There is no doubt that in the days leading up to the release of Threshold's new album, the decision of parting ways with Damien Wilson (one of the most entertaining frontmen you will ever see live) loomed like a guillotine on the career of the band who I have always called "the good Dream Theater." Holding this U.K. great in such high esteem, the stakes were very high with this new album. Despite the vocal change, its not as if the band was introducing an unknown quantity. The return Glynn Morgan, who fronted the band for the 1994 classic "Psychedelicatessen," was a welcome site. From the first listen of "Legends of the Shires," it proved to be an instant classic and left a moniker of guilt for any doubt cast upon this uber-talented songwriting team.
The transition to Glynn Morgan was so seamless that there are times where you not only picture Damien Wilson singing, but you swear that it was him singing with a just a little less of that patented high pitch. Again, that guilt crept in on the failure to fully recall just how talented Morgan was on "Psychedelicatessen." By the time you reach the 50th pass through the album (and trust me, you will), you might believe you are spinning a best of record for songs you never previously heard.
"Legends of the Shires" is a double album to boot - but for some reason gravity pulls your author into repeated listens of "Stars and Satellites," "The Man Who Saw Through Time" and "Trust the Process" - a 1-2-3 punch that stands with the best ever in progressive metal. Add the phenomenally heavy "Superior Machine" and gorgeous power ballad "State of Independence" and the album could have been just as great shorter as it is extended. The songwriting and variety is astounding.
Mesmerizing keyboards of Richard West set the atmosphere for that special guitar crunch/tone of Karl Groom - the two elements that make Threshold the best in the business. Threshold has always combined the best elements of Marillion and Dream Theater and with a ton of songwriting talent made it refreshingly new, exciting and incredibly unique. It is impossible to randomly hear a Threshold tune and not know exactly who you are dealing with.
Who better to decide the production fate of Threshold than West and Groom - who self-produced "Legends of the Shires" to perfection. With the perfect mix to showcase the talents of the entire band, you would be hard pressed to find a better sound.
With so many bands producing top notch album, annual rankings get harder and harder. Threshold has quite possibly topped any other progressive metal album issued this year, one that includes albums from Leprous, Ayreon and Caligula's Horse among others. "Legends of the Shires" is a must buy and a must have. The band simply obliterated all doubt and went out an released what is arguably the best album of its career.