After months of teasing and build-up, what’s most immediately noticeable about IV: Hail Stan (hereafter P4) is how very much Periphery are clearly toying with their established sound. To boot – some songs here are unrecognizable for those who have kept track of the DC band, while others find the group spreading their wings in bold and fascinating new directions. We have an 80s-tinged industrial number (“Crush”), and Periphery writing a Dillinger Escape Plan tune (“CHVRCH BURNER”), both of which are immediate standouts – because they stick out but moreso due to their quality. P4 is bookended with tracks that total over 25-minutes alone, though both “Reptile” and “Satellites” showcase the group’s most impressive long-form songwriting to date. The former is shockingly hooky and incredibly playful, building to a real behemoth of a riff. The latter slow-builds to greatness, and it’s calm and precise approach feels necessary after the controlled chaos that occurs in between the Alpha and Omega.
Songs like “Blood Eagle” and “It’s Only Smiles” showcase Periphery’s sonic extremes beautifully – the first Nordic-themed violent number is the band’s heaviest song to date before a wild Misha Monsoor guitar solo instigates a hellaciously fun hip-shaking riff-fest. “Smiles” is a reminder of how far Spencer Sotelo has come and how vital his vocal dexterity is to the band’s success. Sotelo’s majestic melodies meld masterfully with the song’s inherent brightness – it’s part of why the band’s unique take on progressive metal has stuck through slight variations over time. Periphery are clearly interested in making music entertaining and fun over worrying about how heavy or complex a song is – and that spirit of merriment is at the heart of why this is the band’s best record yet.
Songs like “Follow Your Ghost” and “Garden in the Bones” are much more let’s say “stock” Periphery, but there’s more inter-song momentum and liveliness that only buoy these standard-issue tracks. There are no weak spots on this impeccable record, but it’s a testament to the band that their best album to date is their least “Periphery” one yet. The band taking their time with P4 paid off wonderfully.