The Lady can have her metalcore and growlie vocals, and Lonestar can have his thrash and extreme headbanging. Me? Give me some straightforward prog-metal seven days a week (and twice on Sundays) over anything else. Yes, I realize the irony in that statement – there’s nothing straightforward about prog-metal.
What is it with bands taking 5 years or so in between albums these days? I’m looking specifically at you, Rush, Flower Kings and Circus Maximus (all previously reviewed here at LadyObscure). C’mon already! You have fans that long for – no, CRAVE – your musical creations. Thankfully, the hiatus for those three ended earlier this summer with brilliant releases (regarding Banks of Eden, I’ll have to take the Lady’s word for it… ashamed to say I never got around to that one in any depth). Threshold is another excellent band, with a long history of that includes 8 previous studio releases, and a couple of handfuls worth of live/compilation/fan-club albums. But alas, it too has been five years since their last studio release (*sigh*). Well, thankfully that has come to an end now with the release of March Of Progress earlier this month. And boy-oh-boy is it nice to have them back with new tunes… not that there’s anything wrong with their back catalogue. Damian Wilson is back to front the band, the first studio album in 15 years with his lead vocals. While Mac did a fantastic job on the 5 albums he voiced, I am and always will be a massive fan of Wilson’s voice – everything from his softer solo material, to the metal of Star One, to the prog of Headspace. He could be singing the phonebook to the tune of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’, and I’d be satisfied. There’s something that I just find angellic about his voice, and while my opinion of this album may be slightly swayed by that, it still can’t be denied that the totality of this album is a fantastic prog-metal piece. March of Progress cements Threshold as one of the – if not THE – best European progressive METAL acts out there right now; equal to if not greater than artists such as Kamelot, Evergrey and Pagan’s Mind. In this listener’s opinion, none compare to Threshold’s strengths, diversity, and glorious back catalog right now.
I believe March of Progress to be the most ‘progressive’ of Threshold’s albums, with the constant changes (time, pace, key, style) between, and within, the 10 tracks (11 on the limited edition). Threshold has given us an album that is as diverse as it is heavy. Looking for a ballad? You’re not going to find one here. Closest thing you’ll get is the slower paced That’s Why We Came. Hardcore guitar riffs, powerful rhythms, along with the sweet keyboards filling out the sound… that’s what you’re going to find from start to finish. I’m not one to typically write my reviews song-by-song, but there’s a few that stand out among these 11 gems that I just have point to.
- Ashes – The staccato nature of the main riff grabs a hold of you, forcing you to take notice of their return. The first 45 seconds or so is like a slap in the face that says “PAY ATTENTION!”. As good as that is though, I love, love, LOVE the chorus. To me, it feels like it just wraps itself around you and gives you a nice long overdue and passionate embrace – like two friends that have been separated for 5 years … As if the band is saying “sorry I was gone for so long. It’s nice to be back. I missed you so much”.
- Colophon – what a killer bass intro and recurring melody! Wilson’s vocals carry an echoing, almost haunting effect throughout the song.
- The Hours – it feels like the melody has me slowing stepping down a stairwell, like a passage to something cool, dark, foreboding, yet thrilling … almost exhilarating. However, the lyrics tell a more desperate, desolate and isolating tale. Regardless, this tune keeps calling to me.
- The Rubicon … the only track topping the 10 minute mark, it is the ‘epic’ of the album. I find that word to be immensely over-used, but it’s about as good a word as I can use to describe this one. Methodical in it’s delivery, passionate and retrospective in it’s message, flawless in it’s sound. I discover something new with this song every time I spin it.
Instrumentally, the 5-piece band demonstrates some impressive skills and proficiency, but there is also a level of musical maturity to the compositions that can (and should) be expected by a 20 year-old band. They’re not just blatantly showing off like I’ve heard many prog/prog-metal bands do these days (sometimes, being overly technical just because you can doesn’t mean it sounds good). The drum work throughout is stellar. Never stealing the spotlight, but doing a helluva lot more than just keeping the beat – just what you’d expect from the guy that is a four-time “Best Drummer” from the Classic Rock Society. Powerful guitar riffage is always present – something Threshold has always delivered throughout their discography. Most songs carry an in-your-face riff, with a second more subtle guitar element (dropping a lick here, or a run there) which perfectly complements the main guitar melody.
With Rush’s Clockwork Angels, you have an album that delivers for the rock and progressive enthusiasts. Circus Maximus’ Nine brilliantly nailed the melodic-metal combination (with a splash of progressive elements). March of Progress combines the best of both, but in my opinion takes both the prog and metal to an entirely different level. As much as I loved those other two releases, this one tops them both. Do not miss this album.