From its very formation with guitarist Misha Mansoor five years ago, Periphery has been anticipated to be the next big thing in mathcore. Largely created by Mansoor himself, the buzz continually grew through a revolving door of vocalists and several opening slots for bands like DevilDriver and Fear Factory, leading to rather high expectations for their first full-length. Now that their self-titled debut is here, however, it's hard to say whether or not it really lives up to any of them. It's certainly not for a lack of technical prowess - in particular guitarists Mansoor, Alex Bois, and Jake Bowen all show great skill - but it just feels like something is missing. Admittedly, this probably wouldn't be such an issue with a debut that didn't have nearly five year's worth of hype to live up to, but it's a handicap nonetheless.
Periphery's self-titled is a sprawling affair, clocking in at well over seventy minutes with only a dozen songs. The length in songs seems appropriate at times (ironically most with Racecar, the grandiose, fifteen minute long closer), but mostly the songs seem to misuse the free form style by meandering rather than building up to anything or switching up in interesting ways. On songs like All New Materials and Buttersnips, the band breezes through different sections with latest vocalist Spencer Sotelo alternately soaring and roaring over it all, and the minutes slip away. Materials makes great use of the band's dynamics, while Buttersnips tastefully sees a good melody mutate throughout the track. Letter Experiment and Light on the other hand, for example, feel bloated and self-important, cramming too many weak melodies together and throwing in overly dramatic solos far too early. Sotelo is a factor in the album's slightly above pedestrian sound in the fact that he himself is slightly above pedestrian. His voice only has two faces, both of which have been done before in metalcore and done better.
Another thing is Periphery's overall production, which sounds excessively polished. Even at their harshest, most Meshuggah-referencing moments on The Walk and Icarus Lives!, it gleams a bit too much, which renders softer moments like Jetpacks Was Yes! as pure saccharine. The added touch of the drum programming and various electronic effects sound good, but more often than not it felt gimmicky, as it seldom actually contributed to the songs.
While Periphery's debut is weighed down by quite a lot of bombast, there are still several moments where the songwriting clicks. Racecar is perhaps the band's shining moment, and is essentially what the rest of the album is trying to sound like. The band flows through different styles in an absolutely seamless fashion, without a touch of pretense. Dynamics are paired masterfully, solos come in all the right (sometimes even unpredictable) places, and it's utterly epic without sounding like it's trying.
One thing that can be said for Periphery is that they've managed to not sound derivative. They've taken their influences and melded them into their own style, which is deserving of praise in and of itself, and indicative of a bright future. Their debut, however, is heavily flawed, and combined with excessive hype and the fact that the Dillinger Escape Plan just released an absolute mathcore masterpiece in Option Paralysis a mere month ago, Periphery's self-titled just can't measure up. A decent album from a potentially great band.