Over a twenty-plus year career Threshold have established themselves as one of Britain’s premier prog-metal bands; a sort of British version of Dream Theater, only with a greater emphasis on solid songwriting rather than technical showboating. The band has changed lineups over the years with guitarist Karl Groom and keyboard player Richard West the only constant members, although the rhythm section of Johanne James and Steve Anderson have now been in the band for many years.
Their ninth studio album “March of Progress”, is the first since the return of the band’s original singer Damien Wilson in 2007, replacing Andrew “Mac” McDermott who sadly died in 2011. It also sees the band back to a six-piece twin-guitar linuep with the addition Pete Marten. After the attempt at something slightly different with the rawer production of 2007′s “Dead Reckoning”, this new release sees the band revert to the more polished approach of earlier albums.
All the Threshold ingredients are here; the lengthy and complex song structures, the big anthemic choruses, the soaring solos and, as ever, immaculate playing. Damien Wilson’s voice has an impressive power and range, and sometimes it’s a relief to hear some old-style ‘proper singing’ on a metal record. There is perhaps slightly more emphasis on atmospherics on this record, but it’s still balanced by plenty of metallic riffery, and quite a few vocal hooks get stuck in your head. There are big epics such as the closing “The Rubicon”, and the obligatory power-ballad in “That’s Why We Came”. Though song titles like “Return of the Though Police” and “Liberty, Complacency, Dependency” imply a political line, the lyrics are far more thought-provoking than preachy.
Threshold certainly have a clearly identifiable sound, which is both their greatest strength and their greatest weakness. There quality is consistent throughout, no filler, but neither is there much that we haven’t heard on previous Threshold albums, and there’s a feeling that we’ve heard a lot of it before. When other bands are taking progressive metal in new and more challenging directions, they leave Threshold’s old-school style perhaps sounding a little dated by comparison.
On the other hand, Threshold are still very, very good at what they do. If you’ve liked their previous albums, there’s a lot to like about this one too, and after a long absence a new album is very welcome indeed. If you’re a Threshold fan, you probably have this album already. And if you’re completely unfamiliar with their music, this is as good a place to start as any.