Threshold have a standard to maintain. It’s always been high – very high – and you’d expect nothing to have changed this time around. Except that it has, in the best possible way. Because March Of Progress is a stunning release that goes beyond anything the band have done in recent years.
The return of original vocalist Damian Wilson appears to have galvanised the rest of the six-piece, and the result is an album that owes something to Rabin-era Yes, plus 80s Uriah Heep and also to Dream Theater. But ultimately it stands tall in its own right, a work of power and quality that will appeal to progressive fans who enjoy exhaustive musicianship, as well as those who are more enamoured of well-constructed songs.
It’s clear as soon as Ashes opens the album that the new line-up appear at ease in each other’s company. Wilson sounds strident and uplifting, as Karl Groom and Pete Morten exchange muscular guitar lines, while Richard West adds delicately tuneful keyboard moments. This sets the pattern for a series of songs, each of which demands to be played over and over again. This is the beauty of March Of Progress. It’s an album that immediately catches your attention and then goes on to reveal hidden depths with each listen. There’s so much going on, but at no point does it sound too busy.
Return Of The Thought Police and Staring At The Sun have an ebullience that suggests the band must have had huge fun recording them, while That’s Why We Came is majestic yet inviting. The Hours has a near feverish metallic riff, but this is complemented with some concise Wilson vocals and keyboards from West. There’s one lengthy workout, namely closing track The Rubicon, but even here, you’re never left with the feeling that things have been stretched for the sake of it. The lightness of touch throughout this 11-minute tour de force ensures that you will be entranced, as it all builds to a fittingly lavish climax.
But this is what Threshold do best, balancing all their individual parts to fashion a whole that’s far more than the sum of these separate entities. March Of Progress really offers nothing new as far as Threshold are concerned, but what it does do is raise the bar to new heights. The band have challenged themselves, and refused to exist in a comfort bubble. They’ve come out of the zone, and dared to push each other as far as possible. The result is an album that should attract new devotees, as well as delighting older fans.