@Newcastle o2 Academy 2, October 4 2012

Since US act Periphery, accompanied by Tesseract and Monuments, first touched down in Newcastle on 2011’s League Of Extraordinary Djentlemen tour, the city has lost none of its appetite for mind-boggling tech prog, or whatever you want to call it.

And this bill was a real treat, combining Periphery – a band on the rise after the release of their second opus (II: This Time It’s Personal) this summer – and North Carolina’s Between The Buried And Me, who’ve been purveying prog-infused extreme metal since 2000 (think Opeth if they had short hair and listened to hardcore). 

Londoners The Safety Fire had the unenviable task of opening for these two scene giants and while tracks like Huge Hammers hit hard, the quintet suffered from a dreadful mix which reduced Sean McWeeney’s vocals to a barely audible squawk. A real shame, as the band’s energy and passion wasn’t in doubt. Next time maybe.

No such worries for the phenomenal Periphery, who sounded, well, like a band who should be playing in the main hall downstairs.

One problem though – last week, drummer Matt Halpern dislocated his shoulder so was unable to take part in this tour. This might have led to the Washington DC band ducking out (their twisting, turning tech metal isn’t the easiest to drum along to), but in an example of the ‘djent’ scene’s strong sense of community, Matt Malyan, sticksman with Brit act Monuments, stepped into the engine room at a moment’s notice. He did a stirling job too and was rightly applauded for his efforts, but this last minute personnel change quite understandably shortened Periphery’s set to around 30 minutes.

The sextet, spearheaded by the amiable Spencer Sotelo, made good use of their half hour though. II saw Periphery sharpen their songcraft and some of that album’s best cuts enraptured a hugely appreciative Academy2. Have a Blast and Ragnarock, in particular, glistened with melody and crushed with gleaming, state of the art riffs. ’Old’ favourites were there too – Buttersnips raised the djentometer; Icarus Lives was a glorious closer.

The healthy crowd thinned out a little for Between The Buried And Me (school night and all that), and it’s true that their lengthy, experimental voyages are harder to digest than Periphery’s more commercial take on tech. However, BTBAM were utterly fascinating from the off, producing a set of twists and turns, a tour de force of musical dexterity that was ‘progressive’ in every sense of the word.

Tracks from new full-length The Parallax II: Future Sequence – including Astral Body –  indicated that the five-piece are still intent on exploring the outer limits of the progiverse, while Sun of Nothing, from their landmark Colors opus, was joyous, showcasing Tommy Giles Rogers’ vocal range to stunning effect and seeing guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring at the very top of their game.

Progressive rock, by definition, should make jaws drop and eyes widen with wonder, and Periphery and Between The Buried And Me, though attacking it from very different angles, are both masters of the art –  as this show proved. The future never sounded so good.

Richard Holmes