Even though Juggernaut was split into a double album to be a more "digestible" chunk of material, at first I was still difficult for me to listen to more then 5 or 6 songs at a time without a break, because this album definitely is intense. But after a month I'm able to realize that dissonance and resolution is balanced very well, as well as times of interlude and ambiance along with the brutal screams and guitar chugs. This album brings many surprises and a lot of raw and calculated emotion to the metal scene in my opinion. But it took a while for me to start to understand that. From the singles released I wasn't extremely impressed for whatever reason, possibly because I was nitpicking parts where I don't care for the timbre of Spencer's voice in one moment or some other trivial thing. But I think people who have attempted to understand where the metal scene is going and are open-minded enough can grow to appreciate the album and perhaps even like it if they give it a chance.
Periphery has been credited as a major part of the tech-metal scene with the creation of sub-genres heavily emphasizing rhythm. More specifically the way that 4/4 time interacts with a complicated secondary pattern pounded out by the bass guitar and the drum set's bass drum. The vocals, if ever included, usually float above the other pitches and stay distantly connected to the 4/4 time(With differences and experimentation, of course). What I appreciate about Periphery's writing style is the growing connection the vocals have to the other parts over the course of their releases (from "Periphery", to "Periphery II" and "Clear" and the stuff in between). Spencer's vocal technique has started to become more and more diversified in timbre and in the way the vocals interact with the rhythm and everything else. They wrote with the vocals in mind, rather then putting the voice on top later, perhaps out of personal preference or under the necessity of creating a concept-based album. Sometimes it comes across as a bit too catchy how the words are delivered and how choruses come and go. Luckily, there are many layers to the production and execution of the music that I can enjoy and appreciate that keeps me coming back. The distortion from the guitars is thick and powerful, and the soft and ambient parts are smooth and relaxing.
Although almost pragmatic and vague, the lyrics are carefully planned and link together the concept that is "Juggernaut". From what I've interpreted of the story told in these songs there is a perpetual theme of the struggle associated with immortality. The nameless main character from what I can tell yearns for mortality to be relinquished from the atrocities they have committed and lives they had taken since birth:
"It's always better on the other side of it / Wanting what you'll never have / And it's a goddamn broken state of mind / Yeah, the one that we've been living in / It's never greener inside the mess we're in / Wanting what you'll never have."
I think the title track for "Alpha", quoted here, brings up the ultimate irony in this story that the victims run from death while the killer forced to be immortal craves death and escape from the psychopath inside them, as well as the rancid memories of everything the character has been led to do. What I appreciate the most is how much of the story is still up to self-interpretation, while still providing direction and depth to the emotions at hand in the story. Compared to the lyrics written for the albums Periphery and Periphery II, these feel better thought out and cohesive between tracks; I appreciate the "vague" dial turned down just enough compared to previous releases, it's made all the difference to me.
All in all, I've really come to like and appreciate the double album for what it is, but it took some hesitation and a month of contemplation before I could say so. With that in mind, if you are a nit-picker, go find the segments of the album you might like, and if you're a start from track 1 kind of person, enjoy the story in the order it was intended to be played. There's enough experimentation to keep careful ears interested. Maybe some things you don't like, but most likely MANY different elements will be at least appreciated as a wonderful means of artistic expression.
Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
For more comments from the band members about the creation of the album, person-by-person, Century Media Records created a "webisode series" that might be informative before or after hearing the music. Check it out if you want!
Review by Travis Strong