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Threshold - March of Progress CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

4.04 | 474 ratings

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5 stars A genuine treasure of prog metal!

Threshold's 'March of Progress' is a 2012 prog metal release featuring some talented musicians; Karl Groom on guitars, Richard West on keyboards, Johanne James on drums and Steve Anderson on bass. The lead vocalist, Damian Wilson, has a distinctive style which works along with the aggressive metal riffs. He replaces Andrew "Mac" McDermott, who passed away, and his replacement is a decision that should sit well with the fanbase as Wilson has been a vocalist for the band on past releases, so this is a reluctant return in some ways but at least the band will continue with this vocalist at the helm. Groom is a founder of the band, known for his work with Pendragon, and others, and his guitar work is certainly dynamic and innovative. The sound is reminiscent of Dream Theater, or Symphony X, with lengthy instrumental breaks and an emphasis on moving from keyboards to guitar breaks, and melodic high powered singing over punctuated bass and drum rhythms.

The thematic content revolves around the idea of looking after the planetary environment lest it become a polluted wasteland. It goes deeper than a mere save the trees campaign, as the lyrics are pleading for humanity to stop killing the beauty for senseless political gain. The message is one of hope and a warning to those who will listen. Their ninth studio album opens with Ashes, a song about rising up to take control of our future planet before it is burnt to the ground. The metal crunches along on a simple rhythm and the clear vocals resound with effortless high register notes and glorious harmonies. Soon we are graced with a wonderful keyboard break and then a twin lead guitar answer. The tempo is fast and then it breaks into a new time sig with a wah-wah guitar powering out. The musicianship is extraordinary, and I was really looking forward to more after this killer opening.

'Return of the Thought Police' is next, opening with a blast of guitars and then moves into a soulful melody with more outstanding vocals. Now the theme of a complacent corrupt government that fails to help the environmental issues is in the foreground. The lyrics focus on 'All the things we believe in and know', and all our thoughts 'have become unthinkable', but if we faithfully pursue what is right by the planet things will change 'I promise you.' With these thoughts Groom launches into a blistering lead solo. The chunky riffing follows on a new time sig, and we return to the main chorus with its anthemic qualities.

'Staring at the Sun' has a cool riff and builds to a powerful infectious chorus with multi tracked vocals. The minimalist piano is then joined by crunching metal riffs and a brilliant fret melting lead break. This is an excellent song and as the shortest on the album could be a single for the group.

'Liberty, Complacency, Dependency' continues the theme of governments who do nothing and has a political agenda. 'There's a dead sky rising' and 'there's an empire falling' state the lyrics, and there are some voice overs explaining the situation. The riffs are easy to latch onto and the way it continues to break into quieter moments and there are symphonic keyboard atmospheres. The twin guitar solo is terrific and then it switches to a faster tempo with a classic chugging metal sound. It feels like Queensryche for a while, and moves into an awesome lead break that soars heavenly.

'Colophon' is extremely melodic, emphasising Wilson's vocal range and some gorgeous keyboard ribbons. The lead guitar is unleashed as harmonies power out, 'I'm counting on you, did you do all the things that you wanted to do.' A prog metal riff blazes for a while then moves to beautiful ambience as we hear of, 'a paradise broken, a planet disturbed, and no one cares.' The music is as emotional as the lyrics and some odd time sigs have an appropriately disquieting effect.

'The Hours' opens with ethereal piano and guitar holding onto a strong melody. It fires up with a fast metal riff leading to the first verse. The lyrics are concentric on regret and the need to rebuild, 'I fight against the hours, until it comes to pass, I stand until my strength is gone, and even then I carry on, until I'm home at last.' This ray of hope permeates the album and are echoed in the uplifting bright music. I really love the infectious melody on this song that hooks into my system. And I admire the emotional power in the vocals and lyrics, echoed by stirring harmonies. The instrumental break is again a wonderful exploration of keyboard and guitar trade offs, each getting a chance to lift off into some amazing solos. The classical piano break is beautiful and I kind of hoped a guitar would take on the same melody as it was so beautiful, but instead it lapses back to the heavier main riff. A killer song though in any case and a definitive highlight.

'That's Why We Came' has a slower feel with some symphonic nuances. The lovely piano and guitar makes a nice backdrop to Wilson's lilting vocals, delivered with a measured empathy. West's keyboards are delightful and this is one of the more melancholy songs, though has some grinding distorted chords to drive it. The higher notes reached on vocals are uplifting and among the best on the album. The lead break is soaring and intensely emotional. There are even acoustics and spacey sounds on this beautiful metal power ballad.

'Don't Look Down' is a heavy riffer with power chords and strong melodies. The spacey effects on vocals is a nice touch earlier. This one begins as a fairly straight forward metal track, without all the prog trimmings, but eventually leads to a lengthy instrumental break that has some jaw dropping lead guitar with sustained string bends and a flurry of speed picking. The song settles into a gentler feel, some of the more softer vocals with keyboards, and then it ends with a twin lead attack, and mind bending keyboards.

'Coda' is very different with unusual song structures and hypnotic lyrics repeated until they jam into your brain. 'I will break down these walls' is a mantra and I love the lead guitar riffs and the way the rhythms break throughout. I like the way Wilson says 'I am sorry we lost you' and talks of 'the parting of the sea, remember,' in tribute to the late departed Mac.

'The Rubicon' is the epic of the album, running for around 10 and a half minutes, and it has a strong story that unfolds with powerful rhythms and instrumentation. It begins with a grand cathedral organ, then a slow tempo building to the verse. It soon moves into a bright pace and some stirring lyrics, 'no remonstration, no loaded gun will defend the ones who brought us here, condemnation never was a domination, we flew our colours, and all our games were shadows in the sun.' A crescendo of uplifting keys follows into a solo, then back to the main chorus that grown on me. The mood is prepared for a blinding lead break from Groom and he delivers power sweeps and string breakers and then the cathedral organ returns. The Gothic atmospheres are unmistakable and the way the distortion crashes through is incredible. The pace has slowed and Threshold inject a genuine majesty into the soundscape as it grinds toward a finale.

After hearing 'March of Progress' I know I will definitely be checking out other albums from Threshold. I was totally blown away by the power of the themes, and the awesome vocals mixed with absolutely outstanding musicianship. The melodies lock into my system and the overall atmosphere is mesmirising prog metal at its best; it encompasses everything I love about prog metal. This is yet another great discovery for me; a genuine treasure of prog metal, that I cannot recommend more highly.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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