Album Review: Periphery – “Juggernaut: Alpha & Omega”

Periphery-Juggernaut

I’ll admit: for many years, I simply dismissed the djent movement as “a bunch of Meshuggah rip-offs.” Ignorant? Yep. Over-generalizing? Ridiculously so. But after hearing Periphery‘s 2014 EP, Clear, I began to reconsider that viewpoint. Sure, the band brought out some of the genre’s biggest clichés in full force—chugging, start-stop guitar riffage, oddball time signatures, etc.—but as songs like “The Summer Jam” or “Feed the Ground” demonstrated, they also showed off an undeniable sense of catchiness. And now, almost exactly a year later, the band’s back with a new double album called Juggernaut—and while I don’t know if either of its two parts, Alpha and Omega, are enough to fully convert me to the “djent-side,” there’s quite a bit to like about both.

Double albums are, by nature, risky undertakings, but Juggernaut does very well in keeping your interest throughout its combined 70+ minute run time. For starters, there’s an impressive degree of wholeness between the two albums. Alpha opens with “A Black Minute,” whose theme is later revisited on Omega‘s opener, “Reprise.” Later, the refrain to Alpha‘s ridiculously hooky title track also shows up in the denouement of Omega‘s title track. Even though the two albums are separate and, at times, very different, it feels like one coherent, well-planned-out work. Full credit to them.

The musicianship, as always, is top notch; when the band changes feel from its usual, frenetic pace into more controlled interludes (and vice versa), it’s hard not to marvel at their versatility. (Even if they sometimes do so a bit too abruptly, as on Alpha‘s “MK Ultra.”) In one instance, Omega changes pace with “Priestess”—a mostly clean-toned earworm that might be the best thing on either album—then, just two songs later, serves up probably the heaviest, most physical song on either, in “Hell Below.” The ability to tackle both pristine-sounding ballads and crushing, bass-driven overkill with aplomb simply can’t be ignored.

At the same time, the album(s) still seem to suggest a band that hasn’t yet fully realized its ambitions, that’s still progressing toward bigger, better, more complete material down the road. It almost feels like Juggernaut is two-thirds, or maybe even three-fourths of a really good album. So many of the songs here are genuinely compelling for the majority of their run time, yet find themselves broken down by moments of dissonance or general djent clichés just when they should be sticking their landings. (Alpha‘s “Rainbow Gravity” comes to mind.) That issue isn’t only contained to individual songs, either; after building up a truly impressive head of steam from “Priestess” through its epic, almost-12-minute title track, Omega then closes inexplicably with a relative whimper in “Stranger Things.”

So yes, with a few more tweaks here and there, Juggernaut might have really been a game changer. As it stands, it’s still a very solid effort and, more importantly, one that gets better with second, third, and fourth listens. It may not make you a full-on djent-head, but it’s certainly worth your time.

Keep it heavy,

-Dan


Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are out January 27 on Sumerian Records. For more information on Periphery, including upcoming tour dates and links to the band’s social media accounts, visit their official website.

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

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