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Threshold: Critical Mass

After flawlessly bridging the gap between progressive metal and mainstream hard rock on last year's tour de force, Hypothetical, Britain's Threshold return with a record that's much subtler and less immediate but just as solid. Such scorchers as "Phenomenon" and the title track fit seamlessly with ballads like the keyboard-heavy "Falling Away" and the symphonic "Avalon" - and sometimes the band's hard and soft elements even merge, as they do on "Echoes of Life." No machine-gun drumming or screamed vocals here.

Threshold also give a musical nod to the advances made on Hypothetical with "Choices," which recalls "The Ravages of Time" from that album, and portions of the epic 13-and-a-half-minute title track echo Pink Floyd at that band's commercial pinnacle. Only "Fragmentation" disappoints, containing almost as many powerful passages as it does annoying ones, including a monotonous chorus and seemingly endless repetition.

Singer Andrew McDermott, now on his third Threshold album after replacing Damian Wilson, has firmly established himself as a viable vocal force in progressive metal, and his clear voice is at once pleasant and intimidating. Lyrically, Threshold continue to write intelligent songs that don't insult listeners with tales of fantasy or violence. And sonically, Critical Mass is warm and intimate without sacrificing any of its atmosphere and mystery. At this point, Threshold have made it difficult to top themselves.

Added: January 14th 2006
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Score:
Related Link: Official Threshold Web Site
Hits: 2914
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Threshold: Critical Mass
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-01-14 18:11:28
My Score:

Critical Mass, the sixth studio album of British prog metallers Threshold, is the first album ever that features the same line-up with its predecessor, and that is a big plus. Threshold has gone through many changes in their line-up, especially with their vocalists and drummers. They've had three different singers (Damian Wilson, Glynn Morgan and the current Mac), and five different drummers (Tony Grinham, Nick Harradence, Jay Micciche, Mark Heaney, and the current drummer Johanne James). While all of these musicians are very talented in their own way, these changes have affected the band's style to a certain extent and made it somewhat difficult for Karl Groom and Richard West to define the real Threshold sound.
So, Critical Mass is the first album that features the same line-up with the previous album Hypothetical, which to many Threshold fans is considered the peak of the band. Hypothetical was an amazing disc in many respects, and Critical Mass is a very good follow-up. However there are slight differences in the approach to songwriting mainly because of Nick Midson's contributions. The last Threshold album where he had input to the compositions was 1994's Psychedelicatessen. And although that is a great album, I feel Critical Mass, compared to its amazing predecessor, somewhat suffers from lack of focused songwriting. While the Karl Groom and Richard West tracks on this CD have the Hypothetical vibe all over them, the other songs with Mac and Midson have a different feel. Not that they're bad, it's just they sound like they're all parts of one big song all arranged into several tracks. I could be wrong though, just my opinion.

Guitarist and main songwriter Karl Groom said that Mac's voice was getting better with every release and he's just come to such a position where he actually 'defines' the style of Threshold a great deal now. I quite agree with Groom's assessment. Mac has a very powerful voice, nothing wrong with his performances on Clone and Hypo, but he really seems to know what he's doing on Critical. The double guitar work is once again mindblowing, not in the technical virtuosity sense but in the way that Groom and Midson once again prove that they have breathed new life into this very Dream Theater-driven prog metal genre. The rhythm section provided by Jeary (he's like the Jon Paul Jones of Threshold) and Johanne James is once again stunning. James is definitely the best drummer Threshold has ever had. His playing is tasteful and very well arranged in the mix--not too high and not too low. As for Richard West, the other brainchild of the band, he is once again proving that he is simply put one of the greatest keyboard players in the genre. What makes all of these guys so special is that they know when to stop and when to let themselves loose. It's not like you'll hear a 12-minute instrumental section with lots of guitar and keyboard trade-offs on a Threshold CD. Not that they can't do it, it's just that their songs don't need it.

My respect for this band is growing day by day, for having developed and matured their own style throughout the years. They're like UK's answer to Dream Theater. I love both bands. It's just that DT has been cloned over and over again that the genre has been overflooding with unoriginal prog bands lately. Threshold on the other hand knows what they're doing. They're exploring new territory and covering new ground, trying to find what suits them best, rather than copycating other big acts out there. As far as prog metal goes, I consider Critical Mass to be one of the best releases of 2002 along with Pain of Salvation's godly album Remedy Lane and Vanden Plas' Beyond Daylight.

Threshold: Critical Mass
Posted by Yves Dubé, SoT Staff Writer on 2003-02-04 14:27:16
My Score:

I feel the comments expressed in the above review to be on the mark. I have always enjoyed this band's work and automatically purchase any new release since I stumbled upon them in '93. Their style may be meandering a little as the differences between this release and Hypothetical are much more subtle than those seperating the latter with their superb Clone CD.Karl Groom's intense riffing and intelligent lyrics, although repetetive in content,are still money in the bank.Threshold deliver old school British metal with 21st century production values.

Yves Dubé
dubeyves@total.net




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