“March of Progress” by Threshold combines strong melodic hooks, world class song writing and big production values in one triumphant package. The veteran prog metallers have been around since the late ‘80s and this is their ninth album, so they’ve had plenty of time to learn their craft and hone their musical chops.
The album sees the return of original singer Damian Wilson and sounds like the product of a band absolutely confident in what they do, every song oozing a definite, assured intent. There are big, heavy guitars and bass, keyboard and drum wizardry, and distinctive vocal harmonies. The obvious prog metal benchmark is Dream Theater, but comparisons are relatively tenuous at best; Threshold have a sound which is very much their own, as prog meets metal with elements of pomp, creating songs whose scope is wide and whose scale is big. It’s a sound that would as easily fill a stadium as it does the somewhat smaller speakers on my stereo. The songs vary in length, running up to 10 minutes, and throughout Threshold never allow themselves to lose sight of melody: it is the thing that drives the album, the engine of the Threshold sound.
It’s fair to say that “March of Progress” is almost an embarrassment of riches – such is the strength of the material – so it’s tricky to know where to start. Each song has a crafted feel to it, as the band come together on the original compositions and flesh them out till they are alive with detail. Of the 10 songs, 3 in particular jumped out at me (and don’t misunderstand me, all of the songs are good).
“Liberty Complacency Dependency” is built on a big riff and some excellent vocal harmonies; it has light and shade; it has vocal samples; it is as big in its ambition as it is tight in its delivery.
“The Hours” has a dramatic structure that relies on almost classical underpinnings, something that the heavy intro hints at, with a memorable chorus that will be playing in your head long after the song has finished.
The intro to “Don’t Look Down” sounds a little like something the aforementioned Dream Theater might play (such is the level to which this band perform), while the major key chorus is a genuine surprise, and top marks to the band for writing it. How often will a ‘metal’ band deviate from the minor key template?
The album’s other songs are equally high in their quality and accomplished in their delivery. Here is a band whose longevity has strengthened them, and from whom a lot of younger bands could learn a great deal. Ultimately there is no substitute for excellent songs delivered by accomplished musicians and there’s no doubt that Threshold have both.
“March of Progress” is a very strong album from a great British band, who can compete easily with the best in the world. If you’re already familiar with them you can rest assured the album (released in August on Nuclear Blast) will live up to your high expectations; and if you don’t know them, then may I suggest that you put “March of Progress” on your ‘must-buy’ list.