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Threshold - 2002 Critical Mass



ARTIST: Threshold
ALBUM: Critical Mass
LABEL: Inside Out
SERIAL: IOMCD 108
YEAR: 2002

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Andrew McDermott - vocals * Karl Groom - guitars * Nick Midson - guitars *Jon Jeary - bass * Richard West - keyboards * Johanne James - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Phenomenon * 02 Choices * 03 Falling Away * 04 Fragmentation * 05 Echoes Of Life * 06 Round And Round * 07 Avalon * 08 Critical Mass (Parts 1-3)

WEBLINKS: www.thresh.net


Background
Over the years, the Threshold line-up has been a little unstable. Their original vocalist, Damian Wilson left after their debut album 'Wounded Land'. His replacement, Glynn Morgan, only recorded one studio album with the band - 'Psychedelicatessen' - before leaving to form his own band Mindfeed, taking drummer Jay Micciche with him. Damian Wilson returned as vocalist for the third album 'Extinct Instinct' but it wouldn't be too long before his departure again. The fourth album, 'Clone' was the first to see Andrew 'Mac' McDermott (previously with Sargeant Fury) take his position behind the mike. 'Critical Mass' is the third album with Andrew on vocals, and despite trying constantly, I still can't take to him. There's something in his voice I find a little grating, especially on the heavier material. When the band are more subdued, I can sort of see why he may be some people's favourite Threshold vocalist so far. I have to say though, despite my thought's on Mac's vocal style, 'Critical Mass' has some very strong moments and the album helps to retain Threshold's standing as the UK's best progressive metal band.


The Songs
One listen to the opening track 'Phenomenon' and this is so obviously Threshold. It's quite aggressive, especially with the pneumatic sounding bass drums during the intro, but the chorus is when it really works, with harmony vocals put to good use. Richard West's keys add an extra depth here. This typical Threshold approach carries over into 'Choices', which has a very old school twin guitar lead. The circular riff used in the mid-section has a very 80's metal quality - think Judas Priest at their best, the kind of thing which was typical of their 1979-82 classic period - and you'll get an idea. A special mention also must go to West, as his keyboard solos on this track are stunning with a classic prog sound. 'Fragmentation' has the same keyboard sound from West in the intro, set against a very low bass from Jeary, and a guitar riff which has a full on 'chug factor'. Overall, the track doesn't present the listener with anything new by Threshold standards, but it's very well arranged. Both 'Echoes of Life' and 'Avalon' see the band right on the money; being much gentler pieces, the vocals are much better in my opinion and seeing as Mac seems very much at ease with the softer stuff, I can't help but wonder why the band don't write stuff like this more often. Closing the album, the thirteen minute epic 'Critical Mass' manages to capture most of the moods and styles heard on the album previously - solid riffs, great solos, fairly melodic and gentle vocals, slightly more aggressive and horrible vocals, strong chorus with harmonies - and compound them into one piece of music.


In Summary
A job well done and far less self-indulgent than Dream Theater - but then, that's not too hard is it?


Related Articles
Threshold - 1993 Wounded Land
Threshold - 1995 Livedelica (EP)
Threshold - 2002 Critical Mass
Threshold - 2004 Subsurface
Threshold - 2007 Dead Reckoning


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