The prog-metal juggernauts’ latest is the product of blood, sweat, tears, and a persistent, fierce commitment to raising the bar for themselves—and for djent—that’s matched every step in their career.
It’s not clear exactly when it was coined, but “djent,” the somewhat facetious, catch-all onomatopoeia name of one of today’s most vital and popular heavy metal subgenres, is here to stay. And, perhaps because they’re so well-known as pioneers in that movement, prog-metal disruptors Periphery are making a bit of a tongue-in-cheek statement with the title of their latest record: Periphery V: Djent Is Not a Genre. Of course, despite that resistance, it’s yet another example of their djent prowess—and they’re pretty sure it’s a level up in their catalog.
Periphery - Wax Wings (Official Audio)
“It felt like, ‘How the fuck did we get away with this?’ When we finished it, we all felt like it was a very special album.” says bandleader, producer, and one of the band’s three guitarists, Misha Mansoor. “We’ve never unanimously felt this way. Usually, it’s more exasperation and a sense of ‘Let’s just get it out,’ and a list of compromises we made. This is the first record where I wasn’t thinking about next time.”
It’s safe to assume the band has high standards, considering that their past releases, with their “lists of compromises,” have won them heaps of critical praise, a Grammy nod, and a deeply loyal fanbase. And as Mansoor’s comments suggest, Periphery V is a continuation of a body of work that consistently makes that grade.
The album’s opening track, “Wildfire,” is a barnstorming thesis statement that begins with some of it’s heaviest guitars, which blend into an absolute earworm of a chorus before somehow segueing into a Squarepusher-esque, electronic-jazz bridge—complete with a burning bebop sax solo by Norwegian metal and experimental musician Jørgen Munkeby. Next is “Atropos,” a track with absolutely crushing layers of extended-scale guitars and a performance from vocalist Spencer Sotelo that oscillates between ’90s-anime-soundtrack-ready hooks and metallic aggression.
On their new album, the band repurposed some motifs from past songs in their catalog in a way that felt like they were having a secret handshake with long-time fans.
“Wax Wings” features an unexpected open tuning (D–F#–A–E–A–C#) that co-guitarist Mark Holcomb nicked from the Japanese band, Toe, and some of the album’s most impressive guitar moments, including an opening lick that boasts all of Holcomb’s signature dramatic slides and pull-offs. When asked what guitar passages on the record he’s most proud of, Holcomb quickly points to the solo at the end of “Wax Wings,” saying, “[It’s] actually in that fucked-up open tuning. That sucked. There was the question of whether or not to write the solo in standard because I’d have to do a guitar change if we play the song live. I chose the route of writing the solo in that tuning, so I had to teach myself some new moves. I challenged myself to write a handful of riffs in that tuning that sound like something else.”
On Periphery V, the band’s mission was to be heavier, catchier, and riskier than on their last release, 2019’s Periphery IV: Hail Stan, and, arguably, that’s what they’ve accomplished. That’s even more impressive given how far they’ve come since their founding in 2005, and the ambition they’ve always brought to their work.
The band’s eponymous debut was released over a decade ago—long before social media was filled with young shredders relentlessly putting their metal chops on display. It was a time when the first generation of Fractal Audio Axe-Fx units were only four years old, and guitar-specific plugins were still in their ugly adolescence. And while Periphery has always worn its influences on its sleeve—particularly the pummeling death-metal churn of Swedish polyrhythm wizards Meshuggah and the soaring prog sensibilities of Dream Theater and Opeth—their unique approach to interpreting those sounds and filtering them into something new has set them apart from their peers. After garnering their aforementioned accolades and building their fanbase, Periphery IV was lauded as their most adventurous release to date.
“When we finished it, we all felt like it was a very special album.”—Misha Mansoor
With layers of hulking, downtuned rhythm guitars that any respectable djent record needs, Periphery IV also embraced the sprawling arrangements, infectious melodies, and electronic textures that the group had always flirted with, in a very big way. For the band, the release felt like a triumph. However, the album’s tour cycle ended abruptly when the pandemic hit and, like the rest of the music industry, Periphery was suddenly left rudderless.
Misha Mansoor's Gear
Bandleader and guitarist Misha Mansoor founded Periphery in 2005, after having gained a reputation on online forums for his prog-metal compositions.
Photo by Ekaterina Gorbacheva
- Two Jackson USA Misha Mansoor Signature Juggernaut HT7s
- Jackson USA Misha Mansoor Signature HT7 Juggernaut with EverTune Bridge
- Jackson Pro Series Signature Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT6 with EverTune Bridge and Bare Knuckle Ragnarok pickups
- Jackson Pro Series Signature Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT6
- Jackson Pro Series Signature Misha Mansoor Juggernaut HT6 with flame maple top
- Jackson MJ Series Signature Misha Mansoor So-Cal 2 PT “Strat”
- Jackson Custom Shop Juggernaut HT8
- Jackson Custom Shop Juggernaut HT8 with fanned frets
Strings & Picks
- Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Heavy 6 set (.010–.058)
- Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Heavy 7 set (.010–.065)
- Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Bulb 8 set (.0095–.074)
- Dunlop Misha Mansoor Custom Delrin Flow Picks, .65 mm live and .73 mm in studio
As co-guitarist Jake Bowen explains, “Periphery IV felt like our proudest accomplishment. How the hell do you move on from that and put something out that hits in the same way? You get to the point in a career where we’re at, and you have to ask if you’re repeating yourself or if everyone’s getting bored of your band’s shtick. You have to be really hard on yourself to get past those things because they prevent bands from growing at the stage we were at.”
It would take the band four years and a scrapped concept album (intended as a companion to 2015’s fan-favorite Juggernaut: Omega) before Periphery V would see the light of day. The process, part of which involved rewriting about three fourths of the record, nearly broke the band.
“We hit some very low moments that we had never faced before while writing this,” Holcomb says. “We’ve been through struggles as a band before. But the hurdles that came along with [this experience]—the dejection and questioning—I had never really confronted before.”
In the early stages, the material intended for the aborted concept record failed to spark Sotelo’s inspiration, who was weathering a divorce and something of an identity crisis during the forced time off from the road. “We recognized that Spencer was going through a vulnerable time, and we encouraged him to harness it and try to turn it into something personal, make it his, and use it as fuel to push forward with what he was doing,” says Holcomb. “That’s why a lot of the lyrical themes go a bit deeper and are a little bit more relatable than on our previous records.”
“We’ve been through struggles as a band before. But the hurdles that came along with [this experience]—the dejection and questioning—I had never really confronted before.”—Mark Holcomb
Rather than fracturing under the pressure, Periphery persevered and came out the other side more unified than ever, with an album that delivered on the blood, sweat, tears, and risk-taking that went into it. “Despite all that bullshit, when it did come together, it did so in a way that I can only describe as magical,” Mansoor shares.
An unexpected facet of Periphery V are the repurposed motifs from past Periphery songs. For example, “Zagreus” has a couple of sonic references to “Four Lights,” and the chorus on “Wildfire” recalls “The Event,” an interlude from Juggernaut. Bowen brought the latter one into the mix, explaining, “The motif from ‘The Event’ creates intervals that are really tough to jump around, but when you nail it, it really works and it makes for a very unusual chorus. It’s just one of those things where it doesn’t make much sense, but it works.”
Jake Bowen's Gear
Guitarist Jake Bowen expresses that the source of Periphery’s music goes beyond the guitar; his and the other guitarists’ connection with one another is what is truly behind the music they produce.
Photo by Ekaterina Gorbacheva
- Ibanez Jake Bowen Signature JBM9999
- Ibanez LA Custom Shop Jake Bowen Signature JBM9999
Strings & Picks
- Horizon Devices Jake Bowen Signature (.010–.058 for 6-string, .010–.074 for 7-string)
- Dunlop Tortex Flow Picks .60 mm
The sonic Easter eggs peppered throughout the record have resonated with diehard Periphery fans, who, upon its release, quickly caught on and began compiling lists on online forums of the repurposed themes. Despite seeming like a calculated move, the motifs came to the band in a very organic way. Mansoor explains, “I love reharmonizing stuff and hearing things in a different light. My video-gamer brain loves that, because you hear themes get buried, reintroduced, and mangled throughout a lot of RPGs. Nobuo Uematsu [Japanese composer of the soundtracks to the Final Fantasy video game series, and the inspiration for the track ‘Thanks Nobuo,’] is one of my biggest influences, and he does that a lot in really crazy ways.”
He continues, “We thought people might say, ‘Sounds like they ran out of riffs,’ but the fans had an entirely different perspective; it felt like we were winking at those of them that have been with us since the early records. In retrospect, I realize we have such a loyal and dedicated fanbase and they tend to be very well-versed in our material, so they caught these things that we thought we’d done very subtly, and it makes them feel like we’re connecting with them directly. It feels very much like a secret handshake, and they really reacted to that. I’ve seen people say things like ‘I cried when I heard this,’ in reference to hearing the ‘You're shining and it shows’ theme in ‘Thanks Nobuo,’ which is a callback to ‘The Way the News Goes…’ from 2016’s Periphery III: Select Difficulty. That makes me really happy, and I didn’t expect that kind of reaction.”
Mark Holcomb's Gear
On “Wax Wings,” guitarist Mark Holcomb used the tuning D–F#–A–E–A–C#, which he borrowed from the Japanese band, Toe.
Photo by Ekaterina Gorbacheva
- Prototype PRS SE Mark Holcomb Signature with Seymour Duncan Scarlet & Scourge pickups (6-string)
- Prototype PRS SE Mark Holcomb Signature with Seymour Duncan Scarlet & Scourge pickups (7-string)
- PRS SE Silver Sky John Mayer Signature
- PRS Mark Holcomb Signature Private Stock (6-string)
- PRS Mark Holcomb Signature Private Stock (7-string)
Strings & Picks
- Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Heavy 6 set (.010–.058)
- Horizon Devices Progressive Tension Heavy 7 set (.010–.065)Dunlop .88 mm custom picks
- Peavey Invective Misha Mansoor Signature
- Omega Granophyre
- Carstens Grace head
- Suhr Reactive Load Box
- Two Notes IR box
- GetGood Drums Studio Cabs: Zilla Edition
- Horizon Devices Precision Drive
- DigiTech Whammy
- TC Electronic Sub ’N’ Up Octaver
- Echoplex EP-2T-Rex Replicator
- D’Luxe Analog Tape Delay
- Echo Fix EF-X2
- Echo Fix EF-X3
- TC Electronic 2290
- Dynamic Digital Delay
- Custom Dunwich HM-2-based drive
While the songs on Periphery V may secretly recall themes from past records, the tone production on the album forges all new territory for the band. “This is the first Periphery album where we used a bunch of real amps. Periphery IV was all Axe-Fx, and even Periphery II was technically a 5150, but it was the Axe-Fx through the 5150 power section,” Mansoor says. When doing blind tone tests with plugins and modeling gear, the power of real tube amps mated with IRs had a distinct advantage that the band couldn’t overlook for the album’s particularly aggressive riffs.
As for the tube amps they ended up using, Mansoor says the heavy lifting was handled by a Peavey Invective (his 5150-based signature model) and an Omega Granophyre. A Carstens Grace was also used for some added layers and some pushed clean passages. Mansoor describes the Grace as having “a unique voicing where it’s very hard to compare it to anything. It’s kind of Marshall-ish, but I think that sells it short.”
“Periphery IV felt like our proudest accomplishment. How the hell do you move on from that and put something out that hits in the same way?”—Jake Bowen
All of the reamping was done with a Two Notes unit and a Suhr Reactive Load Box to keep the tube amps happy without real cabs, and the GetGood Drums Studio Cabs: Zilla Edition sim—mostly programmed with the “Swedish Technique” preset with an extra 4x12 cab with a K-100 speaker in it—completed the tone recipe.
Every amp was boosted by the Precision Drive, a pedal made by Mansoor’s company, Horizon Devices. When asked what that pedal brought to the table that makes it so invaluable to Periphery’s sound, Mansoor describes it as “a boost that helps lower-tuned guitars hit the front end of amps in a way that the amps can handle, because they weren’t designed for that and can flub out with palm-muted parts. The Precision Drive lets you control how much low end you cut, so you dial in the ‘attack’ control to really fine-tune that.” Other effects that played a big role in the guitar sounds on Periphery V were a battery of tape delays, which included Mansoor’s beloved vintage Echoplex EP-2, and modern analog tape delays like the T-Rex Replicator D’Luxe, and the Echo Fix EF-X2 and EF-X3 units. An original TC Electronic 2290 rack unit was also used to add some delay to leads. Mansoor loves the way the 2290 makes everything sound “very 3D.”
All three guitarists relied on their signature-model guitars. Holcomb used the Periphery V sessions as an opportunity to test and hone the prototypes of his SE import line PRS signature models, and also used a PRS Silver Sky John Mayer sig for his parts on “Wax Wings.”
Mansoor called on several of his Jackson Juggernaut signature models, including 6-, 7-, and 8-string variants, Custom Shop versions with fanned frets, and even stock import models. He most often found himself reaching for those that were equipped with EverTune bridges because of how much time they save in the studio. According to Mansoor, the real wildcard that unexpectedly saw a lot of use on Periphery V was his signature model MIJ Jackson SoCal Strat, which he describes as “a sleeper dad-rock guitar in daphne blue that looks like a Strat, with a matching headstock, but is such a shredder.” Mansoor continues to gush about the relatively attainable guitar, saying “It’s so aggressive-sounding. As an HSS Strat, it’s great for split-coil stuff or full single-coil stuff. Nothing beats an actual single-coil, so anything where we wanted that sound, that’s what we used.”
For Bowen, his Ibanez JBM27 signature model was the hero on the album, but he also used an Ibanez LA Custom Shop version of that model for writing. He describes the guitar as “aesthetically a little different, but a mojo machine that has a weirdness to it that makes me play differently. The Ibanez LA Custom Shop guitars are always a little funky in some way. They have a handmade feel, and I write differently based on the guitar I’m playing. Something fun and unusual always comes out when I write on them, because of how quirky they are.”
Periphery - Atropos Live in Sacramento HQ Audio Board Mix 2023
Periphery performs “Atropos,” the second track on Periphery V, creating harmonious textures of thrashing djent guitar and both melodic and screaming vocals in an adventurous, experimental arrangement.
While many players in bands with Periphery’s longevity have a tendency to stop growing, it’s extremely apparent that making Periphery V not only pushed the members to grow as songwriters, but also as guitarists. From Holcomb’s perspective, they’ve all started to sound a bit more like each other through the experience: “We basically lived together as if we were in a dorm and played so much guitar. I think it’d be impossible to not learn something from the guy across from you in that scenario. My voice as a player has definitely changed over the years just from adapting qualities from the two other guitar players in my band.”
Bowen says it’s bigger than guitar at this point: “At the risk of sounding incredibly pretentious, it goes beyond music. We get together and write all of this crazy shit mostly because we like hanging out with each other. The way the music takes shape is an extension of that friendship. When you really love people, the creative connection is greater and you produce better stuff as a result. At least, we do.”
As for the band’s influential ringleader, the real success of Periphery’s guitar brotherhood mirrors both sentiments. Mansoor says of his co-guitarists, “We’re each other’s biggest fans. We all love the way each other sounds and they’re always writing stuff that I wish I wrote. That makes me want to step up my game, because if they’re at that level, I need to level up.
“I’m really grateful because this album felt like it was make or break,” he continues. “In a different universe, this album could have killed us, but because it didn’t, it brought us so much closer together.”
The My Bloody Valentine tone maestro helps design an intricate, complex, but ultimately intuitive source of potent octave fuzz and overtones galore.
Huge swaths of unexpected sounds that can exist well outside the My Bloody Valentine tone sphere. Beautiful, high quality build. Fascinating, organic interactions between controls.
Pedalboard space freaks are going to complain that it’s big.
Fender Shields Blender
Kevin Shields tone chasers are a minor cult—sharing insights and discoveries about ways and means to replicate the intoxicating, enveloping sounds of My Bloody Valentine’s LPs, and in particular, their masterwork, Loveless. It’s a curious pursuit, in a way, for it is well documented that Shields created most of that album’s time- and space-bending sheets-of-sound guitar parts via the rather economical combination of reverse reverb and the vibrato on a Fender Jazzmaster.
My Bloody Valentine on stage, however, is quite another matter. Seeing the band live is a little like breathing the atmosphere of another planet. It’s heavy, loud, and sometimes disorienting, which is largely the product of a sea of colliding and intertwining overtones. It’s an almost extra-dimensional extension of the songs on the records. And to build the melodious, swirling, and deafening world of MBV live, Shields relies on an imposing quiver of stompboxes. As it turns out, one of the most critical of these is a vintage Fender Blender, an octave fuzz that went largely unappreciated in its time. With the release of the Fender Shields Blender, a highly modified version of the original, the Blender’s days in the shadows are likely numbered.
Building on a Blend
For those less familiar with Shields’ work, it’s important to know that his ears, mind, and aesthetic fixations dwell, to a significant extent, in the realm of overtones, and the magic made when they interweave to form a more colorful whole. Curiously, one of Shields’ and My Bloody Valentine’s deepest probes into the overtone world is the bludgeoningly loud and sustained onslaught of the song “You Made Me Realise.” Shields’ first investigations of the Blender’s potential occurred during this nightly, set-ending ritual. And the combination of octave-up fuzz, a footswitchable fuzz boost, a tone knob, and a wet/dry blend control made it a perfect vehicle for adding another color to the song’s outro overtone feast. The Shields Blender, however, explodes and expands the feature set—and the available sounds—of the original Blender significantly.
Bigger Blend, Minds Blown
Shields’ and Fender’s design additions profoundly expand the possibilities afforded by the new Blender. First, there’s a new footswitchable, mammoth sub-octave fuzz with dedicated volume control. It can be used with or without the octave up signal from the original, which can now be added or subtracted via a pushbutton. That means you can use the fuzz alone, with one of the octave effects, or both. That flexibility gives you a wagonload of huge, menacing, and mangled textures to work with. But they are just a fraction of the tones you can craft here. The fuzz has its own very range-ful tone knob, which recasts the fuzz’s personality considerably. The expand section, which has a dedicated footswitch (and was called the tone boost on the original) enables you to boost the fuzz output.
The wildest addition to the original Blender, though, is the sag circuit. Shields noted that many sag functions, which starve a circuit of voltage, are a bit subtle. This one is most assuredly not. It’s also not the easiest function to figure out. But practice yields very cool and often unexpected results. While it works in dynamically responsive, rhythmic, almost tremolo-like ways at the right settings (which seems to be Shields’ preferred application), I loved its potential in fingerpicked situations, where its dynamic responsiveness shined. Fingerpicking triads high on the neck with both octave effects engaged yielded melodic, glitchy effects that could be continuously reshaped by touch, and by using mellower trigger levels you can summon a greater degree of dynamic control. It’s important to note that strong octave-down fuzz settings can render the sag control less nuanced. But used together they can also summon the chaotic, tectonic-scale, Earth-cracking tonalities that are part of the live “You Made Me Realise” or Neil Young’s most deranged octave divider and melting tweed Deluxe moments.
While it yields many chaotic results, the Fender Shields Blender is not the product of a chaotic design approach. Shields is known for striving for very specific sonic results and for being uncompromising in those quests. That a Kevin Shields-approved pedal could exist at all is something of a surprise to this longtime fan. But what’s also a surprise is how incredibly varied and full of twists the Shields Blender can be. The addition of the sub-octave fuzz is inspired. So is the tricky-to-wrangle, but ultimately satisfying, sag circuit, which offers unusual tones and interactivity galore. Making the fuzz independently operable from the octave effects also extends the pedal’s flexibility. But it’s the potential interrelationships between all of the controls and functions that ultimately make the Shields Blender such a rich mine of possible sounds. For the intrepid and patient explorer willing to crack the many codes within, fantastic rewards await.
Week 3 continues with SIX more chances to win! Enter below for your shot at pedals from Eventide, Flamma Innovation, Karma Guitar Amplifiers, Silktone, Source Audio, or Universal Audio! Ends October 2, 2023.
Enter here but check out the prizes below!Pedalmania 2023 Week #3
Inspired by the classic Tri-Stereo Chorus and stompbox choruses of the 1970s and early 1980s, the TriceraChorus pedal pairs rich Bucket Brigade-style chorusing with Eventide’s legendary MicroPitch detuning for a lushness that rivals the jungles of the late Cretaceous Period. TriceraChorus features three chorus voices and three unique chorus effects which can be used to create a wide stereo spread with pulsing waves of modulation. The innovative “Swirl” footswitch adds psychedelic flanging, phasing, and Uni-vibe-style tones. It has never been easier to dial in syrupy smooth, deep modulation on guitar, bass, synths, strings, vocals, and more.
This compact reverb pedal crams seven distinct digital reverb effects in to a sturdy, metal shell and several control features. The various reverb effects aim to simulate different environments from a small room to large, open cave. More niche effects are also included such as studio-style plate reverb, classic spring reverb effect, and the more far-out modulation reverb effect. Each effect can be modified with the Hi-Cut, Lo-Cut, Decay, and Pre-Delay knobs and then saved to their own save slot. An effect trail feature can be toggled on and off to have each effect fade out naturally after being switched off.
The Karma MTN-10 is a much-improved clone of the revered but long discontinued Ibanez Mostortion, a must-have favorite of many Nashville session players.
The Karma MTN-10 is true-bypass and uses advanced construction techniques, including much sturdier and more reliable pots, switches, and enclosures. The elusive CA3260 IC chip used in the originals is a key component used in the Karma. All circuit board design and pedal assembly is done in the United States.
The Silktone Fuzz is a modern marvel with exploding with vintage tones.
"Cons: none:" writes Premier Guitar in the Fuzz's perfect score review. That was designer Charles Henry's favorite part, what else can we say?
At it's heart are two germanium transistors in the classic fuzz face topology, tweaked to get a huge array of tones and fix all the annoyances you get with a typical germanium fuzz. We wanted to nail the awesome tones everybody knows and loves when these transistors are biased to their sweet spot… and also when they’re not. With our active bias monitor you can easily hit them all. Want that oh, so sweet sweet sweet spot? Dial it to ~4.50. Prefer some fat sticky fuzz? Dial it past 7.50. Want spitty gated fuzz? Cool, me too - dial it to ~1.10.
Combine this with the onboard pickup simulator to place this fuzz anywhere in your chain without the normal issues and a cleanup knob to get you into drive territory that rivals the best overdrives out there with beautifully musical germanium color - and you have one of the most useable, versatile fuzzes to date with sooo.. much.. texture.
Create rich, spacious reverberations with the Ventris Dual Reverb. The Ventris features 14 meticulously crafted reverb engines built on two completely independent 56-bit signal processors, essentially housing a matching pair of high-powered, stereo reverb pedals in a single box. The pedal’s dual DSP architecture provides massive processing muscle, adjustable preset spillover time, and advanced dual reverb effects. Step into a vast realm of ambient space.
Emerging from UA's flagship Starlight Echo Station, Orion Tape Echo gives you the magical hazy delay effects of vintage ’70s Maestro Echoplex EP-III tape delays, in a classy, compact package.*
- Create with a stunning emulation of the iconic vintage tape echo hardware
- Craft eccentric effects with authentic wow, flutter, and tape types
- Fatten your tone with a perfectly captured EP-III analog preamp
- Rely on timeless UA craftsmanship, built for decades of rock-solid performance
*All trademarks are property of their respective owners and used only to represent the effects modeled as part of Orion Tape Echo.