Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre

Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre

Periphery guitarist Mark Holcomb will be the first one to tell you that the band’s seventh album was difficult to make. “For a number of reasons,” he tells Apple Music. “The most obvious one is that we started it when things were at their boiling point with the pandemic. There was a lot we didn’t know, and everybody was erring on the side of caution—which no one regrets. I would also say we’ve become so much pickier as far as what makes the cut for a Periphery album or a Periphery song, or even just a riff. Everything just takes longer now because we hold ourselves to a higher standard.” What about that title, though? As often as Periphery are called “progressive metal” or “progressive metalcore,” they’re labeled as “djent,” the rhythmically complex, palm-muted-guitar-driven subgenre that Meshuggah are credited with spawning. “That’s just us having some fun with our fans,” Holcomb explains with a laugh. “When our first record came out, we started hearing people throwing around the term ‘djent,’ which we use to describe the sound of a palm-muted guitar, but they used to describe our style of music. We have no control over that, and if people want to classify us a djent band, well, the internet is undefeated. We can’t argue with it. We’ve tried. So, it really is 100 percent a genre.” Below, he discusses each track on the record. “Wildfire” “This was the first idea completed for the album. Our final night working on it, [guitarist] Misha [Mansoor] started writing the jazzy section, and we realized we had our first real song for the record. It felt like a defining sound for the album, and that held true in retrospect. I think this song was a great catalyst to point us in the right direction. It’s really adventurous and breaks all these rules of arrangement, but it was really important for us. And it’s got a great sax solo by Jørgen [Munkeby] from Shining.” “Atropos” “The title is a nod to one of our favorite video games from the last couple years called Returnal. It was a PlayStation 5 game that we were playing all the time. Pretty early on, we had a feeling this would be a single because it showcases a lot more straight-ahead melody, especially in the first half of the song. I think that’s what people expect when they think of Periphery—big seven-string grooves and melody with some adventurous chord changes. And then, the last half devolves into a really dark place, like a slow-sounding Darkthrone blast-beat section, which I adore.” “Wax Wings” “When COVID hit and no one was allowed to leave their houses, I decided to treat writing like a day job, starting in the morning and clocking out at 5 or 6 pm. I began writing the main riffs for this very early on, and then [guitarist] Jake [Bowen] and Misha helped me take it to a level that I could have never imagined. It has a very weird tuning that I stole from a Japanese band called Toe. Once our singer, Spencer [Sotelo], started doing his thing over it, it was like, ‘Wow, this song could be a real pillar on the record.’ And it has one of the most cinematic moments on Periphery V in that outro.” “Everything Is Fine!” “We were in love with this idea of having a song that just had a ton of what we call ‘laser sounds’—those whammy sounds. There’s a band called Car Bomb that we love, and if you see them live, you’ll notice them doing these laser effects. We picked their brains about it years ago on tour. They showed us what’s up, and we began experimenting with it. You can hear some on ‘Wildfire,’ too, but on this one, we went wild with it. It’s got some Dillinger Escape Plan worship in there, too.” “Silhouette” “We wanted to have a song that fell into the same category as Jake’s electronic side project. It’s very relaxing and chill and downtempo, and the sound design is incredible. So, we started writing in that style, but when Spencer started doing vocals, it became something very different—it became a full-on electro-pop song. I could easily envision a lot of metal purists hearing it and going, ‘What’s wrong with you guys?’ but I love how it came out.” “Dying Star” “That was based off a demo that Misha had like a year before we started writing. To me, it sounded like contemporary Thrice, which I love. Very straight-ahead, very rock, not metal at all, but still had this energy to it. I threw in an idea of my own, which I was working on independently of what Misha was doing, but it happened to be the same tempo, the same key, and it lined up perfectly. It was one of those happy accidents and a cool illustration of how useful it is to have everyone in the band contributing creative ideas.” “Zagreus” “The title is a nod to a video game called Hades that we were obsessed with during the writing and recording of the record. I had a rough demo of the song that I had worked on during the pandemic, but it got a mediocre response from the band. We ended up keeping one tiny bit of that idea, and it turned into this very different sounding thing with all this crazy rhythm stuff, off-kilter riffs, and an Opeth-sounding bridge section. It’s one of those songs that I would play for someone who wanted to know what Periphery sounds like.” “Dracul Gras” “We were messing with all these eight-string riffs that were super heavy, super low, and dark in tone. They made us envision a big old vampire, so we started calling it ‘Bat Dracula.’ One of the toughest tasks on the record was getting an arrangement for this one that served the epic direction of the song. So, this became another example of us passing the guitar back and forth—that’s why a lot of the riffs have very different tonalities to them. Spencer’s lyrics tell a story of a portly vampire and his trials and tribulations in his village. It’s a very special song, and I envision it being a live staple once people hear it.” “Thanks Nobuo” “The title is a reference to Nobuo Uematsu from Final Fantasy. He’s one of our biggest influences ever. Back when I met Misha and Jake in 2007, we talked about our love for Meshuggah and Deftones, but we also dorked down on our love for video games and the music from Final Fantasy. We’ve spent thousands of hours, collectively, listening to that music while playing those games. The reason it’s called ‘Thanks Nobuo’ is because there’s a vocal line in the chorus that is the theme from Final Fantasy VII, so it’s a tribute to him. We’re so respectful of his legacy and just perpetually in awe of everything he’s done.”

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