Threshold // March of Progress
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Not progress so much as consistent greatness
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU] [US]
Websites: thresh.net | myspace.com
Release Dates: EU: Out now! US: 08.31.2012
One of prog-power’s brightest lights has been hiding under a bushel for a few years and their absence was definitely felt. The U.K.’s Threshold has crafted an impressive array of progressive metal platters stretching back to 1993. Their most recent release, 2007’s excellent Dead Reckoning, was the last with long-time vocalist Andrew “Mac” McDermott, who tragically passed away in 2011. Fans of the band were hoping they would soldier on in some form or another and finally, some new material is poised to see the light of day. To replace the very talented McDermott, the band wisely choose to bring back original singer Damien Wilson (Star One, Headspace), and to welcome him back, they wrote a gaggle of typically top-flight, infectious Threshold tunes that are sure to captivate and impress. The sound is the same one fans have come to love and they still float between classic Yes and proggy metal acts like Anubis Gate, Vanden Plas, Royal Hunt (and the heaviest moments of Coheed & Cambria). This time out, there are many similarities to the most recent Star One album and the quality is just as high. While Threshold was never a particularly heavy band in the traditional sense, they always managed to fuse the metal ethos into highly melodic and hooky examples of linear prog rock. March of Progress contains a wealth of examples of why their style is such a winner and it’s as if they never missed a beat.
In a nod to where things left off, opener “Ashes” has a definite Dead Reckoning ring to the song structure, riffing and vocal patterns. It’s the “Slipstream” of this album and like that classic, it rocks along and builds to a big, infectious chorus where Wilson gets to shine. It’s gleaming, polished prog-metal with nary a trace of rough edges or hostility; melodic as hell but anchored in the metalverse by the guitars. Taking the heaviness up a notch, “Return of the Thought Police” is a mid-tempo grinder with one vocal hook heaped on another. Talk about an instantly likeable song! It’s like the best of Anubis Gate with more Yes influence and I love it muchly. Wilson’s vocals are emotive, crisp and soaring, the riffs are crunchy enough to keep it metal and the chorus is one that will stick with you for a long time. “Staring at the Sun” is more instrumentally adventurous and there’s a very Vanden Plas vibe to the vocals and writing. Again, they come through big at chorus time and the listener is treated to an emotional and elegant crescendo.
Another moment of glory is the somber “Colophon,” which morphs into trippy, up-tempo, quasi-jazz stutter-steps with nifty piano lines. Not to be outdone, lengthy rocker “The Hours” channels a grittier, harder sound approximating modern-day Symphony X and again Wilson brings his A+ game. By now, it shouldn’t be a surprise that another winning chorus awaits. Things end with a flourish with the aggression of “Don’t Look Down” and “Coda” and the monster closer “The Rubicon,” which clocks in at over ten minutes but never feels long due to Wilson’s compelling style and first-rate composing. This stuff is just flat-out excellent and classy.
If forced to identify a clink in the armor, the softer, ballad-like approach of “That’s Why We Came,” while good, is a bit too drawn out and languid. Other than that, I have nothing but heaping helpings of praise for March of Progress. It certainly demonstrates that Threshold hasn’t lost the slightest step in the high-level writing department. They lose a truly great singer, plug-in a new one and release another killer album as if nothing happened. That deserves some recognition. I’m blown away by the quality of this material, though I shouldn’t really be surprised, since they never let me down.
This is one of those albums that gets better every spin and it’s as addicting as Girl Scout cookies laced with meth. Obviously Wilson is a big reason why the material works, but every facet of the album is excellent. Original guitarist Karl Groom and newbie Pete Morten throw classy riffs and solos all over the place and together they steer every song in the right direction. As a whole, the band is tight, together and razor-sharp. Though they don’t play a style of prog requiring Dream Theater-like histrionics, noodle-mongering and showboatery, you can hear their chops in their understated, dignified playing.
I’ve always loved Threshold and found every one of their albums worthwhile. This is one of their best and it’s great to see them back on their feet and firing on all cylinders. If you’ve never heard their stuff, stop screwing around and get to it. This is as good a place to start as any and if you love prog-power, I’m confident you won’t be disappointed. This is classy, catchy, compelling and engaging prog-power at it’s best. What are you waiting for? Cross the Threshold!