Threshold – “European Journey” 2CD (Nuclear Blast Records)
If I were to compare Britain’s Threshold to America’s Dream Theatre, it couldn’t be any clearer than a David vs Goliath struggle. While both bands may have been formed the mid to late 80s, the latter have gone on to become a globally recognized name while the former have remained somewhat obscure – although highly respected within the modern prog metal circles they (both) revolve in. Call it bad luck, call it being on the wrong side of the pond, but I, like a multitude of admirers out there can’t quite understand why Threshold haven’t broken big – and cracked the sky in the process. If anything this double live album should once again reaffirm that question both in the studio and on the live front! Recorded during the band’s recent European tour off the back of their last release “For The Journey”, it contains 15 tracks of brilliance drawn from their most recent albums plus a few oldies that returned vocalist Damian Wilson originally sang on back in the day. Although both playing modern prog metal I guess if I wanted to be formulaic in discerning between both bands and getting to the bottom of why I favor Threshold, it’s because they are far more guitar driven and actually write songs – particularly catchy songs when you’re considering ‘Part Of The Chaos’, ‘Long Way Home’ or ‘Watchtower On The Moon’ – without the need to overly complicate their material into long, drawn out overtures requiring a PHD to interpret them. I’m sure that die hard proggies will be shaking their heads in dismay, but honestly folks, who said that prog had to be complex if it still sounds like prog – and as good as when Threshold deliver it?! Although a double live album, and recognizably so given the rapturous crowd, the recording has been done to perfection although not overly post engineered like on some of Threshold’s prior live releases. As such, all the instruments can be appreciated, from Johanne Jame’s solid precision drum work to Richard West’s flowing keyboards and not in the least, Wilson’s highish but soulful vocals. The big difference remains the same – those thick guitars from Karl Groom and Pete Morten, so unashamedly heavy while keeping to the prog genre in their futuristic melodies and dexterous solos – brilliant and an absolute pleasure to listen to! Threshold may not ever get to the titanic levels of other bands given their lack of extravagance or complexity, but they can contend themselves that what they play are real songs, and particularly brilliant ones at that, and maybe when all the cards are down, it’ll be the music that once again matters…..