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Threshold - Extinct Instinct CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.61 | 155 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars "Extinct Instinct" is Threshold's 3rd studio release and came out on 1997, not a good year for prog. Thankfully this album is a shining light and features some astonishing musicianship from Karl Groom on guitars, Richard West on keyboards, Jon Jeary on bass, acoustic guitar, Nick Midson on guitars and Mark Heaney on drums. On this album taking the helm on vocals is the incomparable Damian Wilson. He returns on the masterpiece 2012 album "March of Progress" as the replacement vocalist, and it is nice to hear him hear powering out each song in this earlier incarnation of the band.

It begins with heavy riffing on 'Exposed', and after some ripping vocals and melodies, it breaks into a new time sig and some glorious spacey keyboard flourishes. I love the traditional metal chugs that are broken by innovative keys. The soloing of Midson and Groom is incredible, and this is certainly the way to open an album.

'Somatography' follows with intriguing dialogue samples, and the melody is broken suddenly with power riffing. The band are passionate in the way they execute the intricate riffs and the structures are inspirational. Wilson's voice is astonishing, his vocal range is utilised to its fullest on this song. There is a great deal of creativity flowing on this track, with twin lead guitars answering, spacey keys and very heavy rhythms. This is one of the Threshold treasures; simply stunning musicianship and vocals.

'Eat The Unicorn' is a 10 minute mini epic, with some unbelievable lightspeed keyboard runs. The main melody is akin to a chant "give me a place to stand". The way it breaks though into lengthy solos is wonderful. The wah-wah solo is fabulous, and then it sweeps into a cinematic ambient soundscape. A soaring lead break is followed by a switch in the time sig. Wilson is in fine form here powering out high register vox, "I am falling down, closer to the ground, tell me where you're found, I will follow now." The riff gets faster and a frenetic rhythmic drum pounds out. Eventually we get to the lead solo I adore at about 6 minutes in and then a crunchy little riff leads to a keyboard showpiece. Again the riff changes, as more keyboard runs drift out of this metal machine. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest most progressive Threshold songs.

'Forever' is next, and feels like a Whitesnake power ballad, though it has an agreeable melody and an infectious hook. 'Virtual Isolation' woke me up with a really cool fractured riff, and melodic lines. The interchanging keys and guitars of Groom and West are great but don't last long enough.

'The Whispering' follows, and thankfully inject some prog metal riffs into the album, after too many mellow moments. It does slow into the verses but I love the odd percussion beats of Heaney. It builds into strong chorus anthem and some more creative textures. Wilson's vocals are fantastic, sounding like Queensryche in places. It motorvates along until we get to the 4 minute mark and a really gorgeous lead guitar howls over a soundscape of melancholia. The song really gets dreamy until finally going back to a heavier feel. I am not a fan of the "go go" chant in the song, Devo did it better, but it is unique to the sound.

'Lake Of Despond' opens with wind howls, glistening keys and a scream of guitar. The vocals follow a very strong melody. The song builds nicely with power chords into majestic cinematic keyboards. This has a more infectious hook and feels like old school Uriah Heep. 'Clear' is a very mellow song with clean guitar and wonderful soulful vocals, "nothing is clear, you promised me." It is akin to the type of ballad one might hear from a 90s metal band, reminding me of Scorpions' 'Holiday', or 'Still Loving You', so that an audience might have a chance to put their lighters in the air and sway. More metal riffs greet us on 'Life Flow', with gleaming keyboard phrases and dramatic rhythms. A fabulous lead guitar break is welcome along with West's swirling spacey keys. 'Part Of The Chaos' ends the album with a 10 and a half minute track. It plods along on a simple riff for too long, though Wilson is dynamic on vocals. At 3 and a half minutes the song finally pulls out of it standard metal sound and there is a faster rhythm to propel it into some incredible passages of metal. The chorus harmonies sound dated and too anthemic for their own good. I was waiting for some instrumental sections, and it took too long to get there. The keyboard solo are more speed runs and are answered by Midson and Groom's lead guitar attack. The Slayer riff toward the end is a solid background to more keyboards, then it moves back to the main melody, bookending a pretty good song, just not a masterpiece.

"Extinct Instinct" like all Threshold albums has some incredible musicianship and outstanding songs. This one began so brilliantly but then soon ran out of power towards the end. The tracks that must be heard are 'Exposed', 'Somatography' and 'Eat The Unicorn' that are all at the tip of the iceberg on the album. The closer has moments too but overall the album feels a bit too mellow and not as innovative as other albums such as "Clone" or "Moment of Progress". Threshold are best when they are progressive, creative and exploring more than a simple metal riff. When they move beyond the normal metal riff and present inventive structures and complex rhythms Threshold are indispensable.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |


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