Music can be a story. A song can be a story in itself. Sometimes it takes more than one song to tell the story; enter the concept album. Many artists have created them (Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Green Day, The Who, Rush, Genesis, King Diamond, Voivod, Queensryche, Dream Theater), some have even made a career out of it (Coheed and Cambria). The one thing that ties all these albums together is that they tell a compelling story. This is exactly what Periphery did with their appropriately titled third full-length collection, “Juggernaut.”
“Juggernaut” is split into two separate albums. “Juggernaut: Alpha” tells the first part of the story. It gives us the character’s back story, through conception, birth, and evolution. Part two/album two, “Juggernaut: Omega,” focuses on the character’s journey as he teeters between right, wrong, good, and evil. On his journey, he goes through a myriad of emotions; anger (‘The Scourge,’ ‘The Bad Thing’), pain (’22 Faces‘), sorrow (‘Heavy Heart,’ ‘Priestess’), confusion (‘Alpha,’), and indifference (‘Psychosphere’). Spoiler alert; he also dies (‘Graveless’), goes to Hell (‘Hell Below’), and is reborn (‘Omega,’ ‘Stranger Things’).
As you listen to the two albums, you will notice almost all of the songs have a lyrical, melodic, and structural similarity that ties them all together. Opening track ‘A Black Minute’ lays out the blueprint for the next sixteen tracks. Its gradual opening eases you into the musical theme that will carry you through the rest of the story. Spencer Sotelo’s guttural growls and high-soaring melodic vocals guide you through the peaks and valleys of emotion on “Juggernaut “. The guitar Cerberus of Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen, and Mark Holcomb add depth and complexity to the story as they shift between djenty riffs and progressive space jazz leads. The sometimes off but always on rhythm section of Adam “Nolly” Getgood and Matt Halpern supply the solid foundation for the mayhem within. You could pick apart each song on the records individually, but that would take away from what Periphery is trying to accomplish. Without listening to the songs within the context of the story, it’s like coming in to the middle of a movie and wondering what is going on. Because of this, listening to the albums completely through and in succession is a necessity.
Doing a concept album in this age of immediate gratification from iTunes and Spotify is tricky. Keeping a listener engaged enough to not skip tracks or hit shuffle can be daunting. Doing it in a double album format is even more risky. Periphery has done exactly that. The song’s reoccurring theme gets so entrenched in your psyche; you do not even notice you have had “Juggernaut” on repeat all day. The band has been working on this concept for quite some time. Now that it has finally come to fruition, it is by far the best thing Periphery has ever done.