threshold-for-the-journeyThreshold has long been a darling of the progressive metal scene for two very simple reasons: they’re unbelievably consistent and more importantly, they’re the anti-Dream Theater in that they remember how to write actual songs and not just seven minute, ego-driven wank fests that go nowhere. Despite the tragic death of long time singer Andrew “Mac” McDermott in 2011, the band bounced back hard with 2012’s March of Progress, recruiting original singer Damian Wilson to get the job done, and now they’re back with For the Journey. As before, we get oodles of pristine, highly melodic prog metal that’s a stylistic cousin to Anubis Gate, and like all Threshold material, it’s loaded with first-rate writing and crisp, sharp musicianship. The overall style is classic Threshold, but this is a more introspective, moody and somber outing than March of Progress and it feels like the album one would have expected immediately following the passing of McDermott. That we get it a few years later is a small matter, it’s still Threshold and it’s pretty damn wonderful, and since I have many leather bound books and my study smells of rich mahogany, I clearly know of what I speak.

Most of the songs here have an immediate warmth and familiarity because they stick so closely to what the band has done in the past. And though I suppose it’s rather unproggish of them, this isn’t an album that stretches the Threshold sound palette in any new direction. Instead, they play to their long established strengths and craft beautiful soundscapes with deep melodic hooks. Opener “Watchtower on the Moon” could have been on any album since Hypothetical and fit right in. It’s fairly urgent, and though direct, it has enough offbeat elements and time shifts to qualify as prog. It also uses big, muscular riffs ripped from a Brainstorm album to counter point the rich, melodious keys and vocals. “Unforgiven” delivers a melancholy and utterly captivating tune which Wilson makes absolutely essential with his crystal clear and empathic vocals.

The album centerpiece is the twelve minutes of “The Box,” where the band dabbles in a number of textures and moods while showcasing their ability to make such a long song workable, enjoyable and at times, rather heartbreaking. Again, Wilson is a key to keeping the listener’s ear glued, but the writing and performances are all stellar. The album’s denouement is equally gipping, with “The Mystery Show” and especially “Siren Sky” demonstrating the band is capable of generating enormously emotional compositions with their well appointed style.

Threshold_2014

The only song that fails to impress is “Autumn Red,” and though it’s far from bad, it suffers from sitting alongside much bigger, grandiose numbers and ends up feeling unnecessary. A bitter nit-picker could argue the front-end of the album is stronger and things fade a bit before reaching the big finish of “Siren Sky,” and to a small extent that may be valid. But the level these chaps operate at is so far above the average band, a slight drop off means next to nothing.

This is a band of truly gifted performers and that comes across on every track. Wilson in particular shines bright, making an Icarus like run at the lofty heights set aside for Sir Russell Allen when he isn’t doing fifth-rate bar rock with Adrenalin Mob. The man has a truly sensational set of pipes and he’s been an absolute savoir for the band. The fret-board heroics by longtime member Karl Groom and relatively new Pete Morten are so satisfying because they’re always so understated. They play within their compositions, not over them or through them and the solos feel like thoughtful accents to well written pieces, not attempts to set land speed records for note burning. Richard West’s keyboard are essential but tasteful, with some sweet Hammond organ pieces cropping up here and there. The backline is equally praiseworthy, with Steve Anderson’s bass presence very sharp and audible, and Johanne James turning in a wonderfully nuanced performance behind the kit. These are musician’s musicians and they’re a joy to hear in action.

For the Journey is everything you expect from a Threshold album. It’s a treasure trove of sweet harmonies and melodies and it’s so pleasing to the ear, you can sometimes forget it’s metal, but it is. I’m thrilled these guys are still turning out product and love that they have Wilson back in the fold. Now get your smoking jackets on, grab a snifter of cognac, blast this muther and get some fucking culture, you lowbrow ruffians!


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7  |  Format Reviewed: 270 kbps MP3
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU][NA]
Websites: thresh.net  |  facebook.com/threshold
Release Dates:  EU: 2014.09.19  |  NA: 09.30.2014

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  • Mike Eckman

    Oh thank goodness. When I saw this review come up on my feed, I held my breath hoping it would be warmly received. I have been a huge Threshold fan for many years, and I love both the McDermott and Wilson eras equally. I very much look forward to checking this album out for myself! :)

    • When have these guys ever disappointed?

      • Mike Eckman

        Thats true, but there was a brief moment of disappointment when I heard Dan Swano’s guest vocals on “Dead Reckoning” only to find out that was the only track! :)

        • Bleak5170

          Was two tracks actually. ;)

  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    I keep waiting for that building behind them in the promo picture to explode and them to walk away in slow motion, but it never happens. Great review, promo sounds sweet, definitely checking it out further. I’ll need some good scotch and mood lighting for this beast it seems.

  • brutal_sushi

    Good year for prog!

  • Jukka Alanen

    Actually Wilson replaced Mac as early as 2007 due to Mac’s alcohol abuse (I think). Great review though, this is an instat pre-order for me. :)

  • BaboonKing

    Thank you for another great review, mr. Druhm. Looking forward to this, March of Progress was excellent.

    And now, for something completely different: knowing that you have a soft spot for Urban Breed, is there any chance that we may get a review for this? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPwjXPTZG3o

    • Thanks for the prod. I suppose we could try to gin something up.

      • Donut Avenger

        Kudos to finally (at least on the websites I read) telling the truth about the wankfests that are Dream Theater songs. :)

  • Shawn Cypher

    The first paragraph about DT being seven minute wank fests made me laugh. That’s exactly why I can’t stand DT, or, say… DragonForce. There’s no soul in any of it.

  • MetalWorks

    2014 has been a good year for prog metal indeed. The direct attack to DT is kind of uncalled for though.

    • Nah, it was called for.

      • Tanuki

        more of a sideswipe than a direct attack. Since they invented musical masturbation they should be happy to take credit for it.

  • Philip Alexander Hassialis

    The album has indeed its moments but it really sounds stale and done by the numbers. Some parts of songs still shine but at the end of the day almost nothing stays, and there are, dare I say, boring plateaus that you simply can’t wait for the song to end. March Of Progress is so much better than this, makes you wonder sometimes…

  • JL

    Good review. March of Progress was 2012’s best album (for me) by a wide margin. For the Journey, after my having listened to it countless times in the past 2 days, is right up there with it though maybe not quite as strong. The playing and composition is absolutely stellar. Totally agree the band just knows how to write songs. Wilson’s vocals are indeed the focal point not just because he has an excellent range, but because he can also write some truly memorable vocal melodies. Siren Sky is probably the best example of the gut wrenching melancholy he’s capable of evoking. That being said, the vocal melodies in the rest of the album range from excellent (Unforgiven) to just so-so (Autumn Red). But the great thing about Threshold is they have excellent vocals and excellent music, so even if you find yourself unimpressed by vocals in a particular song, you’re prone to still enjoy the tune because the music will be great. The opposite is true as well – less than exceptional instrumentation is offset by wonderful vocals. I’ve yet to hear a Threshold song with both bad music and bad vocals.

    I remember reading the review here for March of Progress and being strongly in agreement with the author when he said that Threshold was, quite simply, a “classy” band. I’d been searching for a word to best describe them and I think “classy” fits perfectly. Threshold always sounded to me like a heavier version of very early U2. Classic, powerful songs written with class. Overall for me I give the album a 7/10 whereas MOP would be a 10/10. But then again this is likely to change, as MOP didn’t fully click until a month or so of repeated listens. I expect the same here so it should be interesting to see how the albums stack up against each other in a few months’ time.

  • nunka

    Every time Damian Wilson opens his mouth, I hear Ayreon/Star One. That cheese is right at home in space rock… but not here. Not for me. :(

    • Cheese? You be tripping. The man has classic pipes.

      • nunka

        I dunno. Maybe it’s actually the association with Ayreon (100% unapologetic space cheese) that makes him sound cheesy to me. It’s just too much! Aaaaah!

        • JL

          I don’t know man, I’d listen to March of Progress. Some pretty diverse vocals on display on that record. And I don’t hear any cheese, really, but I guess it’s open to interpretation like most things,

    • brexpeditionary

      Even though I appreciate Damian’s vocal qualities, I must also say that he will never match Mac’s natural fit with Threshold’s sound…he was able to sing perfectly well without even giving the impression that he was making an effort – too bad he is gone.

  • brexpeditionary

    This is probably the best band I have heard in this new century; consistency is definitely the operative word here, even though I much preferred them with Mac in the vocals (it was really sad to hear about his untimely demise).
    In any case, March of Progress was a step in the right direction, and I can only hope that their newest effort pays off as well…their quality is undeniable in terms of songwriting and the odd wonderful guitar riff.

  • ghost whistler

    Just started properly getting into this band. Struggled for a few months, but they write some great tunes and are British (like all the best bands that aren’t produced by Simon Cowell).