Review: Periphery – Periphery III: Select Difficulty


Folks, are we excited for new Periphery material? I count a few hands held up in the room. Are you at least a fan of the band’s prior material? Okay, the number just jumped up a few. Finally: are you aware that Periphery is a band? Now we’re all in. I like everything they have done up to this point, so I leaped at the challenge of reviewing Periphery III: Select Difficulty.

This was going to be an important release because of its placement in the band’s discography. As you all may remember Periphery abandoned the numerical titles they had thus far (I and II: This Time It’s Personal) with the double-album Juggernaut: Alpha and Omega. Juggernaut was a lot less heavy than previous material, and the band incorporated many catchy, pop-like choruses; but the combination of high quality songwriting and sheer catchiness resulted in a winning experiment (Paris Hilton even sang its praises years ago in the Toilet). I was nervous – but also excited – to hear the new album, to find out if they fell right back in line with the numerically-titled albums or stuck with the newer Juggernaut style…

The very first track on the album, “The Price Is Wrong,” launches full-speed out of the gate with some extra thrashy djent guitarwork that reminds me a little of Meshuggah‘s “Combustion.” This song contains a lack of Spencer Sotelo’s highly-divisive clean vocals, which may coax the listener into thinking the album is going full-on heavy. We soon have our suspicions proven false.

Track two (“Motormouth”) does continue this pattern of groovy Periphery guitarwork – closer sounding to their debut album than anything else – but from that point on there are a lot of clean, melodic, catchy hooks. A LOT. Every track features at least a few of these soaring, anthem-like choruses that sound like they were engineered for radio airplay. Now I’m not saying the band needs to abandon melody altogether, but history proves that they’ve been more tasteful in the past with combining the heavy with the light, in tracks such as “Ragnarok” from Periphery II and “The Bad Thing” from Juggernaut Alpha. With this newest album, the guys have finally nailed a formula that will either appeal to you or drive you up the wall, like it does to me at this point in their career. There is very little in the way of song structure variation or even emotional engagement scattered throughout the album; it just feels like a product tweaked past the point of perfection.

Though most of the songs follow a pattern in terms of structure, they still manage to hit us with moments of brilliance scattered throughout. As much as I wish the band would cut back on the catchy hooks, there are a couple that still sound incredibly appealing to these ears, namely all the choruses in “Habitual Line-Stepper.” This particular song brings some much-needed double bass drumming during the heavier sections (aligned perfectly with some classic Misha Mansoor guitarwork) resulting in what is definitely the best track of the album. I recommend jamming this song below to get a good idea of how heavy the band can still be, in their particular genre mashup of djent and pop.

Here is my warning to those who really like the band: you will hear the. cheesiest. Periphery. song. ever in “Catch Fire.” It feels so manufactured that I can imagine hearing it played on a CW television show like Arrow (investigate at your own will, I’m not embedding it). It doesn’t help that the refrain contains Spencer rapping over some funky basslines similar to Faith No More‘s “Epic” (scratch what I said before, here’s your link, investigate at will). Although come to think of it, this song’s cheesiness is matched, even exceeded, by the final track “Lun,e, which adds orchestra in the background and a highly chant-able chorus with lyrics that involve phrases like “do you feel the love?” and “don’t let gooooooo!” My friends, that is a pungent cheese there, and it is thick. It might be acceptable if these two songs were isolated incidents, but the whole thing is dripping with excess.

But then we also have excellent songs like “Absolomb” with a head-bangably groovy riff that stays mid-paced throughout its running time and becomes a positive-sounding ballad with some very soulful guitar soloing contained within it. This is what I would call “a terrific Periphery ballad” because it never enters heavy enough territory that it would scare off a non-metalhead. This song is a better ballad than “Priestess” was, from Juggernaut: Omega, and that was a solid ballad. I recommend listening to “Absolomb” to get a good idea of how effective the band can be when not bombarding us with too many disparate elements at once.

I truly believe that a little bit of effort goes a long way, but a lot of effort becomes overbearing. Many of the songs here exceed the five-minute mark, approaching progressive metal territory but never quite matching the complexity of it. This album lacks nuance most of the time, instead throwing “everything and the kitchen sink” at the listener. Periphery III: Select Difficulty feels to me like a product ready for a huge market, and I wish it didn’t because I really do enjoy their previous works. The album is a must-listen for all fans — you might even love the direction that they’re heading in here — but for me it crosses the threshold into accessible heavy metal that gets a lot of play on Pandora or a Sirius XM metal radio station. It feels too safe, yet somehow the writing is also way too ambitious. Each song feels bursting with unnecessary flavor. This formulaic journey eclipses my desire to simply headbang to some great riffs and hum along to the occasional catchy hook. Select Difficulty needed a little restraint. Or a lot of restraint. Or just the right amount of restraint.


2.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

(image via YouTube)

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  • Lacertilian

    I’ll never be able to yodel like that durian on vocals, no matter how much Mr Sheen I huff.

  • Señor Jefe El Rosa

    That’s the wrong kind of cheese.

  • BobLoblaw

    The harder riffing reminds you of Meshuggah? Thats unbelievable. Never enjoyed a thing from this group.

    • Dubbbz

      I don’t hear it either.

      • RustyShackleford

        I think he means cause it’s downtuned and it’s got a sort of similar tone. Agree though the riff itself is not very Meshuggah, actually a fairly straightforward midtempo riff

        • BobLoblaw


        • BobLoblaw

          All I really know them for is sounding like Meshuggah with pop sections.

    • i don’t mean to give the impression that they share the same quality as Meshuggah. in fact they often DON’T. just that one track really.

      • BobLoblaw

        I was joking around about their obvious (at least in the earlier stuff i heard from them) aping of a style forged by Meshuggah. I have no knowledge of thier material, just a general idea of what they are from a few cursory listens.

  • Stanley

    I clicked three of those links, McNulty you bad boy.

    • i owe you BIG TIME. don’t worry, everything here on out is guaranteed to be more Stanley-friendly than this one 😉

  • Joaquin Stick

    Very will done Jimmy. Agree with you on almost all points, except maybe the over-production that you don’t like. It’s a little much sometimes, but being meticulous is kinda what they are all about. I got real bored the other day and watched the little documentary they put out on the making of the album and it makes the production a little more understandable. I probably would have given it a 3/5 because some of the songs are REALLY good. But yeah, some of the cheese, like Catch Fire, is garbage.

    • Joaquin Stick

      Yep, time for me to nope-the-fuck-out of this comment section though.

  • Scrimm

    I just searched nope song on youtube and one of the first results was this band. Srs.

  • “Djent and pop”

    • Abradolf Lincler

      Always upvote Ron Swanson

      • Vidajroden3

        <<l:y. ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::::!!bx662a:….,

  • more beer

    These guys have never appealed to me. The amount of love these guys get on other blogs drives me up a wall.

  • RustyShackleford

    I’m totally hot and cold on these guys. On good days they’re good background jams for playing video games or something and on bad days they irritate the hell out of me. I wonder if they’re really getting more accessible or if I’m really just getting tired of them? Honestly this album just makes me want to listen to Twelve Foot Ninja cause they’re more fun. Yep.

    • Guacamole Jim

      I was talking to some friends about why TFN is significantly better than (I think) every other djent band out there. The number one reason we came up with is their singer, who doesn’t sound like a whiny 12-year old boy, but who actually writes really catchy and interesting melodies. I also think it’s because TFN feels like they write solid rock music with metal as an interesting addition, rather than feeling like a metal band who wants to be pop.

      • RustyShackleford

        Agree! I think TFN writes some really interesting stuff. I was especially convinced when I saw them live and they were so good.

    • my conclusion: this album marks the threshold. the starting point of albums created to be incredibly accessible in order to grow a fanbase. … cause i really dig their older stuff. not this one.

  • Dave Vincent’s Perm

    0/10 not enough bits that tell me how I’m a horrible person for not liking Spencer’s vocals

  • tertius_decimus

    Bore, bore, bore me into sleep,
    If it’s nice for you, then I will weep.
    How it gained the fame it got?
    Better listen to Lee Roth.

  • Abradolf Lincler

    i tried. sorry, jimmy

    • i’m glad you tried. cause i would never think it’d be up your alley. i bet you HATED it!

  • Pentagram Sam

    This is def one of those “you’re old” bands for me. I know two things about Periphery, they’re big with djenters, Misha posts alot online.

    Tried listening to them and just didn’t dig it but don’t hate them as “misrepresenting” metal or anything. Just another band.

    But the buzz around these guys, making a pro shot doc on the making of what, album four? They must be “big” -er than I thought yet I’m oblivious. Where am I?

    • tertius_decimus

      You’re in the Toilet, dear friend.
      Don’t you blame the pill can’t mend
      Your disease of interpreting,
      artsy ideas misgetting.

      • Pentagram Sam

        I guess I feel like some dude in 95 who keeps on wondering who this “Soundgarden” band is. Everyone’s talking about em but I don’t know diddly squat aboot em.

        Damn, now I’m thinking too hard. ahhaha anyways, good review man and it got me thinking so thanks for the think-fuel

        • tertius_decimus

          If it’s not for you, don’t touch it.
          Many further times you’ll flush it.
          Some Peripheries just aren’t for mood,
          Sit on the throne, flush it for good.

        • BobLoblaw

          Soundgarden is pretty sweet man.

          • I love Superunkown

          • Señor Jefe El Rosa

            Bro, you need to check out that Badmotorfinger

          • ME GORAK!!!™

            ALSO ULTRAMEGA OK MOAR THAN OK!!!!!!!!!

          • Pentagram Sam

            Yea they are, I dig em. Damn, another bad analogy. Was going for the whole “being oblivious of a very popular band in a genre of music I really like” angle.

            Not a diss on the Spoooooon Man! Nunca, whey!

    • Dubbbz

      Judging by the number of non-metalheads or metal dudes who don’t really like extreme metal who’ve tried to tell me how awesome Periphery is, I can say they’re huge with a certain subgroup of people that does not include most of us here.

    • Mother Shabubu

      If they ditched the Disney Channel-assed vocals, I’d see a bit more appeal to them. That or if they could write songs.

  • I’ve tried listening to this band and ended up liking them for week long periods of time until eventually, without fail, I always end up hating them again because of those fucking vocals.

  • Most people I know who don’t like this band can’t stand the vocals. The dude can sing and sounds like he’s influenced by Mike Patton. They are way too over produced which makes them sound like robots, that’s what kills it for me.

  • ME GORAK!!!™
  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Periphery isn’t my cup of tea but Spencer Sotelo was in From First To Last until very recently.


  • Elegant Gazing Globe

    2.5 is on target

  • BobLoblaw

    Not enough V-neck.

  • Stockhausen

    I listened to the first track and was surprised to hear a decent amount of aggression that I didn’t dislike. The Meshuggah vibe was cool and didn’t feel totally ripped off or phoned in. But then the cringey speak-growing-to-scream thing he kept doing killed it for me. Too much angst. Quite a fair review, and fair score.

  • God ov War

    The fisrt album was cool, all the others are pure shit

  • Mmmmh. I consider myself a fan, and Spencer’s vocals have really grown on me, but a couple of these sound like a mixed bag from your description, Jimmy Mac.

    • have you heard it all yet? what’s YOUR opinion? i need to know if i’m alone in this assessment. there are a LOT of websites giving it a super high score.

      • No, I actually thought it was coming out later this month :V

  • ParallaxativeHyperStool

    I agree mostly with what you’ve said. It frustrates me that they made such a.big deal about changing the naming convention with juggernaut and then going back to the numbers only to continue in the direction of Juggernaut? I wouldnt even mind the musical direction if they hadnt made such a big deal to specifically talk about why they were changing it. Flatline is probably my fave track, it’s like perfect Periphery. The end is so fucking catchy I cant not shout that shit like crazy. Like, I get why this band is polarizing but I still think they get way too much hate for the wrong reasons. Saying they arr bad because djent will shut me out of any discussion immediately. Saying any band is bad and citing reason as (genre name) is moronic. I enjoy what this band does as far as mixing extremely heavy technical with an intense pop sensibility. That being said they often lean too heavily on the pop side andin that sense I can see why people arent into it, especially with spencers voice. My biggest gripe is that live hes very inconsitent. Ive heard him sound sick and on point with the record and then just god awful in the same show. And what hes bringing to the table on tracks like catch fire and lune is just nottttt goooodddddd. Id probanly give the album a slightly higher rating but mostly agree with what youve said here.

    • ParallaxativeHyperStool

      Sorry for the shit typing im trying to do it on my dumb phone with my fat bass sausage fingers because disqus is being a real knob on chrome.

  • Waynecro

    Excellent review, McNults. I actually listened to this whole album for some reason, and I didn’t dislike most of it. I doubt I’ll listen to it often (or ever again), though. “Jetpacks Was Yes” is still really the only Periphery song I remember and enjoy.

  • Periphery on TovH goes over as well as an Arab at a Trump rally

    • perhaps this album is really good, and my tastes are just growing away from their style of music.
      well that AND the album is not a good.

  • Eliza

    I have a strange feeling towards Periphery that I should like them more than I actually do. When I listen to a song by them, I identify parts that I enjoy, like a riff or a solo, but I never find it more than ok. Not sure if I’ll give this album a try, and if I do, I won’t end it in one go.

  • Bunk Moreland

    I think this is a tragic motherfucking miscarriage of justice. I think
    it deserves a special grand jury, and if not, the President should
    appoint an independent prosecutor. 1 flaming toilet at most Jimmy.

  • brokensnow

    Best album from them to date. Probably be a one off since this was just a bunch of BULB and HS stuff. My favorite by far.

  • Hey McNulty, very astute and entertaining review.

    -Richter the Belated