Two Albums, One Concept, All Metal
Conceived of as a two-disc concept album, Periphery's Juggernaut Alpha and Juggernaut Omega cover a tremendous amount of ground musically and lyrically. Tine-wise, the seventeen songs of these two albums clock in at nearly and hour and a half. Musically, Periphery demonstrates tremendous range musically, ranging from quiet electronic passages to the heaviest of hardcore thrash. My only quibble with the albums (besides the decision to sell them as two separate albums instead of one pricey double-album) is the lack of "connective tissue" sounds or dialogue that would make the story more clear. It worked spectacularly well for Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime, and Alice Cooper's recent Along Came a Spider incorporated several, making an album that could have simply been another batch of Alice Cooper shock-rock tunes became a story of murder and redemption. Juggernauts Alpha and Omega, like One-Eyed Doll's Witches really could have used a bit of this.
Enough criticism. Periphery's spectacular range emerges within the first two tracks; from the quiet opening of "A Black Minute" (a feature of recent concept albums, it seems) and strong melodic metal to the screaming thrash of "MK Ultra" (a reference to the hopefully defunct CIA program aimed at developing and perfecting mind-control through drugs and other means.) Deeper tracks reveal influences such as Linkin Park and their contemporaries, as the sound veers between melody and thrash with such force as to demand the strictest attention if the story is to be sussed out; bring your ritalin, as much as I enjoyed the experience, I could not really drag much of a story out of the songs. Between the album art and some of the snatches of lyrics I could latch onto, it seems to be a sci-fi tale incorporating some psychological exploration of the self. The press release announcing the albums says that Alpha focuses on backstory and character development, while Omega "focuses on some pretty serious and gut-wrenching events[.]"
Despite my difficulty in grasping the concept part of this, I found much to appeciate and enjoy in these two albums. Where "Alpha" and "22 Faces" display the band's debt to Linkin Park and Papa Roach, the instrumental "Four Lights" demonstrates that Slayer is also among Periphery's muses. The set's least thrashing song -"Priestess"- includes classical/Santana-inspired guitar and earnest singing; easily the most radio-friendly tune of the seventeen. Almost every guitar solo on the records is more classical than classic. Obviously a result of the guitarist's training, and it gifts the tunes a rather unique sound. I'm much more used to the Yngwie Malmstein/Randy Rhodes/George Lynch school of guitar solos, and I generally find classical guitar to be very somnolescent, but in this environment the sound fits the mood quite well (not to mention the excessive rhythm guitar and bass pretty much preclude most notions of sleep.)
Periphery's full spectrum of sound comes from a full six full-time members, including three (3!) guitarists, the requisite bass and drums, and a vocalist who apparently does both the crooning and the screaming. Guitarists Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb deliver the sonic punch, however Mansoor seems to be the lead, having been a Guitar World cover boy. Bassist Adam Getgood and drummer Matt Halpern have also appeared on the covers of Bass Player and Modern Drummer respectively. Vocalist Spencer Sotelo rounds out the group with his incredible range. Obviously, the members bring exceptional skills to the enterprise, showing that more than garage band enthusiasm helped to shape Juggernaut's two discs of metal. Juggernaut Alpha and Omega may be this year's ultimate metal album, bringing together so many influences, sounds, and moods in such a dense collection that no one who loves metal can afford to ignore these albums.