Review by Shannon Shumaker
Periphery’s new double releases Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are as ambitious as they are versatile. These seventeen songs (which must be listened to consecutively, no matter how daunting that may seem) go from hard hitting and dirty to clean, jazzy guitar work straight back into complex, technical breakdowns with ease, and sometimes, within seconds of one another. While Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega definitely hold the same qualities that set Periphery apart from the pack with their past releases, these albums are also a lot more experimental, and that’s what makes them such a great listen.
Juggernaut: Alpha starts unlike any other metal album I’ve ever heard, and if that’s not a testament to the way that Periphery is constantly changing the scene with their sound, then I don’t know what is. The vocals in “A Black Minute” are beautiful and the guitar, while very quiet, is gorgeous. The way that vocalist Spencer Sotelo works both his clean and and unclean vocals into this track is amazing and the song just builds and builds before throwing you right into some really technical, unclean guitar work and dirty vocals in “MK Ultra.”
“Heavy Heart,” is a really interesting track because it’s nearly poppy in some aspects. The clean vocals in this track are beautiful and melodic and (almost) emo sounding, but the guitar work is still very much Periphery - that’s the best way to describe it, honestly. About halfway through, the song progresses into more sweeping guitar work and unclean vocals, and by the time it’s over, it’s almost impossible to believe that you just listened to only one song, which easily makes “Heavy Heart” one of the strongest songs on Juggernaut: Alpha.
Both of these albums are the product of a band that hasn’t gotten stuck in their genre. Sometimes, getting lumped into a certain category can hinder a band or hold them back, but that definitely doesn’t happen with Juggernaut: Alpha or Juggernaut: Omega. For instance, “Alpha” is definitely a standout on Juggernaut: Alpha. It’s electronic, jazzy, melodic and technical, all wrapped up into five minutes and thirty-one seconds. The guitar work on this track is intricate without being too much, and the chorus just melodic and catchy enough without sounding sugar-coated. On the flip side, “Faces” is a harder, more raw track than some of the others on Juggernaut: Alpha, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in the trademark insane guitar work that Periphery always produces.
Because Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are meant to be listened to back-to-back, I paid close attention to how Alpha ended and how Omega began, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. “Psychosphere” is a great theatrical and slow ending to Juggernaut: Alpha. The vocals almost take on a hardcore quality about halfway through the haunting track, which is a nice change of pace, as well. “Reprise” is just the rebirth Periphery needed to begin Juggernaut: Omega. Clocking in at only a minute and a half, the song serves as a perfect intro to the dirty guitar and bass work in “The Bad Thing,” which is definitely one of the darkest and most theatrical songs on the two albums.
Easily one of the best tracks on Juggernaut: Omega, “Priestess” is absolutely beautiful. The track really showcases the guitarists’ talents in the acoustic work, which is just as intricate as any other Periphery song. The way that the track flows is so flawless that I didn’t even realize that they had switched from acoustic to a full band until it was almost over, and then I had to go listen to it all over again. The way that is progresses is just perfect and natural. Following “Priestess” is “Graveless,” and while I hadn’t been a fan of the track from the first listen, the guitar work toward the end absolutely blew me away the second time around.
Periphery really pulls out all of the stops with “Omega,” though. The longest song on both records, clocking in at over eleven minutes, “Omega” is an absolute masterpiece. The piano intro is jaw-droppingly beautiful, but it’s the insane guitar hooks and beautiful, melodic vocals among the screams that hook you to stay. As the song builds, it just gets bigger and stronger and more hauntingly beautiful. The bridge, which comes at about eight minutes into the song, is eerie and flows flawlessly into a jazzy bass part, slowing the song down for the last few minutes with clean vocals to match. The final track, “Stranger Things” isn’t lacking, either, and is very strong vocally, especially when Sotelo goes from high, falsetto notes into deep screams like it’s nothing.
Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega are definitely more progressive than Periphery’s old work. They’re darker, slower and more introspective with less raw, fast tracks, but it shows growth for the band. The only downside on these two albums (which is more noticeable in Alpha than in Omega) is in the slower, more progressive songs. Some of the middle tracks on Alpha just seem blend together a little. While the structure of each song is definitely unique and interesting, it’s the slower pace that makes it a little hard to sit through all 17 songs at once (though it’s absolutely worth it to do so). The upside to that, though, is that these two albums flow together amazingly. If I had to choose a stronger of the two, though, I’d prefer Omega over Alpha. The seven songs on Juggernaut: Omega are all unique and incredibly strong in their own way, and the final two tracks are easily some of Periphery’s strongest songs to date.
Without a doubt, Juggernaut: Alpha and Juggernaut: Omega have been a long time in the making. If you’ve never listened to Periphery before, I highly recommend starting here and working your way back. These two albums are the perfect glance into this already unique and incredibly talented group of musicians. When you listen to these albums, get some good headphones, turn up the volume and tune out the world for a while, because you’re in store for a theatrical journey that doesn’t deserve any interruptions.
Listen to "Heavy Heart," "Alpha," "Priestess," or "Omega"