At a time when metal is perhaps more popular than ever, it is also witnessing more and more artists pushing sounds so derivative that some so-called “revivalist” acts should probably be derided as thinly veiled tribute groups.
But Bethesda, Maryland's Periphery — a band that began as a recording project in Misha Mansoor's bedroom — is an intelligent, wholly original progressive metal behemoth.
The six-piece is currently riding high on the release of its most recent studio album, Juggernaut, an ambitious double disc split into two parts, Alpha and Omega.
We caught up with the Mansoor, the band's figurehead and creative force, in preparation for the group's impending tour stop at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room.
New Times: Periphery began with such humble roots as a bedroom recording project and has gone on to do such massive things. What would you say to yourself if you could speak to the Misha Mansoor of 2005?
Misha Mansoor: You know, I get that question every now and then. I can't come up with any serious answers, and I'll tell you why: I'm happy. So I can't really fault anything that I've done, whether it's good or bad, because it has led me to this point and I don't really have any regrets. I don't know if that's, like, a cop out, but that's how I feel. I guess if I did have to say something, though, it'd be pick one tuning and stick with it! [Laughs]
How many guitars does the band have to take on the road these days to accommodate all of those tunings?
It depends on the setlist we put together. But currently, we're at a bare minimum of 12 guitars on the road because we play six-, seven-, and eight-string songs between three guitarists, so that's nine — plus we need a full set of backups for the whole band. And then, obviously, three basses on top of all of it. We've really gone off the deep end with all the tunings that we use and we usually tech ourselves, so we have to arrange the sets in a way that allows us time to sort tunings and make things work.
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As someone who's definitely become a hero of extended-range guitars, how low do you think it's going to go?
It'll go as far as the customer is willing to pay for it! I'm not the kind of person that will say, “This will never happen," because, if you remember, people were like, “Seven strings are just a fad," and now they're an instrument that's taken seriously — and even the eight string! All major manufacturers that make rock and metal guitars make a model that caters to the eight-string player these days, right? So that showed them. But at a certain point, you run into so many physical problems with the instruments beyond a nine string that it becomes useless.
It can be argued that Periphery is leading the curve for modern progressive metal, but a lot of the band's peers take the accessories and sonic aesthetic — ultra-low tuning and polyrhythms — and really just repeat themselves. How do you stay inspired and avoid that?
I'm a competitive person, but when it comes to my music, it's all about self-expression. We've done, I think, a very good job of not succumbing to the pressure or expectations people have of us with every album cycle. When we're writing, we don't really care what people want or what they will think. It's more about self-fulfillment and making stuff that will make us excited and make us proud, and it just comes from a genuine place.
Could you explain the concept behind of the new double disc, Juggernaut?
We're not giving away the concept just yet, and that's honestly not even really my call, but it's something that originally we wanted to let the fans figure out first. There's been a lot of discussion about it, especially when the album first came out and people got really, really close. I will say that the actual story is out there between at least a couple people's versions of it, but I don't think we did too terrible a job telling the story through the albums. I do think it's the kind of thing that requires a lot of attention and we don't want to just hand it out. Eventually, we will hand it out, we're just trying to find a good medium to do that. If we're going to do it, we want to do it properly instead of just summarizing it in a paragraph.
Periphery. With In Flames and All That Remains. 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 27, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale; 954-564-1074; cultureroom.net. Tickets cost $29.50 plus fees via ticketmaster.com.