|Musical Style: Progressive Metal||Produced By: Karl Groom & Richard West|
|Record Label: Nuclear Blast||Country Of Origin: UK|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Threshold|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 95%|
|Running Time: 55:01|
While Threshold has gained renown as the best progressive metal band to come out of the UK, it is this reviewer’s contention a more fitting description would give the band the full credit it deserves. Actually, referring to Threshold as one of the best progressive metal bands in the world would not be far from the mark in that the group deserves to rank with the genres finest. To understand my point, one must first give Dead Reckoning, the bands most recent outing, the time and attention it deserves. Continuing to uphold Threshold’s tradition of combining an upfront rhythm guitar sound with catchy and melodic based songwriting, the album finds this talented quartet putting together perhaps its most cohesive group of songs ever. And when compared to the bands previous work, the 2004 effort Subsurface, the material on Dead Reckoning might not be as immediately accessible – the melody structures here are a bit subtler in that it takes several listens in order to bring them out – but comes across more technical and intricate while still based upon a solid foundation of progressive songwriting.
And progressive would be the best way to describe the albums three “epics’, the quirkily entitled “Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams (9:44) and the more guitar driven sounds of “Fighting For Breath” (8:16) and “One Degree Down” (8:33)- two complex pieces that would hold up in comparison to the best the progressive metal genre has to offer. “Elusive” and “Safe To Fly” combine elements of the progressive and the melodic, while “Slipstream” is by far the albums catchiest piece. Shorter numbers such as “This Is Your Life” (3:41), “Hollow” (4:00) and “Disappear” (4:17) move in a straightforward metal and hard rock direction but still reflect a progressive feel.
Threshold continues to base its sound on the guitar driven crunch contributed by Karl Groom. The abundance of rhythm guitar this guy provides for throughout the project is nothing less than amazing. If in doubt then give many of the albums heavier compositions – “This Is Your Life”, “Elusive” and “Fighting For Breath” – several spins. And he proves no slouch on lead guitar either, the likes of “Slipstream”, “Hollow”, “Safe To My” and others highlighted by his technical soloing abilities. Talented vocalist Andy “Mac” McDermott returns to furnish his gritty and powerful but moving lead vocal style. (Check out his performance on “Pilot…” and “Safe To Fly”). As a keyboardist, Richard West continues to make his presence felt but in a highlighting mode without coming across overbearing. He occasionally takes on a “lead keyboard” role during the instrumental sections of several songs, even trading off with Groom on “One Degree Down”. It also must be mentioned that West, the bands lone Christian member, wrote four of the albums compositions and received songwriting credits on the five others.
At this point it is worth noting the positive nature of Threshold’s lyrics. In the past Threshold has been labeled a “thinking man’s band” as a result of the manner in which it makes its lyrics every bit as thought provoking as its music. And such is the case here. West, who considers God his main inspiration because no matter what subject you talk about there is always a “God point of view”, decorates “Hollow” and “Safe To Fly” with Christian imagery, while the lyrics to “This Is Your Life” and “Disappear” are nothing less than inspiring.
Production values do not disappoint in that they are of a high professional value.
“Slipstream” immediately kicks in to an edge laden riff, the driving momentum taking over pushing the song ahead until it evens out for an infectious chorus giving rise to an abundance of draw you in appeal. Groom highlights a lengthy instrumental section with his skillful work on lead guitar. With its guitar driven passages – and a touch of extreme vocals at the end of each verse – standing in complement to its more melodic based moments, “Slipstream” represents Threshold at the top of its game. I interpret the lyrics here to focusing on finding your way in life:
Are your caught in the slipstream?
Are you lost in the fog?
Can you see through the windscreen?
Are you sure it’s safe to follow somebody’s taillight?
Are you already lost?
When you get to the daylight
Will you recognize the world you walked across?
Introduced to a few brief seconds of keyboards, “This Is Your Life” charges ahead in a tireless manner to a wall of resounding riffs, building initiative until picking up in pace for a swiftly moving chorus of the stalwart variety. A four minute explosion of non-stop energy, “This Is Your Life” brings to mind the bands track “Pressure” (from Subsurface). As its title implies, the song talks about how literally “this is your life” and the importance of making the most of it:
Cuz this, this is your life
This is your world
And everything that you’ve been trusted with
It’s small in your eyes
But great in worth
And you can do this right
This is your life
The open air rhythm guitar initiating the superlative “Elusive” gives way to a passage in which the band makes more use of extreme vocals. The guitar driven impetus taking over proceeds to impel the song through its verse portions in assertive fashion, not tapering off until a changeover is made to an immaculate chorus accentuated by a vestige of smooth sounding vocal harmonies. In your face heavy but catchy at the same time, “Elusive” ranks with the albums better tracks. The song implores its listeners to “run the race to win”:
Now you have all you need
All your stores are full, your wings are strong
Now it’s time to compete
You can run the race and carry on
“Hollow” moves the album in a straightforward hard rock direction. The song embarks to a commanding guitar riff before decelerating to several seconds of keyboards. Opening its first verse with the rhythm guitar bouncing in and out of the mix, “Hollow” gains initiative prior to transitioning to a chorus beginning in an emotionally charged manner only to slow to a piano at its end. A stretch of edgy lead work from Groom helps put this one over the top. Taking a look at the bright side of things is the theme here:
And the words seem hollow now
But I don’t want to let you down
Cuz the world just came around
And everything is brighter
I was so unsure
Til I found the door
And you let me in
You can count on each Threshold album to have its “epic” and this time the ten minute “Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams” fulfills that role. The song starts slowly as a piano blended with some bluesy lead work helps cover its first two minutes, the pace not picking up until the rhythm guitar leads the way with aesthetic flair to a chorus reflecting a superfluity of stately ambience. “Pilot…” continues to run its course at a faster tempo, traversing a maze of time changes allowing the band to showcase its technical expertise in no uncertain terms.
The eight minute “Fighting For Breath” delivers another creative dose of progressive metal. The instrumental section getting things underway begins to several seconds of modern flavored riffing that gives way to a tenacious rhythm guitar. “Fighting For Breath” continues to march through its verse portions in stalwart fashion, peaking as it arrives at a purposeful chorus driven at a hook-laden and upbeat tempo. Threshold again puts on quite the technical display, exhibiting the strength of its musicianship throughout the songs numerous instrumental sections.
The piano at the start of “Disappear” is soon replaced by an uplifting guitar riff that shores up its first verse hard and heavy, an adulating breath of keyboards adding to the scene as a chorus mirroring an imposing atmosphere is achieved. Despite being one of the albums shorter compositions, “Disappear” proves no less notable. The song deals with leaving the past behind:
Sometimes you only find your feet
When you’re walking away
So open up the door
And get me out of here
I won’t be back for more
This isn’t my future
So watch me disappear
A near perfect blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards introduces the ambient “Safe To Fly”. The setting abruptly calms to a quietly played guitar line upon obtaining its first verse, the rhythm guitar returning in full force at the start of the second and carrying things to a sweeping chorus punctuated by Mac’s emotionally charged vocal delivery. Groom puts on another display of riveting lead guitar work. I enjoy the message revolving around finding shelter in times of trouble:
Until it’s safe to fly
I could be waiting ‘til the summer sky
But I’m standing by
Until I’m cleared to go
I won’t be shaken by the undertow
I’m under your wing this time
And I know there’s a storm outside
So I’ll stay ‘til I know it’s safe
Safe to fly
“One Degree Down”, the albums final epic at 8:34, takes off at an upbeat tempo, maintaining the forceful initiative during its first verse only to taper off upon obtaining the second. Regaining its momentum, the song moves on to a catchy chorus in which a sublime environment is put into place. West and Groom put on a keyboard and lead guitar dual throughout an extended instrumental section, while “One Degree Down” closes out its final two and a half minutes in instrumental fashion.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Slipstream” (4:55), “This Is Your Life” (3:41), “Elusive” (6:10), “Hollow” (4:00), “Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams” (9:44), “Fighting For Breath” (8:16), “Disappear” (4:17), “Safe To Fly” (5:06), “One Degree Down” (8:33)
Mac – Lead Vocals
Karl Groom – Guitars
Richard West – Keyboards
Steve Anderson – Bass
Johanne James – Drums
Also Reviewed: Threshold - Subsurface