of “you like everything you review” let me tell you… I do this to bring music I get to hear and like to your attention and this short album fits the bill. You don’t have to take my word for it but as a fan of music if you invest your money and 35 minutes of your time then I think you might like this cracking little gem.

01. 1.3 (6:59)
02. 1.1 (5:10)
03. 1.5 (7:16)
04. 1.4 (6:21)
05. 1.2 (9:46)

Total Time – 35:32

Tim Doherty – Bass, Composition
Bradley Goff – Piano, Rhodes
Céline Ferro – Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Kyle Harris – Drums
Derek Hayden – Marimba, Glockenspiel
Curtis Hartshorn – Percussion, Glockenspiel
~ With:
Daniel Pelletier – Marimba (on 1.1)
Greg Jukes – Marimba (on 1.3 & 1.4, Glockenspiel (on 1.4)
Abigale Reisman – Violin (on 1.2)
Strings on 1.3:
Chris Baum – Violin
Dan Lay – Violin
Nathan Cohen – Viola
Ben Swartz – Cello
Piano intro on 1.1 written by Taylor Kirkwood

Record Label: Independent
Recorded at: The Record Company, Boston MA, by Jamie Rowe
Mix: Ben Levin
Mastering: Randy Roos at Squam Sound
Album artwork: Chris Anderson
Design: Peter Danilchuk
Date of Release: 7th September 2018

Shibui – Facebook | Bandcamp

Edition 118 of THE PROG MILL – first heard on Progzilla Radio Sunday 12th August, is now also available to listen to anytime or download.

On this weeks show I chat to Ally and Tree from Cornwall based progressive rock band THE EMERALD DAWN, plus two hours of stunning proggy music.

Here’s your playlist

1 Martin Barre – Lone Wolf (Roads Less Travelled)
2 Philhelmon – That bright And Shiny Future (Perpetual Immobile)
3 Hollowscene – The Moon is Down (Hollowscene)
4 Mystery – Where Dreams Come Alive (Lies and Butterflies)
5 Shadowlight – Stars Above The City (Stars Above the City)
* Interview with Ally & Tree from The Emerald Dawn *
6 The Emerald Dawn – Shadow in Light (Searching for the Lost Key)
7 Monjoie – Introduction (and in the heart inurn me)
8 Stephen MacLachan – Blind Faith (The Glitch, Part 2 – Drowning)
9 Aisles – Clouds Motion (Live from Estudio del Sur)
10 Fleesh – Time Lapse (What I Found)
11 Electric Sound Machine – City on the Edge
12 Encircled – A Life Shy of Perfection (The Monkey Jamboree)
13 IT – The Working Man (We’re All in this Together)

You can hear THE PROG MILL every week on Progzilla Radio at these times:

Sundays 10pm – Midnight UK (2100 UTC) – MAIN BROADCAST
Tuesdays 3-5am UK (0200 UTC) – For N America (Mon 7pm Pacific and 10pm Eastern)
Tuesdays 11pm – 1am UK (2200 UTC)
Saturdays 6-8pm UK (1700 UTC) – Family friendly teatime repeat

Your proggy music suggestions and submissions for the show are extremely welcome. Just email or message via twitter @shaunontheair or

This news story was originally published here:

Nineteen73 Artist Promotion reveal the complete line-up for the Friday – Sunday of the Winter’s End Festival 2019: The festival will once again take place at Chepstow’s Drill Hall between 5th & 7th April 2019. There will also be a stand-alone Thursday night event, on 4th April – headline act to be announced shortly.


Kayak (Netherlands)
Firstly, we are thrilled that legendary Dutch Progressive Rock band Kayak – led by keyboard player Ton Scherpenzeel – will make their first ever appearance in the UK at Winter’s End. The band have a long and illustrious history dating back to 1972, and released their magnificent latest album “Seventeen” in 2018.

Threshold (UK)
Making a very welcome return to our stage following inspirational sets at Summer’s End in 2007 and 2008, plus the inaugural Fused Festival in 2011, Threshold are currently undergoing a new lease of life following the return of former singer Glynn Morgan – vocalist on 1994 fan favourite “Psychedelicatessen” – and a rapturously-received new album “Legends of the Shires”, released in 2017.

RPWL (Germany)
Following a great headlining set at Summer’s End in 2016, RPWL from Germany will be undertaking an extensive European Tour in the spring on 2019 in support of the bands seventh studio album, which will include a stop off in Chepstow. They will also be bringing along label mate Aaron Brooks, best known as the vocalist of Simeon Soul Charger, along to play a short solo set following the release of his solo album “Homunculus”.

Abel Ganz (UK)
The Scottish wizards are hard at work on their new album, following the huge success of their self-titled album in 2014 and will make a very welcome return to Chepstow following a great appearance at Summer’s End in 2015. Abel Ganz Website

Tin Spirits (UK)
Also back with us after a superb set in 2014 are Tin Spirits, featuring Dave Gregory of Big Big Train, who are currently working on their third album. Tin Spirits website

Godsticks (UK)
It is an amazing 10 years since Godsticks last played for us, but Darren Charles’ Welsh outfit – which also includes Dan Nelson of Magenta on bass – continue to go from strength to strength following the release of their new album “Faced with Rage”

Cyril (Germany)
This melodic prog band from Germany are yet another project that includes festival favourite Marek Arnold, and also features former Toxic Smile vocalist Larry B. Their second album “Paralised” was released in 2016, and this appearance will be amongst the bands first live performances. Cyril website

Crystal Palace (Germany)
Following a well-received UK tour in 2017, German proggers Crystal Palace return to the UK for Winter’s End. Their eighth studio album “Scattered Shards” was released in 2018.

Weend’ô (France)
We are delighted to welcome back superb French band Weend’ô after a rapturously-received set at Summer’s End 2017,which led to their second album “Time of Awakening” being released on the Sonicbond label.

Midnight Sun (UK)
The band will be showcasing tracks from their as yet untitled debut album, due for release in autumn 2018. Midnight Sun website

L’Anima (UK / Spain / Italy)
After a couple of false starts, L’Anima will at last be playing for us following a very well received debut album “Departures” and some great live shows.

Exploring Birdsong (UK)
This young Liverpool-based trio are creating waves of interest with their piano driven songs and great melodies, propelled by the great voice of Lynsey Ward. One of the best new progressive rock bands we have heard in many years, the opening slot should not be missed! Exploring Birdsong website

Winter’s End Festival – Website | Facebook | Facebook [Summer’s End] | Twitter [Summer’s End]

UK Gig Guide

TPA Gig Logo 2016

Visit the TPA Gig Guide for the UK’s most comprehensive prog gig listing…

This news story was originally published here:
PERIPHERY Albums Ranked

Periphery started in 2005 as the recording project of guitarist and producer Misha Mansoor, who had already made a name for himself in the progressive metal community through his production abilities with his project Bulb. Over the course of almost 15 years, Periphery have shaped the modern Prog Metal scene, giving birth to — like it or not — the Djent genre.

Since 2010 Periphery released five (technically four) studio albums and toured all around the world. They are currently working on a new album which will be released later this year on in early 2019 through the band-owned label 3DOT Recordings.

While waiting for new music from the band, we’ve revisited their catalog and below is how we rank Periphery‘s studio albums based on our personal preferences. The team of five writers has rated each of the group’s albums, with records being rated from the lowest to the highest average rate.

05. Periphery (2010, Sumerian Records)

It’s pretty difficult to analyze Periphery when amorous fans have completely cloaked the 74-minute beast of an album in a pungent cloud of prog-lust. Yet for all the accolades Periphery received for their debut, few people seem to heed how unrefined Periphery really is. All things considered, Periphery has been half a decade in the making – many songs on the album have been available in fetal form online for years… shouldn’t Periphery properly culminate the time it took to create it?

First and foremost, Periphery is far too long. At an undeserved 74-minutes, Periphery is littered with tracks that are extended far beyond their potential. The band’s tendency to overindulge in track length is highlighted best on opening tracks “Insomnia” and “The Walk” – peppered with mechanic Meshuggah-esque polyrhythms, both tracks suffer incredible redundancy. Instead of having any semblance of dynamic or melody, the two songs prefer dabbling in rhythmically impressive but generally boring and redundant time signatures/riffing. The only instance in which said redundancy is completely omitted is during closer “Racecar.” Spencer Sotelo‘s harsh vocals here are peculiarly airy and seem to nearly soften the impact of the heavier parts (take “The Walk” for example), while his clean vocals range anywhere from unorthodoxly melodic (“Icarus Lives!”) to physically grating (“All New Materials”).

Periphery ends up being the most fun when the band just shamelessly presents their technical ability. Two of the best tracks on Periphery, “Buttersnips” and “Icarus Lives!,” lay back to back in the middle of the album. Acting as a one-two punch of down-tuned guitar wanking, the two songs give Mansoor and crew to flaunt their technical talent – the solo in “Icarus Lives!” is only barely eclipsed by the introduction and tapping sections of “Buttersnips.”

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04. Periphery III: Select Difficulty (2016, Century Media)

Periphery III strikes almost immediately as another half-hearted flirtation with melody and a half-hearted attempt to maintain the band’s chaotic and polyrhythmic roots. Sure, maybe it’s another quarter inch of toe in the melody pool than its predecessors, but how much more can we really analyze the snail’s pace at which the band pursue the sound that, in my humble opinion, is their most appealing? When it’s counterbalanced by weighty, posturing tunes like “The Price is Wrong” and “Motormouth,” it’s hard to conjecture that the band are honing in on a specific sound. Instead, Periphery seem content to fold their arms at the crossroads of two distinct musical intersections and have a seat.

Not everything’s entirely stale, though. On the whole, the djent factor of the album is lower than most others (spare, perhaps, Juggernaut: Alpha) and the inclusion of orchestral elements throughout makes things feel a little more open, inviting, and intriguing. The use of a chorus on “Marigold” also proves a smart and effective way to change things up, while the digitized bitcrushing included on “Remain Indoors” puts a tasty spin on an effect that’s fairly common to the subgenre. Speaking of which, “Remain Indoors” is a strong fusion of Periphery‘s penchant for the heavy and prowess with catchy, more traditionally structured songs. I’d be keen to say that perhaps it’d make a good blueprint for the future.

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03. Juggernaut: Alpha (2015, Sumerian Records)

After extensive touring following their sophomore release Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal, the band announced that they began recording tracks for the conceptual dual-album project, Juggernauts Alpha and Omega, containing about 1½ hours worth of material between the two. Needless to say, two full albums worth of material is a lot to release at once, and the fact that its backed by years of hype only made the payoff that much more desirable. So the million-dollar question is, was it worth the wait? Well let’s put it this way: if you’ve been stuck with the band until then, chances are that you are not disappointed.

Of the two Juggernauts, Alpha is the radio-friendly brother. The eponymous track is the most flamboyantly poppy song they’ve ever done, and opens with an archaic keyboard lick that sounds like it was taken straight from a Gameboy Color. Songs like “Heavy Heart” and “Rainbow Gravity” are also vocally driven bangers with a bit more edge – infectious choruses, crunchy riffs, and a rhythm section that’s as abrasive as ever, reinforced by Nolly’s godlike production. Juggernaut also doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a concept album both musically and lyrically. Many motifs are repeated throughout the album, such as “The Scourge” being quoted in “Four Lights” and “Psychosphere,” and reprises of “A Black Minute” on Omega’s “Graveless” and “Stranger Things.”

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02. Periphery II: This Time It’s Personal (2012, Century Media)

The most noticeable of the improvements to the band’s sound on Periphery II, after the band’s 2010 debut, is Sotelo‘s vocals. When comparing his execution, style, and ability on this album to his performances found on the predecessor, the improvements in his vocal talent on Periphery II are remarkable. It’s apparent that he’s found himself within the band in the time that has passed, and has adjusted comfortably enough to develop and master a style that is unique to himself and works with the band, while also separating Periphery from the rest of the pack vocally. Sotelo‘s delivery here sees him more skilled in his range, and by being aware of his limitations he shows a better sense of control over the soaring melodies he impressively belts out without any pitch correction. He’s harmonious, and his roars are undoubtedly emphasized in more intensity and bold fury than first time.

The music of Periphery II is bursting at the seams with the layers of different sounds it has jam-packed into it. Periphery without question were aimed to go bigger, but they did actually manage to obtain their desired quantity without sacrificing quality. Even though the album is crammed, no aspect is expendable, and all are different and interesting inclusions. Delicate electronica interludes soothingly tinge the album into a well-rounded state, and make the transitions between songs so seamless that they are sometimes unnoticeable.

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01. Juggernaut: Omega (2015, Sumerian Records)

Juggernaut: Alpha was a decent but ultimately unsatisfying experience, missing far more than it hit and packed with filler. With Juggernaut: Omega, however, Periphery managed to correct many of the mistakes they made on the first half of the album, as well as improve marginally over their previous work.

Going into Omega, the first thing you’ll pick up on is the production style. The guitars feel very compressed, and the vocals are often layered several times over. This can get quite annoying at some points, particularly on “Priestess,” but for the most part, it’s not too much of a problem. Most of the songs on here are far more impressive and memorable than those on Alpha, including “The Bad Thing,” “Stranger Things,” and the mammoth track “Omega.” There is some nice contrast between the more subtle moments, such as the brief piano/synth intro in “Omega,” and the chuggier, more heavy sections in songs such as “Hell Below.” The album as a whole feels a lot heavier and more aggressive than Alpha, which actually works out pretty well, since the poppier sections of Omega’s predecessor could become monotonous and, at their worst, downright cringe-worthy.

Truth be told, Omega won’t do much to impress anybody who disliked any of Periphery’s previous work. At the end of the day, though, it’s still a fun ride for those who are willing to look past its imperfections, and – arguably – the band’s best release to date.

Let us know how you rank Periphery albums in the comments.

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