Live Review: Periphery, Plini and Astronoid at Columbia Theater (Berlin, Germany) (6/11/19)

After quite a few months out of the live circuit, the Defector team gets the chance to experience the best of the djent world brought by American Periphery, going hand in hand with Australian Plini and American Astronoid.

At half past seven on the dot, Astronoid came on stage. The four piece, originary from Boston (U.S.), created a comforting atmosphere with plum-coloured lighting and mellow vocals, which contrasted heavily with the intense double kick drum and the hardheaded, effect-less bass guitar. It is known as blackgaze, a fusion genre which combines black metal and shoegazing. At times, during some of the solos, the electric guitars were absorbed by the loud rhythm section. A highly ambient but powerful band presented a fantastic contrast between an ethereal sounding band with a hint of neo-psychedelia and a black-metal powerhouse. It was a very pleasing antithesis of Sigur Rós-like lullabies versus Zeal & Ardor’s blackest hymns. Visual shapes, lavender lighting, true-to-earth sounding instruments/vocals and rabid rhythm patterns.

Plini took over at quarter to eight, looking quite artsy-craftsy with some light jeans that had paint sloppily cast on them. At first, drums were fooling around with the slappling bass, creating a rapture where Plini could adapt to the audience slowly putting the guitar at ease – his fingers moved slowly, no rush to play the notes. He kept glancing at the public as if trying to grasp what they wanted, smiling every so often, relaxed. From the second track onwards, it started to get fiercer as both of his hands tapped the neck of his light brown Strandberg. Faster, as the rest of the band took it down a notch whilst he let the Strandberg develop her full attitude. A sharp, heartfelt solo from his headless guitar came shortly after.

Unexpectedly, a funky duo between both headless instruments, the bass and Plini’s Strandberg, lead to a groovy, jazzy jam-like performance between the band members, where they equally took part until a drums solo shattered the mood in the very best way. What ensued was a magical moment of extensive blue lasers and guitar exclusivity, as the two guitarists adopted the reverb with comfort and stoicism and the rest of the band remained silent. You were simply transported underwater to a state of musical quietude.

Lastly, Plini acknowledged that the other guitarist, Jakub Zytecki, is “his favourite in the world”, concluding that they would play a two minute jam before ending the performance. And so they did: a riveting, short jam where Jakub pulled up a Tom Morello-like bending and kept himself on the same pace and smoothness as Plini. Quite an eye-catching approach to end a show.

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And so it was time for the headliner, Periphery, which started at half past nine. The set started with a classical symphony as an intro as the badass drummer, Matt Halpern, started to groove alongside guitartist Mark Holcomb. It all seemed pretty easy, meant to be. Shortly after the rest of the band came on stage: Jake Bowen and Misha Mansoor on the electric guitars and Spencer Sotelo, rocking a white Prince t-shirt, on vocals.

The drum kit created a wide, spacey aura, accompanied by the guitar trio who, allegedly, was arguing heavily, as Spencer took it upon himself to tidy up the mess they were creating with his potent, tearing vocal range, one of the highest in the metal genre – Sotelo’s range can go from baritone to soprano with a great variety of sensitivity and savoir-faire put into each vocal technique he so furiously brings into the stage.  The crowd seemed to be going nuts, as by the end of the opener, ‘Reptile’ (Periphery IV: HAIL STAN, 2019), five people had already crowdsurfed their way to the security men separating the audience and the band. Many had to leave the Stehplatz in search of higher ground as the moshpits got more and more violent over the course of the anthems.

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The live sound had a notably satisfying mix as all three guitars could be distinguished as unique in their own effects; Spencer’s merciless chanting did not seem isolated at all, but immersed in the whole progressive conundrum; and Matt’s drums groomed the grooves. However, if there is one con to mention, a live bassline was certainly missed as the pre-recorded one sounded quite plain in the mix, as if it could not quite capture the monstrous feeling of the band.

Periphery sounds devilish. A Clockwork Orange’s most diabolic reflections brought into a subgenre of progressive metal, namely djent. The guitar trio sounds like war machinery perfectly put in motion so as not to harm or scare you, only please and release your rough and ready reasoning. “Do you feel the love? Yes, I feel the love”, concluded mighty Sotelo. The crowd followed the last song of worship of the night as if transformed into a full professional choir. All together. They had felt the love.


Want to see a “HAIL STAN” tour concert of Periphery with support from Plini and Astronoid? Catch them on tour (click here for tour dates).

Check out the full setlist for the performance here.

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