Review Summary: A true gem from one of Progressive metal's unsung heroes.
Threshold is a Progressive metal band from England. Formed in 1993, they have a history of almost 20 years and a back catalog of 8 albums, but still not many people know about them, I feel they are very overlooked and a very underrated band. While they are moderately successful in their hometown, they are relatively unknown outside of England. Musically, they are a very well balanced band, never letting technical facility dominate their songs, they have a knack for writing excellent melodies, playing solos as a compliment to the song and never as an afterthought.
Threshold's sound would be on the lighter spectrum of Progressive metal, also making use of Alternative elements. There are some obvious metal influences in the guitar riffing, but the way their albums are produced make them sound a little thin and on the lighter end, it makes their music sound more subtle and commands your attention and repeated listening to pick out the nuances in each song. Even though they are a Progressive metal band, some songs are in the 3 to 4 minute range with your typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structures, so at times they sound like a hard rock band.
Andrew "Mac" McDermott is on vocals, his voice is on the light side, not as powerful as say Tate or Halford, he does not have an operatic range nor does he really have the vocal quality to pull off more metal rasps like Mustaine or Ilja Jalkanen (ex-Kiuas). He is more the jack of all trades, he has adequate range, having a little bit of each vocal element from the vocalists I named, he can be whiny at higher registers and still be understood (unlike Labrie). He sounds closer to a hard rock singer than a metal singer, he knows exactly what his limitations are and makes full use of it by adding his personal flair, he's also great at conveying emotions, making him a very unique singer and gives Threshold a different edge than most Progressive metal bands. He shines the most on softer songs when he's using his middle register, especially during the intro of "Pilot in the Sky of Dreams" "Safe to Fly" and the middle section of "Fighting for Breath", he gives off an especially intimate feel during those moments. The openers "Slipstream" and "This is Your Life" is a demonstration of his more straightforward, aggressive voice.
Karl Groom is on guitars, while he does not possess the technical facility of John Petrucci or Michael Romeo, he is capable of writing very catchy metal riffs, especially on "Slipstream" and "Fighting For Breath", as well as delivering some impressive solos such as his double-tracked unison on "This is Your Life" and the soaring outro solo on "One Degree Down". My only complaint is that he does get a little repetitive, especially during his scalar runs, his patterns tend to sound the same and can be heard on previous albums. However, he is proof that you don't need to be a virtuoso guitarist to play Progressive metal. Steve Anderson is on bass, but most of his playing is just doubling the guitars and as such I can't comment on how musically individual he is.
Richard West is on keyboards, and he is a very melodic and proficient player. He along with Groom are the main songwriters in Threshold, both of them may not be the flashiest players out there, but they can come up with some very interesting chord progressions and key changes whilst making it all sound natural, one of the strong points of Threshold's music. West's soloing isn't as "out there" as Groom's, only delivering them in small doses here and there on the album, it is clear Threshold know how and when to rein it in. Johanne James is on drums, providing a solid rhythmic foundation for the band, he doesn't really do anything overly flashy though, there are some interesting fills here and there, but he fulfills his role as a drummer quite well.
Mac may not be Threshold's original vocalist, but he has been with them the longest as a vocalist, and I feel he best defines their sound, much more than original vocalist Damian Wilson does, Wilson's voice is thicker and more operatic, the subtlety of Threshold's music does not really call for those moments. Sadly, this will be his last album with the band before leaving in 2007 with Wilson replacing him. For those that didn't know, Mac has also sadly passed away due to kidney failure in 2011, which effectively ended any hopes I had for a reunion (no disrespect to Wilson).
Threshold is a band that runs that fine line between metal, alternative, progressive and hard rock, definitely a band to check out if you're looking for Progressive metal that is very well balanced and subtle, they may not be as heavy or technical as Dream Theater or Symphony X, but they are arguably just as melodic. It is shame they are still relatively unknown in the metal scene.
This is Your Life
Pilot in the Sky of Dreams
Fighting for Breath
One Degree Down