March of Progress

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No strangers to adversity over the course of their respected, but often turbulent 20-year career, British progressive metal outfit Threshold endured a truly traumatic blow upon the untimely passing of longtime vocalist Andrew McDermott from liver failure in 2011. But, rather than stop them in their tracks (the singer had in fact departed abruptly several years earlier, in part to cope with his ailing health), this tragedy seemingly spurred the group onward, and, after reuniting with original mouthpiece Damian Wilson, 2012's determined March of Progress finally ended a long, five-year wait for the band's loyal fans. More importantly, their patience is rewarded with a truly stunning display of modern, melodic progressive rock and metal in line with Threshold's historical emphasis on delivering compelling songcraft over instrumental showboating -- though that second part is pretty much covered by the group's sheer mastery and tasteful application of their various instruments. Further distinguished by its unabashed deployment of synthesizers far and wide, and a mix so crystalline that vintage ‘80s Marillion becomes a frequent textural touch point (but not a dominant influence), impressive highlights like the power metal-tinged "Ashes," the perfectly balanced "Staring at the Sun," the sober, "time-is-short"-themed "The Hours," and the improbably complex and catchy "Don't Look Down" (featuring hooks as big as Journey!) are consistently thought-provoking and emotionally stimulating. Aggressive six-string and upfront bass guitar performances lend Dream Theater-heaviness and a Rush-like propulsion to parts of "Colophon," "Coda," and others, yet, once again, the similarities are merely aesthetic, as most every song -- even the album's singularly bloated epic, "The Rubicon" -- is sculpted far too meticulously to fall back on imitation. They're darn catchy, to boot, which is perhaps the best description of Threshold's particular place in the progressive rock landscape, and why genre enthusiasts will be happy to have them back in action with March of Progress.

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