Extinct Instinct is the third Threshold album featuring original vocalist Damian Wilson (who, as of this writing, has rejoined the band for the third time). On the previous album, Psychedelicatessen, sung by Glynn Morgan, the band hinted at a darker direction. That album is still a personal favourite of mine, and a great portion of Extinct Instinct was written with Morgan in mind. However, Morgan unexpectedly left the band to form Mindfeed and Damian Wilson returned to the band in the final minute and cut the record.
The result was Threshold's most progressive album in their catalog. The ordinary prog metal fan who wants lots of guitar crunch, unconventional song structures, varied vocal styles, and long tunes is likely to enjoy Extinct Instinct. The album contains two of Threshold's longest and most progressive songs: "Eat the Unicorn" and "Part of the Chaos." Indeed, "Eat the Unicorn" is still one of their most unique cuts. Wilson's vocals in the intro cannot be sung that way by any other singer. Richard West and Karl Groom present a good dose of instrumental prowess, exchanging solos throughout the piece. Mike Heaney's drum fills are exceptional, and the 'chorus' is amazing. The band even weave corrosive, thrashy riffage with vintage synth sounds in the middle. "Part of Chaos" brings forth dark acoustic guitars a la Psychedelicatessen (it was actually supposed to be on that album) before they grow into monstrous riffing underneat Wilson's soaring voice and Karl Groom's well played, articulate guitar work. This is the band's best closing track along with Hypothetical's "Narcissus."
The album also revisits themes from previous albums. The middle segment of "The Whispering" is a direct reference to "Consume to Live" from the band's debut, Wounded Land, for example. This is one of the album's finest pieces, especially due to Wilson's less 'flashy' singing. His smooth, regular singing is fantastic indeed, and his work with Landmarq, Ayreon, and Star One should be checked out for more stuff in this vein. "The Whispering" also features vocals by all band members during the chorus chants, and it sounds great. The ballad "Forever" recalls "Devoted" off of the previous disc except that this one is more focused and does not have a blown-out guitar and piano build-up. Not their best ballad, but it's worth hearing for Wilson's vocals.
I can almost hear Glynn Morgan singing "Virtual Isolation," which seems like it was readapted to Wilson's tonal character. The groove-inflected riffing and discreet keyboards in the background make for a great sonic experience. Likewise, on "Lake of Despond," the band opts for the darkest sound possible. The bass guitar is tuned as low as possible as is the guitar register. Listening to the song slowly fade out gives the impression they could go on playing forever. Unfortunately, Threshold never revisited this type of writing again, perhaps due to the absence of both Morgan and Wilson as vocalists.
Until the Mac-era, Threshold has been a band with many band members coming and leaving. They had a different drummer on the first three albums, and it wasn't until Johanne James becoming a full-time member in 2001's Hypothetical that Threshold were able to secure a steady lineup.
Overall, Extinct Instinct is a solid progressive metal disc from the 90s and has a special place in the Threshold discography. Even back then, when every band was trying to copycat Dream Theater or Queensryche, this band stayed true to their sound and, thus, became a respectable band with many more albums to come from them.
(The special edition of the album contains some bonus tracks, including edited versions of "Exposed" and "Virtual Isolation" and the acoustic cut "Mansion," penned by Damian Wilson.)
- Eat the Unicorn
- Virtual Isolation
- The Whispering
- Lake of Despond
- Life Flow
- Part of the Chaos