Review Summary: An ambitious, expansive, and breathtaking double album that sits confidently in the upper echelon of Threshold’s discography.
For well over two decades now, Threshold have proven themselves time and again to be one of the strongest and most consistent acts in progressive metal. Their accessible, catchy and riff-laden take on the genre has been firmly established ever since their wonderful 1993 debut, Wounded Land
, and has yielded them consistently enjoyable results throughout their long and impressive career. There have been a fair share of real masterpieces along the way, too; albums like 1997’s Extinct Instict
or 2012’s March of Progress
, as well as individual songs such as “Light and Space” (2001’s Hypothetical
) and “Ground Control” (2004’s Subsurface
) are high achievements by the standards of just about any progressive metal act out there. Yet, Threshold have never enjoyed anything more than a small, quiet and intensely loyal fanbase, churning out solid album after solid album once every few years and humbly playing their role keeping the underground progressive metal scene relevant. They record, they release, they tour, they keep their fans happy, and they scarcely miss a beat all the while.
In some ways, Legends of the Shires
could be considered a fresh and innovative album coming from a band as firmly set in their ways as Threshold. It’s the first double album the band has attempted in their long career, as well as being the first album in over 20 years (and second album overall) to feature vocalist Glynn Morgan, who replaced star vocalist Damian Wilson for the second time earlier this year. While Morgan lacks Wilson’s effortlessly beautiful tone as well as not quite possessing the charisma of the late long-time Threshold vocalist Andrew “Mac” McDermott, he finds strength and comfort in being a completely natural fit for the band’s sound. He has the right bite for the album’s more aggressive songs, the lyricism for the more melodic songs, and all the dynamic versatility he needs to blend right in to all the textures the band create with their instrumentation. While Morgan sounded great on 1994’s Psychedelicatessen
, he sounds even better here, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing how his vocals develop on (hopefully!) future releases with the band. As for the album’s length, the band fill the mammoth 83-minute runtime with as much energy and inspiration as they can muster; impressively, the album doesn’t overstay its welcome at all, which is a real feat for a band notable for their consistent and often unvaried compositional style.
In fact, as was the case for the other true masterpieces in their discography (Extinct Instict
and March of Progress
), variety is perhaps Threshold’s greatest strength on Legends of the Shires
. In 83 minutes, the band stretch the constraints of their style to its limits without ever losing track of their established musical identity. From the hard-rocking riffs and ripping solo of “Small Dark Lines” to the expansive melodic genius of “The Man Who Saw Through Time” and the gorgeous, almost radio-friendly chorus of “Stars and Satellites”, Threshold fully explore the most distant facets of their sound and all the rich dynamic possibilities lying between them. This exploration has pushed the band’s sound forward and resulted in one of the most ambitious and accomplished efforts of their whole career – an album that sits confidently among their highest achievements while never sacrificing their roots or making purposeless experiments. With Legends of the Shires
, Threshold have done everything that any truly great musical act should do, quietly and humbly pushing their sound forward while expertly riding on the momentum of their previous work. The result is a superb release that will undoubtedly remain an overlooked triumph, an underappreciated masterpiece, and one of the finest progressive metal albums of 2017.