Threshold – Dividing Lines Review

Since hitting the prog-metal scene in 1993, the U.K.’s Threshold have proven to be one of, if not the most, reliably high-quality acts running. Album after album of intelligent, thoughtful, and highly memorable releases reinforced their talent and knack for polished songcraft. They’re responsible for several of my favorite albums in the genre and at this point, I never wonder if a new platter will be good or not. 2017s massive Legends of the Shires was a double album of smart and memorable music that overcame the sudden departure of vocalist Damien Wilson by bringing in former frontman Glynn Morgan. I still go back to it often and may have underrated it.1 Five years later we get the followup and 12th album, Dividing Lines and as expected, it’s more of the classic Threshold recipe of top-notch musicianship and slick writing with a big ear toward accessibility. Few prog bands are better at this last feature than Threshold and that’s demonstrated once again over the hour-plus runtime of Dividing Lines.

It’s worth noting upfront that the four-song run from opener “Haunted” through lead single “Silenced” may be the best of their lengthy career. Each song shows the strength of Threshold formula with everything expertly done and so laden with hooks you’ll think you fell into a Hellraiser movie. “Haunted” is simply a killer song leveraging everything I love about Threshold. Beefy riffs and futuristic keys drive things along as Glynn soars above it all with his warm, charismatic voice. The hooks are plentiful and it’s the kind of song you like right off the bat. I especially love the restrained mid-point with Glynn utilizing more emotive tones. “Hall of Echoes” continues the hit parade with upbeat energy infused with 70s-rock influences and little hints of Voyager’s quirky weirdness. The chorus is a big winner and sticks like hot tar on freshly shaved skin. “Let It Burn” is my favorite moment, with a darker mood, another unshakeable chorus, and unexpected dabbling in more extreme vocal styles. Though it cuts close to 7 minutes it feels much shorter, which is generally a sign of good writing and pacing.

While Threshold seem incapable of producing bad songs, there are some issues with bloat and a few cuts are less amazing than the opener salvo. “The Domino Effect” is good with very good moments sprinkled through its 11 minutes, but it feels like things should wrap at 8 minutes. “Lost Along the Way” and “Run” are laid-back numbers and both are good but feel a bit outmatched compared to the bigger moments surrounding them. Luckily, things end on a high note with “Defence Condition” where the band demonstrates just how accessible a nearly 11-minute song can be. The flow of the song is impressive and memorable moments are placed at key waypoints. Glynn once again adopts a more extreme, quasi-death vocal style on the song’s back-end and it’s quite striking and effective amid all the gloss and pristine progginess. The production is clean and slick, and possibly too clean at times, approaching cold sterility. It’s a sound they’ve clung to over time though, so it’s nothing new.

What I’ve always admired about Threshold is how they find ways to spotlight each member without junking up and weighing down the songs with disconnected wankery. The flow and accessibility of the compositions the priority and they content themselves to decorate the gaps and edges with impressive playing. Karl Groom lays down chunky riffs and grooves that feel just heavy and beefy enough to resonate and Richard West’s keyboards accentuate and expand the scope of the music while layering in mood and atmosphere. Glynn Morgan delivers a stellar performance once again, showing great versatility as the songs twist and morph from place to place. He’s the perfect singer for what Threshold does and I’ve come to prefer him over Damien Wilson. The performances are excellent across the board and the talent is unmistakable, all the more so because they don’t rub your face in it.

Dividing Lines is a bit darker than Legends, and a bit more world-weary, but it’s still vintage Threshold through and through. It reminded me of 2004s Subsurface at several junctures, and there’s even a callback lyrical reference to “Mission Profile” from that album, which I really appreciated. If you enjoyed what Threshold did over the years, this should be a no-brainer purchase. They remain one of the best in the prog business and they’re still on top of their game. Some things should never change.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 267 kbps
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: November 18th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. The reoccurring interludes detailing a man’s epic struggle to overcome a stubborn weed infestation are sure to resonate with any homeowner aspiring to a nice, tidy lawn.
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