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Wednesday 15 March 2023

Reviews: Periphery, Foretoken, Contrarian, Redemption (Reviews By Matt Bladen & Mark Young)

Periphery - V: Djent Is Not A Genre (3Dot/Century Media/eOne) [Matt Bladen]

Don't worry folks, one of the pillars of the entire djent scene aren't going AOR on us anytime soon. The title of their new album alludes to the fact that Djent for them is not just a genre it's a way of life, their entire ethos is to make music that is interesting, experimental, heavy and melodic, but none of their previous records have had the scope or the ambition of this one in my opinion.

V is actually their seventh album and it sees them writing and performing their best music of their career. Marrying poly rhythmic riffs of Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb with ambient, atmospheric synths/programming from Mansoor and Bowen it's a dense, evocative album with 70 minute run time but it never feels too long, most of the tracks clocking in at over 5 minutes but are all dynamic enough to make you wonder what's coming next. Beautiful moments like in the middle of Wax Wings, where the orchestration and piano (also Mansoor) changes the shape of the song as it leads towards the end of the song itself, then in a shift back to their early days with the vicious Everything Is Fine the drumming of Matt Halpern furious here, Adam 'Nolly' Getgood giving the low end thrum and the bright, luscious production in unison with the band themselves.

Those experimental elements are more pronounced on V as well, Silhouette a throbbing ambient pop break to the palm muting and Spencer Sotelo again baking up claims he maybe the best vocalist in metal, his cleans emotional and passionate, his roars having the same passion but also a tenacity that many in the djent scene have tried to emulate but few have bettered. As the latter half of the album builds back up we get to Dracul Gras, one of the album's best tracks, it's a 12 minute distillation of what Periphery do, every element of their musical style is used in this song alone. While it's Thanks Nobuo that closes the album with a hooky as hell chorus and a beautiful ambient final fade out. Djent may still be a genre but on V it has transcended into something much bigger than itself. 9/10

Foretoken: Triumphs (Prosthetic Records) [Mark Young]

Sometimes you get incredibly lucky when reviewing music. This is one of those occasions where an album just crashes onto my desk and once you press play that is it, you are in for the long haul!  Foretoken return with their second full length effort which combines rapid fire guitar and drums with eastern modes of music. Revenant Of Valour just absolutely slaps, I mean it just doesn’t stop. 

Demon Queller continues with that same breakneck speed with some technical riffs thrown over the top. The best thing is that the songs show that speed and technical dexterity are important but without having the arrangement to match they just become a constant blur of music with no substance. I could go on and name more songs but it would be redundant because each one just scorches and are imbued with such drive you could pick any as a stand-out (personally the double hit of Devil O’ The Sea and A Tyrant Rises As Titans Fall are mine). 

They have pulled in the above requirements in death metal whilst keeping the brutal stakes up to maximum and adding the tonal shifts from Middle-Eastern influence they make its so much more interesting to the listener. Even when there is the inevitable slower song the support synths just raise the song that little bit more without overpowering or becoming a crutch to hide gaps in the sound. 

Of the 9 tracks here, there are 8 original compositions and a cover of I Am Vengeance, originally performed by Naglfar. Ironically, this almost detracts from the songs that have run before it as you can see the join between them. It’s still an impressive cover and who am I to say it wasn’t required. They have set a high bar on track 1 and meet it every single time. There is such a vitality here, and a confidence that comes from knowing they have turned in their best album to date and that it should form a benchmark for others to follow. 

I don’t know what it is about duo’s at the minute, but both Foretoken and Sarcoptes are hitting this out of the park. There is some top level stuff on here, it’s brutal, fast, heavy, full of hooks and just rules. I know we said that February was a banner month for releases but March is shaping up to be as good. If you love extreme music you need to listen to this because it is an absolute cracker. The only problem is translating this into the live setting because they will have to provide something visual to accompany the riches presented here. 

Can I suggest that you go out now and purchase this and give it the love it deserves, in a suitably blackened way, obviously. 8/10

Contrarian: Sage Of Shekhinah (Willowtip Records) [Mark Young]

Contrarian bring their distinct brand of progressive/technical death metal for their latest release, Sage Of Shekhinah. It has been a long time since I’ve heard something that reminded me so much of death without it being a carbon copy of them. This is a wild ride and will take you a couple of listens to really appreciate it. It’s the sort of stuff that if I practised religiously for the next twenty years, I still wouldn’t be able to play. And I absolutely love it. If someone asked me for an example of technical death metal in 2023, I would point them to this. 

Sage Of Shekhinah starts with a middle eastern introduction with off kilter drums and then it starts to build to a manic crescendo before it boots off into the song proper. It’s like Nile and Death had kids. I know this is a flippant thing to say, but it’s the closest thing I can think of in trying to describe it. its just mental. And it doesn’t stop, In Gehenna continues the same path with crushing parts, start – stop tempos and these fiendish guitar lines that just burrow into your brain. It isn’t technical for the sake of it, rather that this is the only way they can communicate the ideas that they have. It’s a blast of a thing in that you can love it for its brutality and for the technical prowess on show. It isn’t just bang, bang, bang there are controlled moments of audio demolition which stops it from blurring from one track to another. 

Album closer, Madman From Island Patmos brings us to the end with a gradual fade in of mental riffing and a frantic bass that seems to be everywhere on the neck that then proceeds to smash you with the happiest sounding guitar fill. I’m not they would like me describing it as that, but there you go. It just runs, changing tempos and styles from straight up riffing to technical and back again. There is literally something for everyone who loves extreme metal here and you should give them the chance to convert you as a fan, it is well worth it!!!

The run length is just over 30 minutes which I think is a good thing because it doesn’t get the chance to become repetitive as they manage to avoid re-using the same motif’s over and over as well making sure the listener doesn’t tap out from exhaustion of being battered from the number of riffs that come from all angles. What this proves is that technical metal in the right hands can be a joyous experience rather than sterile and clinical collection of ideas tacked together to show off those performing. 

And obviously, anything that evokes the diverse back catalogue of death is no bad thing at all. 9/10

Redemption - I Am The Storm (AFM Records) [Matt Bladen]

Redemption are a long running progressive metal band founded by guitarist/keyboardist/producer Nick Van Dyk having had Ray Alder behind the mic until 2016, they now have Evergrey man Tom S Englund behind the mic and Vikram Shankar on keys, who is a member of Silent Skies with Englund. Joining them are bassist Sean Andrews and drummer Chris Quirarte, this team working together to create a type of progressive metal that's both heavy and melodic.

Having steadily built their style and sound over the course of 7 previous albums, all of which have been well received, Redemption have always been a band I've liked but due to the collaborative nature never really get out on the stage much. Thankfully in the studio they do everything you'd want in prog metal, sat between Fates Warning, Dream Theater and of course Evergrey; the strong, soulful vocals of Englund perfect for the heavy riffs of Van Dyk on tracks such as Resilience and the more sombre moments such as The Emotional Depiction Of Light, a song featured twice as the album version and the original version Shankar envisioned when he wrote the song originally.

Much like so many prog metal bands, it's the longer tracks such as Action At A Distance and All This Time (And Not Enough), where Redemption are in their element, the addition of Simone Mularoni, Chris Poland and Henrik Danhage giving lead guitar solos to the tracks a definite bonus, Mularoni also engineered the record. I mentioned the bands who they sound like earlier in the review, but an influence is surely Genesis as both Turn It On Again from the Collins-era and Red Rain by Peter Gabriel are covered in I Am The Storm both given the Redemption daub of heaviness. Redemption are producing top tier progressive metal after over 20 years of existence. 9/10

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