Let's Talk About the New Periphery Singles from "Periphery III"

As of now, there are two singles out from Periphery's next studio album, Periphery III: Select Difficulty, which, come on. That's not even a title. Regardless, I'm going to analyze them both – the first in much detail as I find it more remarkable in how unremarkable it is. Let's start with "The Price is Wrong" from May.

The Price is Wrong

     This song starts out with a typically dissonant little riff ('A') with more death metal-ish drums than typical for Periphery; this is something that had its presence on the first album (notably in "Zyglrox") but hasn't been so present since. This section reminds me a lot of "Have a Blast" from Periphery II, although as I hope to demonstrate, "Price" is lacking in the activity and the harmonic interest of "Blast" and doesn't really offer up anything to fill in those spots other than attitude. The second riff ('B') in the song is typical Periphery with a lot of ornamentation around a rhythmic pattern but no meaningful melody or harmonic deviation from the tonic. This repeats twice and quickly goes into what we can call the main idea of the song, which is the A riff from the beginning of the song with half-time drums and a screamed rhythmic vocal line. All very well-trod ground for Periphery. After this first instance of the main idea, there's a reprisal of the first bar of the B riff in a new djenty rhythmic pattern that repeats twice and does not appear anywhere else in the song. So, so far, it seems like Periphery have learned nothing from Juggernaut and have actually grown more superfluous and inefficient in their songwriting. Let's keep going!

   After the djent part, there's another new riff ('C') that repeats twice and has no motifs from the rest of the song in it. You can compare it to the B riff if you want; they aren't connected except by being completely commonplace Periphery riffs. Shrug. After this, the "chorus" ('D') of the song comes in, which you can easily tell because the guitars imply something that isn't just the tonic – however, other than the implication of a typical subdominant, there isn't actually any melody here. This, of course, repeats twice and goes back into the A idea with a little extra drum spice. The underlying rhythm of D could be related to A but the A rhythm is not exactly iconic so it's hard to draw a direct line from one to the other.

    Next, something a little interesting happens! They go for a third verse with another new riff ('E') that has no relation to the rest of the song. My issue with these "verse riffs" is always the same: they're all ornaments and no tree, or, if they have a rhythmic base, it isn't relevant or related to by the rest of the song. I can't decide if this E riff being altered on its second repetition is more egregious or less than the B and C riffs which just repeated twice without alteration, but it's not exactly meaningful either way when the rest of the piece is oblivious to their presence. Of course, this third verse goes back to the chorus which hasn't changed.

    After that second chorus we go to the only non-tonic section in the song: the solo break! This feels very much in the style of Juggernaut, as the solo is all style and no substance and the sudden use of the subdominant feels out of place like they suddenly realized they forgot to include a solo. The guitar line underpinning the solos feels instantly cliche too, though it is using the rhythm of the D idea which comes next. I'll give them this: this section sounds more colorful than the whole rest of the song, but in a piece so mired in tonic and harmonically monochromatic, it actually just sticks out as poorly integrated. This solo goes into a reprisal of the D idea with this new harmonic chassis and, now specifically, uses the exact rhythm from the A idea which is good. I'm glad they did that. There's still no actual melodic motive as the vocals are non-pitched, but this demonstrates at least a modicum of motivic consideration that is sorely lacking in the verse riffs.

    Following the bridge, we have an edgy spoken word part with sparse, dissonant guitar stabs under it that again are unrelated to the rest of the song. It's unremarkable. This goes right back into the A riff which terminates early. I appreciate that they didn't feel the need to drag out the A section again for four repetitions but the way in which it's capped off makes it clear that the song's entire thesis is just a generic syncopated chugging pattern. 


    This single was just released today! It feels like a very conscious choice to release after "The Price is Wrong" because this song has a lot of harmonic variation and major key stuff. The roadmap is interesting too: the first part of the piece essentially just goes ABCDE and then repeats that with a little variation again (compare 0:10 to 1:47, 0:42 to 1:58, 0:53 to 2:09, 1:15 to 2:31, and 1:26 to 2:53). I think that mere repetition helps the piece feel much more cohesive and the vocals actually have melodic ideas in them this time which is good! That's something many pieces benefit from! I won't go into too much detail here but I think a lot of this song works, and astoundingly so compared to "Price". It's not completely there, as the first half is basically unrelated to the second and they're essentially just glued onto each other – but it's better than nothing. The second half has some total cheesecake vocals that could go straight into a pop song (funnily enough, these go over a decidedly not poppy motive in 19/4) but the build functions and Spencer does that kind of thing well. The capper on the song is kind of a non sequitur but, overall, I hope there's much more of this kind of thing on the new album. Periphery is a very influential band and I think many molding themselves after them could learn a lot about building a harmonically varied song with strong motives from "Flatline" rather than the very generic "Price".