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ALBUM REVIEW: Legends Of The Shires – Threshold

It is quite crazy to consider that Threshold have been around for the best part of 30 years releasing stunning albums in the process and seemingly appear to be buried beneath that glass ceiling, never really acquiring the appraisal they deserve. Since becoming part of the Nuclear Blast Records family the British progressive metal outfit have started to emerge to the forefront and have amassed a considerable following around Europe, with the triumphant return of Glynn Morgan (his first appearance since 1994’s Psychadelicatessen album) and 11th studio effort and double album entitled Legends Of The Shires due for release on 8th September via Nuclear Blast Records on the horizon they will be hoping to further increase their impact on the metal world.

Legends Of The Shires immediately gives off the aura of a concept album with the introduction entitled The Shire being split into three narrated segments throughout the album. The brief first iteration commences with church bells in the distance followed by the narrative depicting a man leaving his farm to “make it on his own” before a swift segue into the pounding drums and edgy riffs of Small Dark Lines. The grittiness of Morgan‘s voice is instantly recognisable and a stark contrast from the smooth as silk tones of previous vocalist Damian Wilson but is certainly not a hindrance and falls hand in hand with their signature punchy tone. It doesn’t take long for THRESHOLD to showcase what brought them to the dance in the form of keyboardist Richard West and lead guitarist Karl Groom‘s solo trade-off which is a pleasure to experience.

The build up in tempo is suddenly halted as the longest song at 11:52 in the form of The Man Who Saw Through Time takes shape with its ballad-like introduction and soothingly restrained guitar solo. The pace does begin to heighten several minutes later introducing an old school 80’s progressive rock style vibe where Morgan‘s melodic talents begin to shine. As the grand opus approaches the halfway mark and is in full flow with its catchy soaring vocals and steadily paced riffs in tow the solo’s begin to flow thick and fast which at first is a pleasant addition to the piece but it begins to wear thin after a few minutes starting to feel like nothing but self indulgence. Fortunately the transition into Trust The Process with its crisp bass lines and sharp vocal prose really up the ante feeling a lot more structured and purposeful as the song progresses into a ridiculously catchy chorus. The overall vibe and demeanour flows through into Stars And Satellites as the bass remains prominent alongside accessible riffs and a rather cheesy but infectious chorus which you could envisage becoming a crowd pleaser as they all ready their lighters. THRESHOLD have seemingly found that sweet spot between a vintage sound but also accompanying it with a modern metal edge.

On The Edge is a great example that “all guns blazing” isn’t always the most ideal technique for the task, it’s very straightforward in composition but feels instantly distinguishable and very powerful as a result. The Shire (Part 2) reprises the instilled concept but initially provides quite a confusing moment when it commences with an exact repitition of its counterpart before elaborating on the narrative a little further discussing how the character plans to evolve before firing into the edgy, uplifting tempo of Snowblind. As the song progresses it has particularly dark undertones interlaced with crystal clear guitar work before showcasing some commanding vocals and an uplifting, energetic intensity.

Subliminal Freeways feels like the gateway between the new and old iteration’s of THRESHOLD as they put their own spin on the very popular tech metal vibe of quirky beats and almost jabbing riffs but at the same time sticking to their melodic prowess. State Of Independence however is almost a polar opposite exhibiting a very sombre, melancholic vibe despite bursting into life as the song unfolds. Superior Machine picks up the pace once more combining accessible riffs and one of Morgan‘s most passionate performances across the board.

As the album draws to a close The Shire returns once more as Part 3 begins with a calming piano segment and a brief cameo from founding member and lead vocalist Jon Jeary but bizarrely consists of nothing but a brief interlude and does not elaborate or enhance the story, this is left in the hands of Lost In Translation. Considering the double album has already elapsed for over an hour and conveyed a variety of different emotions it is quite a perplexing choice to leave the second longest song to this late stage but Lost In Translation possesses a very diverse range of moods providing for an entertaining and immersive experience. Though instrumental for the most part the band furnish you with a plentiful array of mesmerizing solo’s and this time round it does not feel like overkill but more of a brilliantly executed enhancement. After such a grand performance it felt quite fitting to wind the album down with a ballad and Swallowed wraps up the concept surrounding the album effectively and on an optimistic note.

Without a doubt Legends Of The Shires displays frequent glimmers of brilliance but some instances feel a little pompous and unnecessary in longevity when the shorter songs possess more bite and substance. It is clearly evident the members are incredibly adept musicians and their comradery shines through with some masterfully executed dual keyboard/guitar solo displays but sometimes the less is more approach provides a more impactful experience where as sometimes Legends Of The Shires runs the risk of sounding over zealous. THRESHOLD have crafted a strong offering of tracks with Legends Of The Shires but whether it is up there amongst their best and is robust enough to stand out from the pack, throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the progressive metal genre is up for debate. It is most certainly an album which requires nurturing and time to unravel the sentiments developing within.

 

Rating: 8/10

Legends of the Shires - Threshold

Legends Of The Shires is set for release on 8th September via Nuclear Blast Records.

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