Words and Photos by Nick Porcaro
Four bands with varying degrees of heaviness managed to keep it together for a night of forward-thinking progressive metal, as the Sonic Unrest tour arrived at Irving Plaza last Wednesday. What else to expect from a lineup led by a band as polarizing as Periphery? The codifiers of djent may have one detractor for every ten or so fans, but that sure didn’t stop them from selling out one of the top rock venues in New York City. Bethesda’s finest technical wizards wowed the capacity crowd with fan favorites “Scarlet” and “Make Total Destroy”, but the bulk of their set consisted of material from this year’s Periphery III: Select Difficulty and last year’s Juggernaut double album. Impressively enough, the overabundance of new material didn’t seem to impede fans from singing, moshing, and crowd-surfing their hearts out. Periphery’s infectious mix of crushing rhythms, intricate instrumentals, and inescapable melodies will ensure their success for years to come.
The real treat, however, was the presence of British prog pioneers SikTh, enjoying a rapturous reception on their first-ever North American tour. Although the band’s been around since 1999, it took the rise of groups like Periphery and TesseracT for the metal world to pay closer attention to SikTh’s brief-but-trailblazing discography. They returned from a six-year hiatus to a whole new fanbase that’d never seen them live, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the band carried themselves throughout a thunderous set. Vocalists Mikee Goodman and Joe Rosser darted back and forth across the stage with awe-inspiring fury, while the instrumentalists tore through all sorts of dizzying time signatures. It was as thrilling as it was exhausting.
While SikTh’s influence is clearly evident in the work of Periphery, opening acts Toothgrinder and Chon may as well live worlds apart. Toothgrinder hail from Asbury Park, but you wouldn’t know it from their sludgy, almost Southern-tinged brand of metalcore. The entirely instrumental Chon, meanwhile, carry themselves with the zen vibes of California stoners lost in their instruments, effortlessly weaving and bobbing in between each other’s melodies. Despite all the disparities at play, the Sonic Unrest tour saw plenty of solidarity between bands, with several musicians wearing the merchandise of other bands on the tour. For a night filled with heady aggression, it was nice to see some unabashed positivity.