I guess it’s a bit paradoxical, but from time to time, I just need a quick fix of that old fashioned “progressive metal” sound. In the past decade, Britain’s Threshold has been a safe bet in that department. Especially their last two records reflected a highly enjoyable, if fairly straight-forward take on the genre. Three years after For the Journey, the British virtuosos are back with a refreshing double album. Legends of the Shires takes us deep into the lore of England’s green and pleasant land.
The first thing to notice on Threshold’s latest is a change in singers. The distinctive voice of Damien Wilson has been replaced by the husky pipes of Glynn Morgan, who can also be heard on band’s second full-length Psychedelicatessen. All in all, the departure of Wilson is not a complete loss as Morgan delivers an admirable performance. Moreover, primary songwriters Karl Groom and Richard West have put in extra effort to turn this new chapter for the band into a roaring success.
Legends of the Shires starts on a familiar note. The whistling birds and tolling bells of “The Shire (Part 1)” recall the rustic themes of legendary albums like Nursery Cryme and A Farewell to Kings. These nods to classic Genesis and Rush sound somewhat derivative, but they can also be interpreted as signs of a growing confidence to explore the “home ground” of the genre. Groom’s immaculate guitar lines and Morgan’s husky vocals cultivate a certain ambiguity that is fully revealed on “The Shire (Part 2)”. Both tracks are a solemn reminder that serenity and jubilation can easily turn into sorrow and desperation.
Clustered around these two poles, we find twelve other tracks. These range from pugilistic rockers like “Small Dark Lines” and “Trust the Process” to expansive suites like “The Man Who Saw Through Time” and “Lost in Translation”. Every song features a solid set of hooks. Absolute highlights are the gentle grooves of “Stars and Satellites” and the uplifting choruses of “Snowblind”, which rank among the best compositions the band has ever written.
Threshold’s 11th studio effort is a nice treat to progressive metal fans. Devotees of the avant-garde should probably look elsewhere, since post-Metallica rhythms guitars and 1980s keyboards remain central to the band’s sound. Still, these Brits prove they can be creative using well-known ingredients. Legends of the Shires is a fine collection of catchy songs to warm your soul on a rainy autumn day.
Release Date: September 8th, 2017
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
1. The Shire (Part 1)
2. Small Dark Lines
3. The Man Who Saw Through Time
4. Trust the Process
5. Stars and Satellites
6. On the Edge
7. The Shire (Part 2)
9. Subliminal Freeways
10. State of Independence
11. Superior Machine
12. The Shire (Part 3)
13. Lost in Translation