Threshold return with their 11th full length release ‘Legend Of The Shires’. One of progressive metal’s most enduring bands formed in 1988 and released their first album in 1993, twenty four years later their “colossal double concept album” sees them stretching the boundaries of the genre once again.
Described as “A monster of an album…” by Threshold’s Richard West, it is also the band’s first ever double album.
If that wasn’t enough to get me drooling then the outstanding artwork by Russian artist Elena Dudina only heightened the anticipation even more. Of the art Richard also had this to say, “I love it when a cover tells you what sort of record you’re buying. This one really shouts “progressive” and reminds me of some of the classic prog albums from the 20th century.”
With vocalist Damian Wilson moving to pastures new and the return of Glynn Morgan to fill his substantial shoes (more of that in my interview with Karl Groom coming soon) the scene has been set for one of 2017’s most eagerly awaited releases…
‘Legends Of The Shires’ is possibly Threshold’s most complete album yet which, with a back catalogue like theirs, is really saying something. It flows from beginning to end, like one complete musical journey and is a true concept in both musical and lyrical terms. A concept loosely based on our country’s current position in the wider world and also how we, as individuals, fit into the wider scheme of things is worked intelligently into some of the band’s best recorded material of the last few years.
Keyboardist West and guitar guru Karl Groom are the main songwriting masterminds and, as well as Glynn (who also adds guitar parts), Johanne James (drums) and Steve Anderson (bass) make up the rest of the band. Production, engineering and mixing duties were also handled by Richard and Karl.
Richard discusses the new album title and whether or not the band were influenced by Tolkien:
The return of Glynn Morgan has added even more power to the vocals and yet he can also provide moments of sentiment and passion on tracks such as The Shire (Part2), State Of Independence and the emotive album closer Swallowed. Glynn also adds fervor and a rawness to hard riffing songs like the brilliant Small Dark Lines and the heavy On The Edge and Superior Machine.
The added emphasis on the song and the soundscapes is wholly evident on the two heavily prog-infused epics that grace this great album. The superb The Man Who Saw Through Time was never intended to be a longer track but just evolved into the wonderful musical odyssey it has become. An involving and powerful song which holds your attention and pulls at your heartstrings before opening up into a wide musical panorama with intricacy and vibrancy, you’ll find yourself transfixed. Lost In Translation is just over ten minutes of near musical perfection from the euphoric opening right through the hypnotic and entrancing verse and the addictive chorus to the uplifting close and the great interplay between Karl’s guitar and Richard’s keys, this is songwriting at its best.
There are no filler moments on the album, the progressive-metal standard Trust The Process has all the prerequisites than any such track should have and reminds me of Dream Theater at their original best and one of the stand-out tracks on this stand-out album is the exceptional Stars And Satellites with it’s Frost* like innovations and incredibly catchy chorus. Snowblind is another superior song with an exceptional musical narrative and one that I know Karl is especially pleased with.
Another highlight is the return of original bassist (and one-time vocalist) Jon Jeary who guests on vocals on the lovely The Shires (Part3) a delightful, if short, piece of music that compliments the rest of the tracks perfectly.
I make no excuses for my effusive praise of this new release from Threshold, ‘Legends Of The Shires’ is a triumphant return from one of the UK’s foremost progressive-metal artists and is an album where the song and the journey take precedence over technical wizardry and musical scales and deliver an expansive and immersive musical adventure that transfixes and captivates in equal measure. From beginning to end, the music flows perfectly and the album should ideally be consumed in one sitting, 2017 has given us some superlative musical releases already but, in ‘Legends Of The Shires’, Threshold may just have delivered the finest one yet.
Released 8th September 2017