THRESHOLD – Dividing Lines (Album Review)

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

What did you do during the pandemic?

If you’re the English prog-metal group Threshold, you plow right ahead with the next project.  It turns out that the results are in their latest release “Dividing Lines.”

 They did their work well.

Coming five years after their very successful “Legends of the Shires,” the new one is refreshing and a bit of change of pace. “Legends” was a two-album concept. “Lines” is one album of songs that aren’t really that connected, musically or lyrically.  But as has been the case with all of the music in the catalog, Threshold puts its stamp on things. There’s no question about where this is coming from.

Without doing a strict rundown of each track, let’s hit some of the highlights.  First, in general, the band is not afraid to show its musical influences. There are bows to Kansas, Asia, Foreigner…and lots and lots of Pink Floyd. It’s not slavish adherence or imitation, since these nods are within the framework of the music. And there are a couple of occasions where more than one of those bands’ sounds pop up in just one song.  Yes, “Dividing Lines” is progressive metal. But it’s also arena rock, in the best sense of the word.

“Haunted” kicks things off with a metal roar of guitar and hard beat. The chorus features a flood of keyboards that flow into a haunting, near ballad section. Karl Groom’s guitar is a bit Gilmourish, if you will. This is a great introduction to “Dividing Lines.”

 Other highlights (but certainly not everything):

“Hall of Echoes” places ethereal keys over metal guitars. It takes things down a bit and then builds up to power rock, a switch that it makes several times in 6-plus minutes. Oh, and did I mention the hooks? There are great ones in each song, and this is no exception.

“The Domino Effect” is one of those double-digit-long pieces that have been so popular with Threshold fans. And no wonder. Starting with an orchestral sweep, guitars and drums pick up the pace and the beat. At times, the vocals in particular sound a bit like Lou Gramm of Foreigner, adding a different dimension to the piece. It also has a quiet section with bass and keys and voices and guitar, before picking things up with a hard rock approach. This one is a keeper.

“King of Nothing” is also a bit more arena rock than metal. It’s somewhat bombastic in presentation. But the staccato time signature (6/8?) is something from prog-rock, and the melody flows from hook to hook to hook. You’ll bob your head to this one.

“Defence Condition” is the one I keep going back to (and I’ve had “Dividing Lines” on repeat for several days). It starts with a fog of keyboards that give way to an early ‘80s electronica section. The 4/4 beat is insistent and compelling, shifting and twisting throughout. Gloomy sections give way to driving sections. There’s a bit of Megadeath and Foreigner and Kansas and some other things I can’t exactly place. It doesn’t matter. This is the way to close an album, a piece with urgency and hooks that has me stomping my feet, throwing a fist in the air and yelling along with “Tell me who to trust.”

The players make it all work.

Bassist Steve Anderson and drummer Johanne James keep things moving along, managing the shifts in rhythms and pacing with flare and precision. Singer Glynn Morgan — in his second stint with Threshold — is powerful and evocative. In some ways, he’s more of an arena rocker than the typical prog vocalist. As I’ve said before,  there are times when lead and harmonies remind one of heritage groups like Foreigner, Boston, Asia, etc. And I mean that in a very good way.

Karl Groom’s guitar is a signature part of the band’s sound. He doesn’t show off by throwing in fast runs, one after another (although he can do a bit of speed when appropriate). His is an evocative, plaintive sound that occasionally drifts into David Gilmour/Pink Floyd territory. And that, too, is a good thing.

Richard West is a key to Threshold. He does some remarkable fills, at least some of which work in counterpoint to Groom’s axe. But he also lays down the foundation, the chords and instrumentation providing a musical flow that underlies everything else in the songs. And his background vocals compliment Morgan’s lead to a “t”.  Without West’s contributions, Threshold would be more metal and less prog.

Lyrically, “Dividing Lines” paints some bleak pictures of the weak and weary being put upon by the powers-that-be. This is not a concept album, but the songs consistently refer to lies, cons, oppression; this is a world where trust and faith are in short supply. Yet the final word in “Defence Condition” is one of defiance.

What you going to do when the meaning goes
You’re lying like thieves and you’re not going to change me
What you going to do when the feeling grows
We’re falling like leaves but you’re not going to change me
What you going to do when the demon knows
You’re lying like thieves and you’re not going to change me
What you going to do when the healing flows
We’re falling like leaves but you’re not going to change me
You’re not God and you’re never going to save me

God is mentioned more than once. Somehow, in all the chaos and corruption, He still exists. The storytellers rely on The Lord to help them get through. No, Threshold doesn’t beat the listener over the head with preaching. But in its way, this is an album of faith, written and performed by men who, at the very least, want to believe.

Overall, Threshold’s “Dividing Lines” is an outstanding effort from a unit that is still looking up, 30 years after its creation. Their potential and future seem limitless and bright. The band is in a good place — coming out of the era of Covid.

My good friend Joel Barrios, the major domo of Sonic Perspectives, accuses me of “going down the rabbit hole” for some of the groups he turns me on to. It’s an interesting metaphor, and I grudgingly admit that he’s right. With that in mind, this hare has gone deep for Threshold and “Dividing Lines.” It’s on my list for the Best of 2022. Step over the line, jump down the hole and prepare to go way down. It’s that good.

Released By: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: November 18th, 2022
Genre: Progressive Metal

  Band Members:

  • Johanne James / Drums
  • Karl Groom / Guitar
  • Richard West / Keyboards, Backing Vocals
  • Glynn Morgan / Vocals
  • Steve Anderson / Bass

“Dividing Lines” Track-List:

1. Haunted
2. Hall of Echoes
3. Let It Burn
4. Silenced
5. The Domino Effect
6. Complex
7. King of Nothing
8. Lost Along the Way
9. Run
10. Defence Condition

Order “Dividing Lines” on a variety of formats, including signed insert + UK exclusive colored vinyl from Recordstore, at this location.

9.3 Excellent

The newest album from England’s Threshold takes a new tack, putting a harder edge on their Prog/Metal offerings. This is not a concept album like their previous effort was — but it is a strong record, from the first cut to the last, with views of a dystopian world facing all of us. And it does so with some great hooks

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 9.3
  • Production 9.3

Comments are closed.

error: This content is copyrighted!