TRESHOLDReviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, March 2000
This is another disc I've had for awhile. It is harder edged progressive rock boarding on progressive metal - and to some it may be far closer to the metal end than the rock end. There's no denying that the rhythms are heavy, percussion and bass are the most prominent instruments behind the vocals of Damien Wilson, who sounds a bit like David Coverdale or Robert Plant, at least at some points.
Threshold tackle some heavy topics to go along with their heavy rock - ecological disaster in the opener "Consume To Live," turning away from religious faith in "Days of Dearth," something that might a metaphor drug addiction in "Sanity's End," the human condition in "Paradox" and so on. Not exactly unique lyrical topics, especially of late; and there is always the danger of coming across as preachy, too. Of course, with an album title Wounded Land, you certainly can't expect flowery pastorals in the musical tradition of Genesis and the poetic tradition of Wordsworth.
All throughout I couldn't help but think of Marillion's "Fugazi." Not so much because Threshold can sound like a beefed up Marillion, though there are occasions when they do, but because the whole rhythm and feel to "Days Of Dearth" is similar. Hearing the tracks side by side you wouldn't accuse "Dearth" as a rip off, but there is a certain aggressive statement of purpose that is the same.
Nick Midson shares guitar duties with Karl Groom, who is almost as ubiquitous as Clive Nolan, as they are both members of Shadowland and have produced the first three Landmarq releases, which once named Damien Wilson as vocalist. Richard West provides keyboards and orchestration here, drums by Tony Grinham, and bass by Jon Jeary, who also contributes acoustic guitar and backing vocals. Ian Salmon, who, if memory serves me right, is now one of the newest members of Arena, adds acoustic guitar here on "Siege Of Baghdad."
Wounded Land was Threshold's debut and a very strong debut it is. My favourite track here is the 10+ minute epic "Surface To Air," which is, in part, an anti-capitalist diatribe centered around the Gulf War. Well, at least using that as a backdrop. Well, I suppose it could just as easily be anti-Hussein, too, depending on your particular point of view. "When selfishness and greed and lust/Are all we understand." Either those oil consuming nations or those oil producing nations - or both.
Each section has a different tempo and feel, the first light (keys and vocals mainly), the second heavy (bass, guitar, and percussion), and the third is the big, epic section - dreamy vocals by Wilson, chiming guitar by Groom, boomy drums by Grinham. Visuals would include lots of aerial desert shots, while a strong breeze whips through making hair fly and clothes ripple).
"Siege of Baghdad" is the mostly overtly about the Gulf War and the futility of it. "We will never finish what we started/And break the tyrant's rule/Just like all those old time crusaders/We're the only fools..." Well, looking at that lyric 7 years or so on...a rather accurate statement, as Hussein is still in power. The parallel being made is the crusades that began essentially in 1085 when Pope Urban "started the ball rolling," in wanting to reclaim Jerusalem for Christianity - in a nutshell. So many issues there and here (Gulf War) that are too complicated to get into for a review.
"Keep It With Mine" is sort of the...alternative view, the bright spot of hope in this otherwise dreary picture we're being painted, and the booklet does contain a very dreary illustration - imagine all of your worst ecologic, chemical, and biological nightmares - a man made apocalypse. "We can make changes to the course of this road..." Lyricists Jeary, Groom, and Midson are far more optimistic than I am, I'm afraid; I'm hoping they are someday right, though.
I would term this heavy neo-prog, and if that's your sorta thing, I recommend you track this down.
Threshold are currently fronted by ex-Sargant Fury vocalist Mac.
More about Wounded Land:
Track Listing: Consume To Live (8:11) / Days of Dearth (5:26) / Sanity's End (10:21) / Paradox (7:15) / Surface To Air (10:14) / Mother Earth (5:52) / Siege Of Baghdad (7:44) / Keep It With Mine (2:27)
Sound Clips: thresh.net
Damien Wilson - vocals
Karl Groom - guitar, bass pedals
Jon Jeary - bass, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Tony Grinham - drums
Nick Midson - guitar
Richard West - keyboards, orchestration
Ian Salmon - acoustic guitar (7)
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Wounded Land (1993)
Extinct Instinct (1997)
Wounded Land: Special Edition (2001/2002)
Psychedelicatessen/Livedelica: Special Edition (2001/2002)
===============================Reviewed by: Stephanie Sollow, April 2001
For weeks, nay months, I have been reporting on the release of this album in the news pages, sometimes playing off the title Hypothetical. Well, it's not just hypothetical anymore, as I have the disk in my hot little hand…well, actually, it's spinning in the CD player, but you know what I mean. Not just for the purposes of this review, I have been playing this disk over and over. Okay, it isn't going to change the world, and it certainly won't bring about a new age in progressive music, or progressive metal music. But, for an hour or so, you can certainly enjoy the world in it's present state. The album cover is dark and brooding with imagery that makes me think of Gulliver's Travels, or at least a futuristic version. But you don't need to be a Lilliputian to appreciate the big sound that Threshold have. They are, for the most part, Arena on steroids. Yes, it was recorded at Thin Ice Studios, yes Clive Nolan cohort Karl Groom is the guitarist and producer of the album, and yes to a whole lot of other things that make the Arena association a given. There are some effects here that really remind me of latter-day Arena, as this album has strong kinship to Immortal?.
Throughout I kept thinking that vocalist Mac made me think of someone else, but it was hard to pin down. His voice is a mix of Stuart Nicholson (Galahad), Glenn McLaughlin (Iluvatar) and James LaBrie (Dream Theater), such that it is more true to say it is as if Nicholson or McLaughlin were singing in a LaBrie-like style. With the metal punch the band has, it is, of course, closer to Dream Theater, but I would say the band don't necessarily sound like Dream Theater. There is a prog rock element to their metal, far more than DT ever had, except for maybe their Images & Words album. As I said, they are the punchier version of Arena.
Um, well, that is except for "Keep My Head." Here the band sounds more like Simply Red - you know the r&b-pop band that had a hit with "Holding Back The Years" a decade and half-ago. Certainly one can say that Threshold are shaking things up, throwing in the curveball just to keep everyone on their toes and from pigeonholing the band as strictly a prog metal band. But on this album, this is a big a curve…and yet, it still hits the strike zone - or for you football fans, it still scores a goal.
There's a part of "Narcissus," which closes the album where the vocals are treated and it is, mainly, just vocals and keys; it sounds a bit like something 90s-era Queen would do or have done, but it also made me think of a track on Oingo Boingo's Boingo called "Mary." And, just to keep the litany of "sounds like" comments going, there are parts to "The Ravages Of Time" that made think of a beefed up Big Country circa No Place Like Home, but also you hear little bits of recent Genesis.
This is catchy, melodic metal, as the choruses are designed to both draw you in and have you sing along. But not in an overt pop way, mind you, where it's a catchy hook, but they aren't trying to be so dynamic that there isn't anything to latch onto, to recall after the disk ends. This is a disk that sticks with you after it's over. They bridge the hard prog, prog metal line nicely. "Sheltering Sky" is radio ready and would have been a huge hit released a decade ago or so…maybe more so 1989 or so. Not that it's dated, but I really could see this played alongside Giant's "I'll See You In My Dreams." Um…AOR.
My enthusiasm has me anxious to dip back into their past catalog, which I picked up at last year's Progfest and see what I've been missing from Wounded Land to now, knowing that with Extinct Instinct Damien Wilson left and with Clone Mac arrived. This is a different Threshold than impressed me with Wounded Land, and yet I'm impressed just the same.
Threshold isn't just Groom on guitars and Mac on vocals, as there's also Nick Midson on guitar, Jon Jeary on bass, Richard West on keyboards and Johanne James on drums. It's tight with some beautiful moments, and some very nice harmonies. The songs that do kind of get lost, as they don't stick as some others do are "Light And Space" and "Long Way Home" - they aren't bad songs, by any means, but the other tracks have more sticking power. Nonetheless, I quite like this album.
[Read also Bobo's and Keith's reviews of this title, plus an interview with Karl Groom -ed]
More about Hypothetical:
Track Listing: Light And Space (5:52) / Turn On Tune In (6:12) / The Ravages Of Time (10:19) / Sheltering Sky (5:37) / Oceanbound (6:37) / Long Way Home (5:58) / Keep My Head (4:01) / Narcissus (11:14)
Mac - vocals
Karl Groom - guitars
Nick Midson - guitar
Jon Jeary - bass
Richard West - keyboards
Johanne James - drums