REVIEW: Threshold – Dividing Lines

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As a devoted closet keyboardist, the news about an upcoming autobiography by a seasoned prog keyboardist always prompts me to prick my ears, even though the musician’s name does not instantly ring a bell. As it happens, Kingmaker Publishing has announced the publication of such a must-read about THRESHOLD keyboardist Richard West. The book, titled “Maybe A Writer – My Life in Threshold,” is due out on December 8th, 2022 – and rather conveniently, these British prog titans just released their 12th studio album, “Dividing Lines,” via Nuclear Blast on November 18th to go with it. I must admit that it took some digging into the dusted mental archives of mine before I could recall that these Brits are the same bunch who were responsible for the brilliant 2017 album, “Legends of the Shire.” The fact is that SO many excellent prog efforts have been released in the past 5 years that even such a gem could accidentally get buried beneath the massive pile of class-A outings. For one thing, this new endeavor serves as a gentle reminder that these prog-ruffians sure know the tricks and ropes of their craft! In their own words, the new outing is the “moodier, older brother” to that particular album in their back catalog, now spawning twelve installments in total, released over the impressive course of 30 years in the progressive scene! After a few spins, it is easy to come to the conclusion that the claim does indeed have some merit. The new album, a collection of cautionary tales of sorts, is nothing short of a dizzying blend of darkly shaded atmospheres, beefy prog-riffs, and sky-soaring melodies. One of the band’s fortés is the way they bounce from ethereal heights to high-octane riff onslaughts without missing a beat. It makes it all that much harder to bear that I had almost forgotten all about this brilliant band!

By virtue of some cosmic intuition, I started checking out the album by listening to the absolute standout track, “Silenced,” first. The vocoder intro both grabs your attention all at once and channels subtle flashbacks of PAIN OF SALVATION‘s haunting 2020 single “Accelerator.” While THRESHOLD does not plunge into such mind-bending prog rhythms as POS, the solo section side-steps into septuplet meter rather enticingly – and both songs are constructed upon a solid foundation of strong melodies. Moreover, both songs bear an uncanny relevance right now, with “Silenced” covering the topic of how the world seems as though being devoured by a conspiracy of silence; the lyrics remind us that when freedom of speech goes, our world will be lost. Re-returning vocalist Glynn Morgan delivers his hard-rock belting flawlessly, subtly resonating with the air of EVERGREY vocalist Tom S. Englund here and there. Being such a home run, this track should have been the opener, if you ask me!

The outing actually opens with “Haunted”; this song’s theme is perfectly captured by the lyrics, “what doesn’t kill you leaves you haunted.” While the atmospheric break, halfway into the song, does indeed resonate with a subtle air of hauntology, the more upbeat half of the song plunges perhaps a tad too deep into power-metal spheres to maintain a particularly haunted feel. The chorus is a banger though, so don’t get me wrong – the song isn’t that bad, but as an album opener, it slightly lacks in the haunting department, whereas “Silenced” would not!

The songcraft is nicely polished throughout the album, with the lyrics touching on humanity’s inner turmoils. In a way, the outing comes off as a conceptual approach to the dark times that always seem to be closing in on us, with no merciful end in sight. There’s a message of hope amidst all the shadows though, making the 1-hour-plus runtime of the album a rather enticing endeavor. At its most progressive, the album conjures up nice DREAM THEATER vibes, on “Let It Burn,” in particular. Then, the synth-laden textures give way to a somewhat classic rock -tinted sound in “Hall of Echoes.” Obviously, it helps to have such a versatile vocalist on board. Morgan not only delivers class-A vocals on the outing, as “King Nothing” is the first song he has written for THRESHOLD since “Innocent” back in 1994, during his first stint with the band. The song is an anthemic hard-rock-cum-prog banger about not giving up, no matter what. On the band’s website, Morgan does not hide his excitement about having one of his songs chosen for release as a single from the new album – and once through the album, I really don’t see any reason for him to hide his light under a bushel; the song is a straight-up killer!

Before the closer, “Defence Condition,” brings things to an end with an epic mission statement, “Lost Along the Way” side-steps in a somewhat 1980s-tinted terrain, summoning the ghost of the pioneering prog-metal outfits of the era rather nicely. Next up, “Run” is a hard-rock ballad flaunting all the hallmarks of vintage heavy metal. Then, the 10-minute closer wraps things up by turns throwing in a bit of cinematic flavor and steamrolling metal riffs. Once through the album, it becomes quite obvious what I should add to my wishlist for Santa. So, elves, hear me out! A 10-track selection of British prog-metal at its finest and one particular 200-page rock biography as a hardback would do (wink, wink!).

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Haunted
  2. Hall of Echoes
  3. Let It Burn
  4. Silenced
  5. The Domino Effect
  6. Complex
  7. King of Nothing
  8. Lost Along the Way
  9. Run
  10. Defence Condition

Lineup

Richard West – keyboards

Karl Groom – guitars

Glynn Morgan – vocals

Steve Anderson – bass

Johanne James – drums

Label

Nuclear Blast

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