Bulb – Archives: Volume 8


Unless you lived in a world with no internet for the last ten years, you should be aware that one person more than any other has revolutionised the metal guitar style of today’s new players. That person is Washington DC native, Misha Mansoor, of prog metal giants, Periphery. You can’t sit back and enjoy a metal riff these days without a syncopated palm mute or polyrhythm keeping you on edge. You have Misha to thank (or curse) for this and for all those bearded nerds on You Tube playing eight-string guitars and shredding their fretboards like PhD jazz students. These lads missed out on a lot of sex during their teenage years but the world’s a better place for their hibernation in bedrooms in the early 2000s. If it wasn’t for these boys practising their instruments while others participated in the real-world drama of social intercourse, we’d be stuck with bands who play three-chord punk and awful Nu metal riffs. Thanks, Misha.

Before we start, we should squash a few shibboleths about the founder of Periphery. Contrary to popular belief, Misha is not a shredder. Yes, he can knock out a solo to compete with anything by Marty Friedman (see ‘Blood Eagle’ from Periphery IV: Hail Stan), but his focus is more on producing crunchy riffs of the Meshuggah mould and phrasing them in an Alan Holdsworth-esque jazz fusion. He is also a drummer and pianist and enjoys electronic music as much as the heavy stuff. According to his account, he did not invent the hated ‘Djent’ term on the Meshuggah fan forums, either.

Most Periphery material can trace its origins back to the demos Misha produced on You Tube and Sound Cloud et al under the Bulb moniker when he was a fresh-faced university graduate with a ponytail. As part of a ten-album collection of these demos spanning 108 songs, Volume 8 kicks off with an alphabetical order of tracks from A to S, most of them instrumental and all but one coated in detuned heavy guitar hooks that would make Gojira proud. As a piece of work, it’s manna for the faithful and probably insignificant to those outside the world of guitar worship. 

The worrying thing is the level of talent on songs such as ‘Beta’ and ‘Bortheclash’, both recorded as April Fool jokes, yet still way ahead of anything his contemporaries can write. The latter is an epic detour of spinning riffs and dizzying drum patterns layered in fierce distortion and surprising tempo changes. Periphery fans would be grateful if the next album sounds like this even if it only took him a couple of hours to lay these down. The geeks will also enjoy picking out tracks that morphed into Periphery songs later down the line. ‘Fuf 1.5’ and ‘Not Enough Manna’ contain passages that ended up on ‘Racecar’ from their debut album; the scale runs on ‘HH2’ would later find their way on to ‘Habitual Line Stepper’ from Periphery III

One thing that is apparent is how God damn heavy this music is. Like early metalcore, the origins of Misha’s brand of prog metal are firmly in the extreme metal camp. ‘Fucking Fuck’ is what deathcore should sound like while ‘Archon Test’ aims to blast through your speakers like an automaton with a mind of its own. As a project for the diehards, there’s plenty to admire here. ‘Heliovice’ is like vintage Smashing Pumpkins and ‘Odd’ is pure jazz fusion of the Animals As Leaders variety. The production is also supreme, not least when you consider most of these are demos from 2005-2008. Misha is the original bedroom producer who demonstrated what’s possible with modern equipment and a limited budget.

The next nine albums should be a doddle over the coming four months if you happen to be a metal boffin and guitar nerd like this reviewer.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 12/06/2020

Record Label: 3Dot Recordings

Standout tracks: Beta (April Fool’s), Fuf 1.5, Not Enough Mana 1.5

Suggested Further Listening: Periphery – Periphery (2010), Chimp Spanner – All Roads Lead Here (2012), Meshuggah – I (2004)