2017 has been a challenging year for Steel‘s favorite prog-minded bands. Pyramaze tried to craft a movie soundtrack of a metal album and crashed on a reef in the treacherous Michael Bay, and Anubis Gate opted for a heavier, darker sound that felt awkward and unrefined. Knowing Threshold had a massive double album inbound filled me with trepidation and worry this downward trend would never get reversed. And Legends of the Shires is nothing if not long, clocking in at over 1 hour and 22 minutes (2 discs, 3 LPs). On top of this, vocalist Damian Wilson jumped ship, to be replaced by former Threshold frontman, Glynn Morgan, who we haven’t heard from since 1994s Psychedelicatessen album. With a daunting run-time and multiple tracks exceeding the 10-minute mark, restraint was obviously jettisoned even before the empty coffee cups from the initial writing session, and “editing” and “trimming” were forbidden concepts. Sounds like a recipe for a big, steaming mess, right? Luckily for us, Threshold is so damn talented because very few bands could pull something like this off as well as they do, throwing Yes and Pink Floyd influences in with 80s commercial rock to make their metal consomme.

Things commence with the soft acoustic rock interlude “The Shire (Part 1)” where we get to hear Glynn grace a somber piece that seems to be about the optimism with which we all face life’s possibilities when young. It’s a concise, interesting little number with an emotional performance from Glynn. This segues into the album’s “single,” “Small Dark Lines” which is classic Threshold – heavy, riffy, and super-catchy but still steeped in prog sensibilities. This is the most immediate cut here and exactly the kind of song I want from the band. After that slice of crisp, concise prog-metal they drop the nearly 12-minute “The Man Who Saw Through Time” upon us. It’s a good song full of melancholy moods and surprisingly understated playing, but it also feels overlong and it could easily have been trimmed by 3-5 minutes.

The album does well to mix tempos and moods, with more aggressive, punchy tracks like “Trust the Process” and “Snowblind” offsetting rock-oriented, catchy cuts like the hooky “Superior Machine” and “State of Independence.” The big standouts to my ears are “Subliminal Freeways” which is like a mix of metal, gloomy post-rock and I hate to say it, Mike and the Mechanics. It shouldn’t work but it totally does. Mega-long “Lost in Translation” is also surprisingly listenable thanks to a heavy dose of Pink Floyd dynamics and a killer performance by Glynn which slathers the whole thing with pathos and emotion. Sure, it could stand trimming, but it goes by fairly quickly as is.

What strikes me hardest is the Shire Trilogy, with “(Part 1)” addressing youthful optimism, and “(Part 2)” finding the protagonist older and growing overwhelmed by life’s struggles and tribulations, losing the hopefulness and confidence of youth as reality grinds him down. “(Part 3)” concludes on a slightly upbeat note that speaks of the resignation of advanced age. It’s depressing as hell but will likely resonate with anyone over 40.

The biggest surprise is that with so much music, no song feels like disposable filler. The closest things get is “On the Edge,” which is a bit tepid, but it has an interesting chorus and the heaviness provides a useful tempo shift. Even the super poppy “Stars and Satellites” manages to work, though it feels like it fell off a Japanese-only Mike and the Mechanics EP.

As you might expect, the biggest complaint is the song-length. There are multiple cuts that would be strengthened by judicious trimming and snipping. I know prog is by definition an over-the-top, unrestrained style, but even so, there’s no reason for a song to run 7-8 minutes when it’s essentially a slick 5-minute song puffed up by wank (albeit the tasteful variety), as is the case on “Trust the Process” and “Stars and Satellites.” Sound-wise things are great with a slick, clean production. Long though this certainly is, I’m able to to listen to this all the way though and enjoy it, which is saying something.

I wasn’t very familiar with Glynn’s era with the band, but he sounds quite a bit like Andrew “Mac” McDermott (R.I.P.) who was my favorite Threshold singer. He has the perfect voice for prog-metal, with plenty of clarity, range and power at his disposal. He’s a more than capable replacement for Damian Wilson and I really love his performance on the more emotive pieces like the Shire Trilogy. Founding guitarist extraordinaire, Karl Groom does his magic once again, mixing crunchy, heavy riffs with polished, classy leads and proggy noodling without ever giving the listener Ramen poisoning. With Richard West (ex-Dragonforce, Power Quest) handling keyboards, the sound is filled out ably without ever sounding cheesy or silly. Such a talented damn band!

Threshold have been one of the most dependable and consistent prog-metal bands for decades and their winning streak continues with Legends of the Shires. It isn’t the heaviest or the most tightly written platter, but it’s chock full of accessible, interesting music and songs that will keep you coming back. Scour this shire if you want a rewarding double dose of proggy goodness.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 271 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: thresh.netfacebook.com/threshold
Releases Worldwide: September 8th, 2017

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  • André Snyde Lopes

    Found Threshold through El Druhmo, namely their Match of Progress album. As the aforementioned gorilla has stated, Threshold always deliver the goods but you can have too much of a good thing and I’m not sure I’m ready for 82 minutes of prog power cheese. I don’t care how good you are, it’s always better to be short and to the point than long and floppy… Wait, where was I going with this?

    • That was long-winded. You’ll obviously love this album.

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Eh, I think March of Progress has better songs but I end up picking For the Journey up more often. 15 minutes make one hell of a difference.

    • FelixtheMetalcat

      Cheese? There is nothing cheesy to Threshold, they’ve always been lyrically excellent and musically superior to most bands who play this style.

      • krozz

        They can lace some pretty bubblegummy pop melodies into their music, but like everyone says they manage to do it more gracefully and less derivitively than anyone else in the metal world.

  • Monsterth Goatom

    Sounds like a lot to swallow at once. At least it’s not 3 discs.
    Kidding aside, this sounds interesting. They’ve obviously put a lot into this. Sadly, I’ve never heard of these guys before.

    • If you like their style you have a lot of albums to go back and discover. Exciting times!

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      Listening to three discs in a row would be like trying to Swallow The Sun or something…

      • 2 discs!

        • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

          I know, good thing they stopped at 2. Because 3 would have been one too many.

          • Nagash

            Not an Ayreon fan, I presume? :D

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            This is more of a joke based on Swallow The Sun releasing a triple CD…
            That being said, even though I am well aware of Ayreon I have hardly ever listened to them.

          • Nagash

            Did you like Wilson in Threshold?

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            The same thing I said about Ayreon applies for Threshold… even though I am well aware of Threshold I have hardly ever listened to them.

    • Lucky you. I’d love to discover these days a band so huge as Threshold. Try Hypothetical, Critical Mass and Dead Reckoning. Killer after killer (with Hypothetical being my favourite).

      • Monsterth Goatom

        Thanks Bart! This should hold me over until the new one drops. : )

      • Chris Timbó

        Subsurface is also a beast of an album. The debut and Extinct Instinct, from way way back are also damn good. Heck, the only one I’m not sold on is Psychdelicatessen. And even that album has awesome tracks!

    • yobazsavar

      another justin bieber fan began listening metal…cool..

    • Dethjesta

      I highly recommend March of Progress too.

    • tim.o

      If you just want to get ONE of their albums to test the waters, I would recommend Critical Mass (LIVE).

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Crap!
    I had no idea this was coming out!
    Loves me some Threshold!

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Critical Mass is still my fav……can’t wait to check this out.
    Agree with your Anibus Gate comment after spending the weekend trying to get into their latest offering. …

  • welyyt

    Initially I was thinking “this is probably some of that stupid power prog Druhm likes”, but now I know I should never be forgiven given all the little lies I’m living. Great review Steely, gonna check this out for sure.

  • Wes Allen

    Legends of the Shires, eh? Where are the hobbits?

    • Mollusc

      They could’ve at least dressed up in appropriate tunics, if not jerkins. Maybe taken their shoes off.

    • tomasjacobi

      There is no Tolkien reference in the album title. A shire is just an area. According to the band the album is about nationbuilding.

  • Eli Valcik

    Do I have to the the one who yells at these guys for having a triple LP?

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      THAT WOULD BE MY JOB. FURTHERMORE YOU CANNOT HAVE AN INTERLUDE AT THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING. THAT WOULD BE A PRELUDE.

  • Mollusc

    I like to make a distinction between “symphonic” and “progressive”, although they’re not mutually exclusive. Which is nice for me.

  • dduuurrrr dddduuuurrrr

    Is that the inaccessible tower from the Ringed City in Dark Souls 3 on that cover? http://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/77362a0f45d55b75b21a1606895dfa780a575cdbb2bb39c6ad2975dfe75389e2.jpg

    • Nukenado

      Dark Souls is metal.
      Translate: I have nothing much to contribute to the discussion.

    • Nukenado

      Actually, I do have something to contribute!
      There’s a band themed after Dark Souls like Shadow of Intent.
      They’re called Soulmass, search them up if just for the novelty of it.

  • Ta2dlam

    I bought a Threshold tape at a pawn shop back in the early 90’s. I thought name and cover were cool. It didn’t strike me at all at the time. Good thing tastes expand. I’m looking forward to this. Great review and thanks, Steel!

  • Flämmer

    I believe it was closer to Damian Wilson being dragged kicking and screaming from his bunk and thrown overboard as opposed to him jumping ship.

    I’m quite pleased with what I’ve heard from the previews though, looking forward to listening to this one in full.

    • Tofu muncher

      contender for AOTY in my book. This sits nicely with Evil Invaders’ latest for when I’m in differing moods.

  • Whoa! Somehow this missed my radar, and I didn’t know it was coming! I’m saddened to hear that Damian Wilson has once again left the band, as I too, was not familiar with Glynn’s vocals, but the embedded track definitely has piqued my interest. This will be in my grubby little hands ASAP!!!

  • Nukenado

    How can you be ex-DragonForce and not be cheesy?!

    • The ex part helps.

      • Nukenado

        Right. they have cheese bars — you’re kicked out if you’re not cheesy enough.

    • Nate Sweet

      Damn! I was just about to comment this

    • JL

      who is ex dragonforce?

      • krozz

        Richard West has done choirs and maybe some key parts for dragonforce, he and karl groom had parts in the production of the earlier dragonforce records.

  • Happy to read your thoughts on this…I didn’t like the ten-minute track they released but totally dug the “Small Dark Lines” single with all of it’s sing-along glory. Can’t wait to dig into the whole thing!

  • Strapping Old Fart

    I want to see more of the fat guy painting himself black.

    • I see a fat guy and I want to paint him black.

      • Strapping Old Fart

        Don’t we all. Just cut that other crap from the video and it’ll be fantastic!

      • sir_c

        No colors anymore, I want him to turn black

      • Grymm

        Wait, did I just see a girl walk by dressed in her summer clothes?

  • lrn2swim

    Miss me some DW, can’t help but think how much more epically great this album would be if he was still the singer. Guess we’ll see, looking forward to digging into this sucker anywhoo.

  • Ami

    I won’t stand for this Anubis Gate slander!!
    I like this, to be fair, but I don’t think I like it more than that; probably because I’m picky and I don’t like power metal that much right now. Sounds too happy. Boo.

  • Mauro Bossetti

    I’m overly curious to find out what the fuck happened with Wilson. They had already recorded the whole album, some mayor shit may have happened.

    BTW Threshold don’t have a single album in their discography which is not great. Not sure how many bands can claim that.

    • tomasjacobi

      My theory is that West and Groom wanted to show that it is their band and the singer is whomever they want to be the singer at any given time.

      • Mauro Bossetti

        Man, you don’t do this AFTER recording the whole album. I thought they got along very well before that.

        • tomasjacobi

          As I understand it they hadn’t recorded the vocals yet and when the time came they decided to go with a different vocalist.

          • Mauro Bossetti

            Nope. I double checked and I found this:

            Damian Wilson also issued a statement that reads: “Unfortunately this is not a mutual decision, but I respect it. After I had recorded the album and committed to the tour I was informed that Threshold were going to continue on without me. They have every right to make this choice, although it is difficult to part ways with a group of people you’ve shared so many experiences with.”

            This is crazy…

          • tomasjacobi

            Crazy indeed!

          • Chris Timbó

            Feels like a power struggle. Maybe Wilson felt he deserved more say (or monnies) in the band and they shut him down. It’s not like they haven’t butted heads before. It’s his third stint with the band.

    • JL

      I believe he no-showed for a gig or two and they so they booted him. Don’t quote me on that tho…it’s just what I heard.

  • El_Cuervo

    Waitwaitwait… You dissing Mike and the Mechanics?

  • Malhorne

    I usually hate when bands tend to write overlong albums but damn this embedded song is gorgeous! I might have to check that

  • Hammersmith

    “I don’t care if it’s jacket or pants, but all of us need to be in fucking leather. It’s gonna look badass. We’ll blur out the background so you can’t tell it’s my kids’ school yard.”
    – band leader (probably)

  • beurbs

    Oh great, another cool-sounding band I’ve never heard, where I have to listen to 10+ albums of material to see what they’re about. THANKS A LOT

    • As long as you purchase Subsurface you’ll be a happy man. Phenomenal album.

      • DaveSt

        Agreed. That album very rarely leaves my rotation.

    • robpal

      You definitely should check them out. In anticipation of the new album, I recently went through their whole discography (again!) just to conclude (again!) that their weakest albums (in my opinion: Clone, Wounded Land) are just “very good” and the best ones (in my opinion: Hypothetical, March Of Progress, Subsurface, Dead Reckoning) are hands down phenomenal.
      One of the very few bands that never ever dissapoint.

  • The singer really makes a difference. After Mac passed away I was disappointed with Wilson’s performances… and now I feel that “the right sound” is finally back.

    • Chris Timbó

      Maybe check out Wounded Land and Extinct Instinct? The production value is not what it is today, but the tracks still hold, at least for me. Been following those guys since the first one, and they never cease to put a smile on my face.

    • JL

      I love Wilson and was very pissed when I found out that he was booted. Glynn sounds awesome tho.

  • ToddRob64

    Wait is there finally a prog metal song about the plight of the 76ers?

    • Here’s Johnny

      no idea what that is but sounds like some american crap. american football ain’t football.

      • ToddRob64

        I’m an Aussie making a joke about a basketball, we also have football though if you want to tell me that isn’t footy too :)

    • ElephantsMarching

      Trust the process!

  • I was never a huge fan of Damian Wilson (though he certainly wasn’t bad). They played at Prog Power in 2007 and Damian was the singer. I really liked Andrew McDermott and he is greatly missed.

    That being said, the music on the embedded track is as good as ever and Glynn, who’s albums I am not familiar with, sounds great. I am not afraid of overly lengthy songs (I loved The Book of Souls, for example) and I will certainly be purchasing this album. Hopefully it brings me back to the glory days of Subsurface.

  • jetblindracos

    Seems like they were able to pull a voyager.

  • yobazsavar

    kinda weird..

  • Dethjesta

    I’m a big fan of Threshold and I’m glad to hear that this is overall a very good record – I too was nervous about the length and the departure of Wilson.

    I also really like them coz they’re not Dream Theater.

  • Kryopsis

    I understand that reviews are subjective but 3.5 is a bit high for something that sounds like the halfway point between Firewind and Bryan Adams. Also the album cover looks like Magic: The Gathering dual land.

  • PapaRay
  • Tofu muncher

    i so dance to that embedded track, and no no one should see me dance

  • JL

    I can’t wait for this album. I love this band. The last album was awesome, but March of Progress is one of the best progressive metal albums ever, and their stuff before it especially Dead Reckoning is phenomenal. The two singles they released are awesome. The only thing I am worried about is the number of tracks, which is a lot and so increases the odds of throw away/filler tracks.

  • HeavyMetalHamster

    Yeah I have no problem listening to 2 discs worth of this kinda quality.
    Underrated band IMHO

  • robpal

    Gave it two spins today and thoroughly enjoyed every second. I have a feeling that it will be my most played album in September.

  • Frans

    Baering in mind that ‘The Box’ is my favorite song from Treshold’s previous album, I am not affraid for long material. The song ‘Small dark lines’ makes me eager to hear this album. What a song; wat a voice and great guitars (as usual)! Bought the album with itunes but Apple has not made it available yet ;-(

  • Martin Arnold

    I’m listening to it right now, it’s pretty good.

    Threshold manage to pull off the cheesy stuff without it being a burden.

    Not sure why Damian left, bit of a crap deal leaving them in the lurch, but the new/old guy does a great job even if his voice isn’t terribly distinct (not his fault, he can’t change it).

    It’s very Threshold and the concept is interesting. I love a good concept album and will fight anyone who disagrees with spoons!

  • Javier McDrifter

    Gave it two spins, enjoyed a lot more on the second one. The 2nd cd, from The Shire part 2 and on, really improves compared to the first part. Very nice album, once again.

  • Prophet

    Am I the only one hearing ‘Leonardo’ type harmonies in this damn excellent album?!?

  • DaveSt

    Oh man, this is a good album. I feel like I say the same thing with every Threshold release. Of all my favorite bands, they have be the most consistent.

    I have never been a huge fan of Damian Wilson in Threshold for some reason. The man has real talent, I just prefer a little more vocal edge. Mac was so good, there is no way to replace him but I feel like Glynn knocked it out of the park this time. I really hope Threshold tours in the USA to promote this one.

    • FelixtheMetalcat

      Man o man, you and me both !! I’m sorry they aren’t playing at PPUSA next year, they were a band I thought would be there for certain.

  • Prophet

    Am I the only one that is hearing harmonies in the style of the old Leonardo rock opera in this album (which is excellent by the way)?

  • Nagash

    Just to clerify, it’s just a 2xLP, not 3xLP.

    Other than that, great review. I don’t completly agree with the rating though. I landed on a 4.0. Witch actually surpriced me a bit, since I’m a major Wilson fanboy, so didn’t expect I could accept this singer :D

  • beurbs

    Update: finally got through this fatty and I can confirm that, unlike Dream Theater, Metallica, and everybody else trying to release multipart albums lately, there are definitely enough ideas here to sustain one’s attention the whole time.

  • brexpeditionary

    Mac was definitely THE Threshold singer for me – but I must say Glynn (positively) overdid this one – another GREAT record from the guys. Congrats!