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A testament to all the things you’ve done - 90%

naverhtrad, December 17th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

For the Journey is a quieter and more reflective full-length than March of Progress, and is to that album much what Critical Mass was to Hypothetical. The band clearly took a step back and mellowed out slightly from what they had been doing, and Groom and West used the time and the chance to take stock. There’s less experimentation here, and more a retrenchment to the old tried-and-true patterns. They delivered, in short, an album that they knew would please the fans, but not one which pushed the envelope with ambition and drive in every direction (both technically and emotionally) in the same way March did.

That’s not to say at all that these guys aren’t rocking, though. ‘Watchtower on the Moon’ follows the lead of Reckoning and March, opening the album with an uptempo, hard-hitting anthem that gets you pumping your fist. And yes, ‘The Box’ may start out (and finish) quiet and moody, but then a rabble-rousing sample of Mario Savio’s famous ‘bodies on the gears’ speech at Berkeley gives way to a flat-out killer riff. It’s mostly toward the latter half of this album – ‘Turned to Dust’, ‘Lost in Your Memory’, ‘The Mystery Show’ – that the sound mellows out in a major way. The tunes go by at a relaxed pace, but the crystalline melodies, aerial and atmospheric keyboard work, dynamic choruses and masterful, well-paced Genesis-reminiscent arrangements draw you in with a practised ease. One point of interest for me: it seems that they went even a little further than Reckoning did in the Urban Breed-era Tad Morose direction with the James-authored bonus track ‘I Wish I Could’; that chthonic, labyrinthine, North African-sounding power chord underlying the verses wouldn’t sound at all out of place on Matters of the Dark.

Long story short: this album does everything proficiently that a Threshold album ought to do, and it does it well. Fittingly so, for an album that sets out to provide a retrospective over the band’s long career. It doesn’t break any new ground. It’s a band that’s reached the end of its row and is looking back over a mighty and well-storied field.

The lyrics are understandably also more introspective and more religious-philosophical than March’s, though they haven’t backed away entirely from the direct social commentary. ‘The Box’ is an extended take on our modern addiction to technology, with the fear expressed that it is taking away our independence and creativity. ‘Autumn Red’ is one of those songs, like ‘Avalon’ on Critical Mass, which can be read multiple different ways – either as a personal song of disillusionment in a relationship, or as a comment on the intrusions and loss of privacy and trust in a state where everyone is a suspect. ‘There’s an echo in the air distorting what was there, and it follows everywhere – like a shadow, like a stare.

On the other hand, there’s much more a sense of questioning, a sense of self-doubt and reflection, on songs like ‘Turned to Dust’ and ‘The Mystery Show’, in which Groom and West turn their critical lyrical eyes inward. Here they ponder more generally the topics of cognitive bias and idle theorising, being ‘lost in the rumours and lies’, and wonder whether it’s of any use in the end. ‘The more that you grow, the less you’re sure of what you know.’ The only answer they can arrive at definitively, the only hope for change that they can see (whether personal or social) lies in truthfulness with one’s own failings, and seeking and giving forgiveness. ‘That would surely be a breakthrough…

So where does this leave the unsung heroes of British prog-rock, after their tenth album? This won’t be the last we hear of them – this album may put them in a holding pattern of sorts, but they’re in a clear patch of sky to chart their future courses. Long may they continue to journey!

18 / 20

And the thoughts are my own - 93%

Empyreal, September 27th, 2014

The release of a new Threshold album is always a cause for celebration and this one is no different. March of Progress saw the band not missing a beat after the death of old singer Mac McDermott, and they replaced him almost immediately with another old singer, Damian Wilson. It was one of the best albums of 2012, and like clockwork, For the Journey follows – another masterful work of art that continues to show why they're one of the best bands in the business today.

This is a mellower and less extravagant album that March, with the band sounding comfortable and confident – to me this album sounds like the band has gone in a more subtle and underplayed route, with less of the headstrong attitude of its predecessor. These are very chill, almost down-tempo tracks with a lot of balladry and misty keys layered over everything, and while those looking for something heavy might be disappointed, it's a masterclass in intellectual songwriting and dense, esoteric melodies.

The band has definitely streamlined their sound from the really old albums, but the use of more accessible melodies and even catchier choruses has only made them a better band – the immediately accessible hooks are only window dressing on the extremely tight, well-written music and lyrics beneath. This is an album full of tectonic-plate-sized rhythms, celestial keyboards and Wilson's inimical voice and expertly done vocal lines. When you hear earworm opener “Watchtower on the Moon” once, you'll fall in love; when you hear it five times, you won't be able to get through the day without hearing it.

There's just such a deep sense of compositional unity here. All of these songs are just so, so well written and emotionally vibrant, with denser progressive numbers like “The Box” or cinematic-sounding closer “Siren Sky” sharing album space with “Lost in Your Memory” or “Turned to Dust,” which show Threshold at their most AOR – but then, in the tradition of Rush or contemporaries Symphony X, the real mark of a great prog band isn't how well they can bend your mind with complex instrumentals, but how well they can write good, simpler songs. Progressivism isn't a contest to see who can write the loopiest instrumental foreplay, but rather a tool used to further the endgame of writing great songs – bands whose only purpose for existing is to show off compositional dexterity aren't going to last the test of time, but I think Threshold will. Really, when you make a good enough album you don't have to show off, because the music will show how talented you are anyway if it's good enough.

“The Box” really is a great song...with lyrics satirizing modern consumerism and the heartless ways the human race can mine those less-fortunate in the name of progress, and music building from somber balladry into a tempestuous trudge, it's probably my favorite Threshold song since “Pilot in the Sky of Dreams” - these guys really are one of those special bands that does the long songs just as well, if not better than, their shorter ones. “Unforgiven” is a very mellow, crawling tune with chilling vocals – and like many of the tracks on here, makes excellent use of the band's tactic of repeating vocal mantras with expertly layered choirs underneath, which is something that really puts the individual “Threshold” stamp on this band's work.

“Autumn Red” is a pounding, introspective anthem with mysterious lyrics and a killer chorus, and “The Mystery Show” is even better with its stargazing keyboards and fragile, delicate vocals that hold a ton of power behind them – plus excellent lyrics about religion and those who think they know everything:

Forget the paranoid believer
Who heard a noise on his receiver
Instead of growing with the town folk
He stays alone out on the back roads

This kind of lyricism pretty much exemplifies Threshold as a band – this kind of depth of thought and without an ounce of fanaticism, hysteria or condescension. Just brilliant.

“Siren Sky” is another epic closer with a real sort of cinematic flourish in the keys and a set of uplifting lyrics delivered by Wilson in a stunning show of self confidence and wizened world-weary knowledge – just a brilliant tune and one that will grow on you like fungus.

It's hard to find much to fault with this one, as it's simply a great album of intelligent, well-written progressive music that keeps you riveted from start to finish. It's a more textured and layered work than they've done in recent years and will probably take longer to grow on you than something as elaborate as their last album, but even so it's worth the time. Like any great band, Threshold has refined their sound into an instantly recognizable one – you will know a Threshold song when you hear one. They've become an institution in their genre and perhaps no other modern prog metal band save for Symphony X is still going so strong. This is a wondrous album full of well-crafted music, beautiful lyricism and a real sense of foggy autumnal atmosphere, and it's one of the standouts of the year.

This Physical Theatre Hurts - 97%

Dragonchaser, September 27th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

I had some pretty high expectations for this one, and the latest disc from prog metal titans Threshold does not disappoint. While 2012's “March Of Progress” was a large collection of songs, all of which took a leaf out of the band's historic discography, it felt less like an album and more of a celebration of Threshold's longevity. It's follow up, the gloom-laden “For The Journey”, has much more in common with the band's later work with Mac, even though Damien Wilson remains behind the mic.

This is another great album from Threshold, one that is richer and deeper than its predecessor, yet contains some of the band's simplest songs. "Watchtower On The Moon” is a classic Threshold opener, with a charging riff, killer mid-section, and a harmony-drenched chorus you won't soon forget. They follow this up with the sombre “Unforgiven”, a yearning track that finds Karl Groom and co experimenting with melancholic melodies and crushing rhythms. Complex epic “The Box” is up next, and flattens you with its twists and turns. Lyrically, this is a battle between the modern world and its simpler forbearer, something Threshold have returned to again and again, striking hard against the rest of the album's lyrical topics, which look inward, toward the human flaw that exists in us all, rather than pointing fingers at political figures and societal problems.

With the epic coming so early in the album's flow, the band strive to pull you in with a set of shorter, punchy cuts, each of which could've been a single track before release. “Turned To Dust” is the closest thing here to the uplifting “March Of Progress”, while album highlight “Autumn Red” recalls the sublime nature of “Subsurface”, boasting the best and most memorable chorus I've heard this year. Elsewhere, we have other stand-outs such as the ponderous entity known as “The Mystery Show”, and the life-changing, cinematic closer “Siren Sky”, possibly the best Threshold song since “Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams”. I'm not kidding, folks. Whenever Damien pleads: “This physical theatre hurts”, I almost lose it.

“For The Journey” has better flow than “March Of Progress”, and with its autumnal feel and self-referring lyrical standpoint, serves as a perfect atmospheric accompaniment to the changing of seasons. The cover art is ideal for the sounds on display, and the band have never sounded as coherent, mature, and stylish as they do here. I'll be surprised if anything tops this as album of the year for me in 2014. Sensational work.

For the win - 90%

Andromeda_Unchained, September 26th, 2014
Written based on this version: 2014, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak)

Any year that brings a new Threshold album is one where you’ll find me raving about its brilliance. This is a band I’ve been able to depend upon since first hearing, and one which without fail meets and/or exceeds expectations every time. I’d even go as far as to say that Threshold is the finest act playing progressive metal, but that may just be the fan-boy inside screaming out. However, this level of professionalism, overall quality, and superior product is one I dare anyone to defy. For The Journey is very much business as usual for the lads from Surrey, building upon the glistening spires of what came before.

One thing I won’t dress up are the similarities between this work and prior masterpiece March Of Progress. Both albums have a considerable bit in common, although given the excellent reception of the prior opus, this is unsurprising. I don’t think it comes at any expense, but it would be negligent if I didn’t tell you that there are moments on this album which sound a lot like the last one.

Okay, so with that out of the way, what does For The Journey do that March doesn’t? Well, to be blunt, I’d say it absolutely crushes you. Here Threshold seeks to pierce your very being with the utmost in accuracy. This is very poignant, searing music which for the most part maintains a marching pace, sucking you in and casting you to the floor. Glistening displays of melodic brilliance build you back up, with Damian Wilson’s crystalline vocals reaching out and raising the soul, though not before goliath rhythm guitars strike the foundation. There’s without a doubt a dark, doom-impending vibe throughout, which is of course a hallmark of Threshold’s overall sound, yet hopeful motifs and melodies are expertly weaved in throughout. I don’t think this last element has ever been featured so prominently on a Threshold album as it is here.

That’s not to say that For The Journey is an oppressive chore of an album, as this is without a doubt the Threshold we know and love: complete with post-thrash metal riffing, prog rock breaks, and AOR-tinged refrains. The hooks throughout are absolutely sublime, whether obvious (as in the likes of “Ashes’” little brother “Watchtower On The Moon” and the foot stomping “Turned To Dust”), or intelligently crafted as in highlight “Siren Sky” (which might just be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Seriously, I can’t stress the brilliance of this track. So you think the chorus has hit? Think again. I was surprised to find that Pete Morten wrote this one, which is even more proof of what an excellent addition to the band he has proved to be.

If there’s a slight disappointment to be found, it’s that this album feels a little short compared to some of the band’s prior work, which I guess could be seen as a compliment as well. I want more! That aside, the rest is as close to progressive metal bliss as you’re going to get. Performance and production is flawless as usual, from Karl Groom’s impeccable lead guitar style to Richard West’s ever tasteful keyboard approach. No one player stands out brazenly above the rest – Threshold has never been about show-boating, although if you do want technicality, the leviathan epic “The Box” will show you a thing or two about how it’s done.

I don’t seem to be able to praise this enough. I’m lapping up every minute here. Whilst I still give the edge to March Of Progress, I think For The Journey has its own formidable place amongst Threshold canon. It almost feels like Threshold is recreating the stretch from Hypothetical onward with its current sound, and in a way, this marks a similar progression from March as Critical Mass did from Hypothetical. Maybe that’s just me, though. Nevertheless, I’ll be showing you to your seats on the hype train. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re in this one for the journey (as if you didn’t know that was coming). BUY YOUR DAMN TICKETS ALREADY!

Written for Black Wind Metal