LIVE: Periphery / Crooked Royals @ The Roundhouse, London

By Ellie Odurny

The crowd assembled for tonight’s sold-out show is already backed up to the Roundhouse’s iconic-yet-irritating pillars as opening act Crooked Royals walk onto the stage. They waste no time launching into technically impressive licks and riffs, bolstered by dual vocals and thundering drums.

Hailing from New Zealand and signed to headliners Periphery’s own label, 3DOT Recordings, it’s Crooked Royals’ first European tour and there’s a sense that the gathered London masses might not be quite as familiar with the band as their native fans, with gently bobbing heads more visible than visceral pits during the opening minutes. British-born vocalist Lee Mackley is keen to inject some more energy into proceedings, riling up the audience with the classic line, “Come on London you can do better than that,” in between tracks.

This call to action seems to have the desired effect, and by the middle of Crooked Royals’ set there are plenty of bodies bouncing along with the band to the hardcore beat of ‘Paper Warrior’. The phone torches come out for the slower, emotive ‘Between You And I’, with the pace and ferocity picking up again for the closing tracks.

Heavyweights like Periphery have set the bar high for tech metal precision and Crooked Royals step up to the mark with moments of brilliance scattered throughout their set. There’s room for refinement – the tuning on the clean vocals isn’t always spot on and a few of the slower sections felt slightly lacklustre at times, but with only one album under their belt so far, there’s an enormous amount of potential for the talent in this band to continue to develop and shine.

After a more-than-adequately lengthy break, the anticipation for Periphery is palpable in the packed venue. Never ones to adhere to convention, Periphery’s opening track is the monstrous 12-minute ‘Dracul Gras’ from latest album ‘Periphery V: Djent Is Not A Genre’. The intensity of the crowd radiates immediately from the inner throng, with those gathered at the edges drifting and flowing in reaction to the swarming bodies in the pit.

Vocalist Spencer Sotelo’s screams are on point, despite his proclamations that his voice is shot. There are fleeting moments when it’s possible to hear an inkling of strain, but never to the detriment of the performance. If anything, it adds an element of raw authenticity to a set that is already jam packed with texture, nuance and intricacy.

The setlist for this “European Wildfire Tour” packs the new material into the first half of the show, with the epic opener followed by the equally heavy ‘Wildfire’ and relentless chugging of ‘Atropos’. The former is fittingly accompanied by pyro shooting towers of sparks towards the ceiling, the audience audibly singing and screaming along to the chorus before losing their collective marbles in delight at the closing blast beats.

Periphery pull tracks from older releases in the middle of the set, continuously injecting a brutal heaviness into syncopated beats and meticulously delivered guitar trills, layered over guttural growls and rumbling riffs. With ‘Letter Experiment’ following the frantic rhythms and fierce aggression of ‘Make Total Destroy’, there’s not a still body in the house as Matt Halpern’s precise drumbeats resonate through the veins of everyone in attendance.

The fans are given a moment of respite as guitarist Mike Dawes emerges to perform a stripped-back acoustic version of ‘Scarlet’. It’s a gentle and poignant moment, but in true Periphery style the fireworks are off again, flanking the duo with flickering columns and prompting Sotelo to ask the audience “Is that the first time you guys have seen pyro during an acoustic song or what?”

This mellow interlude exemplifies everything that Periphery do well – melding together a clever concoction of elements you might find elsewhere across the progressive metal genre, then turning the cauldron on its head and throwing a surprise ingredient into the mix. If you needed further proof that this band don’t take themselves too seriously, penultimate track ‘Satellites’ is accompanied by Sotelo declaring “You know what would make me feel better is a ‘Suck My Balls’ chant” – a nod to the mildly controversial ending of the recorded track. Obviously, the crowd happily oblige before the room is sent hurtling towards the finale with the merciless onslaught of ‘Blood Eagle’, a track which provides another opportunity to showcase guitarist Misha Mansoor’s ridiculous ability to pick apart a fretboard.

Nearly twenty years after their inception, Periphery continue to defy expectations and prove that regardless of whether or not djent is in fact a genre, they are masterful at their art. This closing night of the tour displayed their undeniable ability to combine complex tempos, brilliant technical skill and crushing brutality into a cohesive and powerful sound. Perhaps djent isn’t a genre, but whatever it is that Periphery do, they do it incredibly well.