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Fear the void! - 90%

naverhtrad, December 14th, 2016

I know that in my recent review of Wounded Land I made a point of highlighting Threshold’s consistency and their ‘Metallica-meets-Yes’ Formula, in spite of the (in some cases over-)ambitious exploration present there. But the album in question, Psychedelicatessen, takes that consistency almost a little bit too far. Threshold went from near sensory-overload with their synth-heavy, flourishing ‘80’s-vintage first album, to a much more distilled essence in their second. Even starting with the opening riff of ‘Sunseeker’, you hear more simple structures (though the progressions will sometimes creep up on you, as in ‘Will to Give’); more prominent straight-up riffing; with synth effects and keyboard work both still there but relegated much more to the background than before.

The result is something which retains and purifies their Formula, and which actually sounds much more consistent with their later output than either Wounded Land or the somewhat weaker (by Threshold standards!) oddball follow-up, Extinct Instinct. And this, despite Psychedelicatessen featuring both a one-off drummer and a one-off vocalist – Glynn Morgan – who (even though he’s still well-suited to the soaring melodies and tight harmonies that Threshold’s oeuvre demands) certainly has more of an abrasive hard-rock edge to his voice than either Wilson or McDermott does. Think a vocal delivery somewhat more along the lines of Freddie Mercury (a parallel notable in the balladic ‘Under the Sun’ particularly).

Threshold manages to deliver some pretty heavy pieces, in fact. And seemingly contradicting a bit what I said above, the closer, ‘Devoted’, has its synths and melodies riding on one big, chunky line before settling into a reverb-heavy vocal section, and much of the way through manages to be an anthemic fist-pumper à la classic, mid-1980’s Queensrÿche. Very interesting stuff. A hint at what might have been, perhaps, if Threshold had continued with Morgan rather than Wilson? Though I wouldn’t think of trading the uniqueness of later Wilson or McDermott Threshold for anything else, no matter how potentially-awesome!

For the most part, though, on Psychedelicatessen you can hear a trimming down of the frills, a narrowing of focus, doubling down on those elements that worked in Wounded Land (soaring vocals and tight, classic-rock harmonics mixed with solid-but-subtly-complex riffing), and jettisoning of a few, but not all, of the more hokey ‘80’s-retro synth elements. It’s clear from this album that they’ve almost, almost found their footing and their signature as a band – though still demonstrate (as with ‘Devoted’) a willingness to arch into different musical territories.

Lyrically speaking, Threshold haven’t quite lost their leftist-environmentalist political consciousness here – the ponderous pentatonic plodder ‘Babylon Rising’ gives vent to excoriations of how ‘businessmen and money-spinners rape the Earth for gain’, for example. But they are clearly turning more toward the long view, the religious-philosophical take on these same themes. ‘Under the Sun’, for example, deals with the follies of grasping after material wealth when you’re not going to take it with you when you die. Other themes include the psychological anomie of modern life, the draw of cults and spiritual charlatans on those thus dissatisfied, trust and betrayal among friends, predestination and fate. More broadly, though, Psychedelicatessen shows the willingness of Threshold’s main songwriting duo at this point (Groom and Jeary) to take the lyrics both up to the cosmic, grand-historical scale, and down to the personal-psychological level.

It’s a marked step up from Threshold’s debut, and has a bit more of a finished and polished feel, and very much earns its shelf-space keep. But Psychedelicatessen is still not quite the high point of their opus. That comes a few more albums on…

18 / 20

You Are Not My Kind - 85%

Dragonchaser, September 8th, 2014
Written based on this version: 1994, CD, Giant Electric Pea

The transformation in Threshold's sound and attitude between “Wounded Land” and its 1994 follow up “Psychedelicatessen” is like night and day. While their debut was a doom-laden affair with a distinct 80s metal quality to it, their sophomore effort is a step up in every department, from the song writing and performances to the production, which is thick and heavier than a ton of bricks. The only Threshold album to feature the vocals of Mindfeed singer Glynn Morgan, “Psychedelicatessen”often gets overlooked in their discography, despite being possibly the coolest album they ever recorded.

I tend to reach for later albums when I'm hankering for a Threshold fix, but you can't deny the metal ownage of this record, which just rules from start to finish. This is generally due to the obscene amount of riffs dished out by Karl Groom and Nick Midson, and the powerful, grit-filled vocals of Morgan. It's a shame he didn't record more with the band, because he is unstoppable here. Mac blew him away in later years, but Morgan was more suited to the band's early sound than Damien Wilson, a statement you can't argue with in tunes like the monstrous “Sunseeker”, one of the band's best tunes bar none, and the groovy “Will To Give”.

Threshold have always had a post-thrash temperament to their sound, and nowhere is that more apparent than on “Psychedelicatessen”. The riffs on “He Is I Am” and the grinding “A Tension Of Souls” would put Testament to shame, no question. Now, this is the band's most metal release, without too many prog leanings or over-bearing keys from Richard West, but it does pale in comparison to the varied and strange “Extinct Instinct”. Saying that, if you can't get away with the band's later works, you will not be able to resist the riffs and energy displayed here. Progressive metal with a PhD and a couple of flying Vs.

The battle of Threshold vocalists is won - 99%

Crossover, November 7th, 2008

So who is the best vocalist to exercise his role as fontman in English prog metal veterans Threshold? Is is Damian Wilson or Andrew McDermott. Trick question, it is Glynn Morgen. So you’re a Threshold fanboy thinking “No its Wilson’s nasally, but unique and powerful voice” or “No its Andy mac’s dynamically accented and professional set of pipes.” Regardless, Glynn Morgen takes the cake with a powerful, pure heavy metal voice both technical and proficient. His astounding range, intense conviction, and heavenly voice make for one awesome show on this disc. Not to mention the core of this band, Karl Groom and Richard West along with their instrumental cohorts deliver the most powerful progressive metal release ever.

The music on this album is heavy and melodic, while allowing itself a progressive atmosphere and several ballads. This album contains both epic and to-the-point tracks. Threshold is not the most technical progressive metal band but surely one of the tightest, virtuoso coups in the genre’s boundaries. For an outsider, this could be considered power/progressive metal but not in the sense of Elegy or Angra and other bands that focus on speed and poppy melodies. Rather the prog/power metal found on this disc aligns more with the US side of things. There are several punishing riffs found throughout that would make some thrash bands run for cover, these things are heavy and REALLY FREAKING POWERFUL, not only that, but the melodies on this album are spot on. In the longer songs you can hear an array of more than 10 different stunning melodies to submerse your self in. This album is a perfect balance of heavy and soft featuring 2 acoustic ballads and some bridgelike clean parts. There is also a fair share of keys on this album but they are used in a way I’ve not heard before. They perfectly compliment the heaviness of the other instruments and never go over the stop or cheesy.

Every song on this is a killer, the only downer perhaps the second ballad “Lost” which seems out of place being a 2:43 track sandwiched between to epic monsters. This is a mandatory buy for prog, power, heavy, and even thrash fans. The song “Into the Light” may be the best prog song ever. This CD TOTALLY trumps anything else these guys would put out, even though they had some great ones later.

Standouts: “Sunseeker”, “A tension of Souls”, “Into the Light”, “Under the Sun”, “Innocent”, and “Intervention”. But they all kick ass and are far above average than your typical metal songs.