Threshold - Legends of the Shires - (9.5/10)

Published on January 2, 2018

Tracklist:

  1. The Shire (Part 1)
  2. Small Dark Lines
  3. The Man Who Saw Through Time
  4. Trust the Process
  5. Stars and Satellites
  6. On the Edge
  7. The Shire (Part 2)
  8. Snowblind
  9. Subliminal Freeways
  10. State of Independence
  11. Superior Machine
  12. The Shire (Part 3)
  13. Lost in Translation
  14. Swallowed

Genre:

Progressive Metal

Label:

Nuclear Blast

Playing Time:

82:14

Country:

United Kingdom

Year:

2017

Website:

Visit page

Legends of the Prog
 

There are bands, where the announcement of a new album alone is already enough to create a ripple effect and in the progressive metal field, Threshold are definitely one of them. Throughout their 29-year career, they have managed to keep an astoundingly high level of quality and musicianship throughout with March of Progress from 2010 often being seen as their peak. Legends of the Shires is their 11th album to date and while not quite reaching said masterpiece, it definitely is a more than worthy addition to their strong back catalogue.

 

Blessed by an amazing stability in the line-up (since 2004 the only changes have been on the microphone with Glynn Morgan, who had manned it for their second album Psychedelicatessen rejoining after the split with Damian Wilson), the Englishmen continue their unique approach to prog metal, once more striking a near-perfect balance between demand and accessibility, staying prog to the core, demanding the listener’s attention, but at the same time remaining accessible enough for non-die-hard fans to get into their sound. Contrary to the title, which would hint at a Tolkien-esque concept album, Legends from the Shires touches on a whole bunch of sociocritical subjects, as the band has done in the past, and does so in typical fashion.

 

“Shire” comes in three incarnations, the first one kicking things off with soft acoustic guitar, piano and vocals, culminating in a super catchy chorus that you will hum for days. But that is only just the beginning, because after that they are pulling out all stops, always keeping the delicate balance intact, while maintaining a level of heaviness that ensures they stay in the prog metal territory despite many quieter moments. And even though the songs are constantly changing catchiness, heaviness, rhythm and mood, the Brits show their true mastery in creating a wonderful, irresistible flow that pulls the listener through all the currents of Legends of the Shires with frightening ease. Karl Groom and Richard West play off each other with an organic naturalness and Johanne James’ understated drum play is a pleasure to follow, making even the most complex patterns sound like child’s play.

 

 

To point out certain tracks is no small feat, because they all have their special character and play part in the organic whole that is the album, but the beautiful drive of “Small Dark Lines”, the power of “Trust the Process”, the incredible catchiness of “Stars and Satellites” (whoever said that prog can’t be catchy definitely has not heard Threshold!), the wonderful flow and dynamics of surprisingly heavy “Snowblind” that also features outstanding lyrics, or epic “Lost in Translation” with its grand chorus, they all are brilliant songs in their own way and that doesn’t even include the reprise of “Shire”, which starts out the same way as the acoustic intro, but then builds into a full song with fantastic chorus.

 

Does it reach March of Progress? Maybe not, but it comes very close, showing that even after 29 years a dog can surprise with some new tricks and honestly, Threshold have managed to combine their trusted sound with new and fresh elements for years now, creating both continuity and progress without even a hint of slowing down or losing their magical touch. Legends of the Shires is not just a must have for any prog fan, but should appeal to any fan of mature, strong and just plainly good music, no matter which genre gets slapped on it. A very hot contender for album of the year!

Alex Melzer

Author: Alex Melzer

The grey eminence behind TMO. Head of the Brotherhood. Conqueror of Cancer

2 thoughts on “Threshold – Legends of the Shires

  1. I guess we run in different circles. Myself, and most of the Threshold fans I know consider March of Progress one of their lesser efforts(admittedly, a lesser Threshold effort is still a high quality album). This one, OTOH, is considered by the people I know to be one of, if not their very best. Probably album of the year for me.

    • I would have to agree with the album of the year sentiment as it is mine also. But putting the rest of this into perspective, it is the songwriting that shines so brilliantly on this album, that is why Alex’s review really is still pretty spot on. I had no prior experience with Glynn on vocals and was mildly concerned what I would think of a band with another change on the mic, but it was the strength of each and every song that cemented my love of this album instantly.

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