REVIEW: THRESHOLD – “Dividing Lines”
UK prog metal juggernauts Threshold has been putting out brilliant albums stretching back to 1993 and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. The British are part of a rare, dying breed of bands that have remained consistent, inventive, and above par throughout their whole career, so the new record ‘Dividing Lines’ was looked upon with large anticipation, even more, due to 5 years of waiting and succeeding one of their great works in ‘Legends of the Shires’. Does it live up to the hype?
I’m actually a huge fan of Threshold’s music and I find them to be the cream of the crop when it comes to prog metal, so naturally, I was also looking forward to reviewing a new album by the band. Back in 2017, to replace the very talented and my favorite of the three vocalists that have been part of the group, Damian Wilson, the band wisely chose to bring back Glynn Morgan, a move that worked wonders as we already know, and is further solidified here. He has a fitting voice for prog metal, with plenty of clarity, range, and power at his disposal, and is a more than capable replacement for Damian Wilson.
To better accommodate his vocal prowess and ease him in once again, Threshold wrote this time around a pack of typically top-flight, contagious Threshold tunes that are sure to bring you back to the early 2000s and offer a more streamlined sound rather than the conceptual songwriting used in ‘Legends of the Shires’. The tunes here are the same ones that fans have come to love and they still float between full prog metal acts like Anubis Gate, Vanden Plas, Royal Hunt, and Seventh Wonder and a more accessible approach like Circus Maximus or Yes.
To speak of the Brits’ musicianship and prowess is bringing sand to the beach, but the performances are so good that it would be a crime to do this review without giving a shout-out to these guys. Founding guitarist Karl Groom does his magic once again, mixing heavy riffs with polished, more refined leads. Keyboardist Richard West fills out the speakers commendably without ever sounding cheesy or obnoxious. The kitchen duo Steve Anderson (bass) and absolute beast Johanne James (seriously, see this guy live and you’ll be knocked off your socks) dictate the rhythm masterfully and provide a clear, enjoyable tempo throughout the whole album.
While Threshold was never a particularly heavy band in the traditional sense, they always managed to fuse the heavy metal spirit into highly melodic and hooky examples of linear prog metal. The full-length contains a wealth of examples of why their style is such a winner: from familiar pieces like “Haunted”, “Hall of Echoes” and the mandatory 10+ minute track “The Domino Effect” to experimental and denser parts such as the amazing “Silenced”, “King of Nothing” and “Complex”, the band achieves perfect symmetry and flawless execution that sets the bar for high-quality prog metal this year, and for the band itself in future releases.
As a nod to the Doug McDermott (R.I.P.) era, Threshold explicitly shows that they wanted to rescue once again their highly critical and questioning (political at times) nature by creating somewhat of a link between “Complex” and “Mission Profile”, one of their best and most renowned songs. The up-tempo, stutter steps with nifty piano lines characteristic of the group are ever present here, again giving the listener the warmth and “safety” of being able to rely on their tried-and-true songwriting style.
Other tracks like “Lost Along the Way” and “Run” channel the sorrowful sound that bears resemblance to peers like Pyramaze in the lyrics, packed with emotions. Things end on a flourish with “Defence Condition”, a hail to Threshold’s heydays, a song that clocks in at over ten minutes but never feels longer due to the band’s compelling style and first-rate composing.
‘Dividing Lines’ is one of those albums that gets better with every spin and it’s as addicting as Nutella wrapped in m*th. I’ve always loved Threshold and found every one of their albums worthwhile; this easily ranks among their best and if you’ve never heard their stuff, stop screwing around and get to it, as this is a great place to start. It’s classy, catchy, engaging high-echelon prog-power at its peak, and easily the best prog-metal album of the year so far (and it will probably not lose its crown). Buy it, listen to it until your vinyl breaks and then go buy another one because this is worth every penny spent.