Time and freedom breed invention. Without compromise, GRAMMY® Award-nominated quintet Periphery—Misha Mansoor [guitar, programming], Jake Bowen [guitar, programming], Matt Halpern [drums], Spencer Sotelo [vocals], and Mark Holcomb [guitar]—enliven, enlarge, and expand the outer reaches of their signature progressive alternative metal on 2019’s Periphery IV: HAIL STAN [3DOT Recordings]. For the first time in a 13-year career, the group devoted an entire year to crafting the nine tracks comprising the album.
As a result, it sees them not only tread new territory, but conquer it.
“We finally spent a year on a record,” says Jake. “We’ve never been able to do that. The quality and pacing of the work show we really took our time with this one. That’s an important note about this. We really got to do everything we wanted to do in the space we had to do it.”
Adds Mark, “We’ve been learning how to do this as we go along. We cleared our schedules and made this one happen. We removed restrictions, boundaries, and deadlines. We chased freedom. We went to the extreme and took off a whole calendar year—15 months between shows. It pushed us to create the record we wanted to.”
They certainly earned such latitude. Most recently, Periphery III: Select Difficulty solidified their position at the forefront of modern heavy music. Opener “The Price Is Wrong” received a 2017 GRAMMY® Award nomination in the category of “Best Metal Performance.” Meanwhile, the album tallied 35 million cumulative streams and marked their third consecutive debut in the Top 25 of the Billboard Top 200. It represented the apex of a tireless decade-long grind. Along the way, the band graced the covers of Guitar World, Revolver, Modern Drummer, Bass Player, and more in addition to attracting acclaim courtesy of Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, and more. In addition to selling out countless headline shows, they stand out as the rare act who can share the stage with everyone from Deftones to Dream Theater. Not to mention, they launched a summer camp of their own, “Periphery Summer Jam.”
As the musicians commenced work on Periphery IV in late 2017, the circumstances differed from the outset. This time around, they operated as an entirely independent outfit, recording it as the first Periphery release for their own 3DOT Recordings. Additionally, Misha had recently moved to Texas, and it would be their introductory experience tracking outside of Maryland. The setting “breathed life into the music,” as Jake explains.
The band open up the proceedings with the 16-minute “Reptile.” Exemplifying a penchant for progression, it twists and turns through moments of bludgeoning groove, intricate fret fireworks, and melodic reprieve wrapped in what Marks calls a, “more saturated, aggressive, and darker tone than on the last albums.”
“Who begins a record with a 16-minute track?” he asks with a laugh. “We could finally do that, because we call the shots with our own label. It felt liberating. There were no rules.”
Elsewhere on the record, with its incendiary chant and frenetic sensory assault, “CHVRCH BVRNER” might be “the most spastic Adderall-driven song we’ve ever written,” as Mark describes it.
“Sentient Glow” began as an idea Spencer actually sang on during his audition for the band, making for a special full circle moment. The near ten-minute closer “Satellites” saw the musicians sit together in a room with practice amps in the center and perform face-to-face—a technique implemented on “Lune” from Periphery III: Select Difficulty. They bulldozed a path for the album with the single “Blood Eagle.” It takes flight on a full steam chug of thick riffing and airtight percussion as the vocals cut like a guillotine.
“It’s the most unrelenting, uncompromising, heavy, and pissed-off song on this thing,” grins Mark. “A ‘Blood Eagle’ was a style of Viking torture. It fits the vibe!”
The slow trudge of “Garden in the Bones” offsets a hypnotic vocal performance from Spencer and a lush clean guitar bridge. The frontman’s voice exorcises raw emotion from pockets in between the distortion.
Through taking their time, Periphery arrive at a new level in the end on HAIL STAN.
“When people hear certain songs, they’re not going to expect them,” Mark concludes. “It would be amazing if we become known for that sort of unpredictability. All of our favorite artists embrace freedom and follow their own muses. It’s tangible when a band embodies that quality. I hope we do too.”
“I can’t imagine life without these guys,” Jake leaves off. “This is the tightest family you can imagine. We’re doing what comes naturally together. We love it now more than ever.”