Threshold - Critical Mass

Year of Release: 2002
Label: InsideOut Music
Catalog Number: IOMA 2041-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:36:00

I feel guilty. Already being a fan of Threshold since Wounded Land (though I haven't yet reviewed their entire catalog yet), I was anxious to hear Critical Mass when it arrived, but because I am trying to review things in the order they arrived, this was a bit down the line. But, there it sat (along with a few other CDs falling into the same category), tempting me. I hemmed and hawed, tortured myself and ? finally broke down. And I'm glad I did, as Critical Mass is a solid release through and through. From the opening track of "Phenomenon," you know you are in for another satisfying trip. I love nearly everything about it. Yes, I said nearly, but that "nearly" is so very close to "everything." I'm not sure if the digitized/synthesized voice that delivers the throughline lyric on "Phenomenon" was a good choice. But, I've only listened to this about 10 times?no, 11. Well, 12 if you count this playing through right now. So, maybe as I because accustomed to that particular effect, my opinion will change.

Ah, but otherwise? oh, there are so many wonderful moments on this CD, whether it's a guitar part here, a particular chorus there, a keyboard part over here, etc. There's something to love about each track. It's not an album about flashy solos or heavy crunch, though there's that element. Solos are there convey emotion or feeling, and Mac's emotive vocals are filled with warmth. There a few tracks that begin as if they'll be the album's ballad, but these soon become very powerful, heavy tracks. The most balladic is the lovely, melancholy "Avalon," which itself isn't a frilly, frothy track but, but is a solid piece (and one my favourites). It is bookended by a brief but tender piano intro from keyboard Richard West. And there are some great solos here, just of the variety that I so love? so achingly and meltingly beautiful I'm in heaven. They are, for those who've not been reading the story so far (that is, all my reviews), those lush, lovingly rendered leads that I so associate with Karl Groom (here), but also Steve Rothery and David Gilmour (and they sound especially Gilmour/Floyd like in "Critical Mass: Part Two: Fusion." Of course, Threshold have a twin guitar attack, that second guitarist being long time member Nick Midson, so let's not minimize his contributions as some of the stunning leads are his. Holding everything down and giving each track its explosive power are Johannes James on drums and percussion and Jon Jeary on bass.

Who'd have thought such scientific terms as "neutron," "proton," "super string membrane" would sound good sung? But here we have that very thing in the first part of "Critical Mass," called "Fission." And done so beautifully. It's another knockout performance by the whole band. But then Threshold has always been a band without mere throwaway lyrics, starting with the pointed Wounded Land. This tradition continues here. Critical Mass examines us - the human species - and our place in the universe, whether real or imagined. One of my favourites here, which is a tough thing to say, as I love every track, is "Falling Away." We've only got one home, but we, as a species, haven't really realized that what's here is unique and needs to be preserved. We will be the cause of our own doom.

"Fragmentation" is one of the heavier, chugging tracks on the album, but as I said, this doesn't mean the rest of the material is weak or lacks the necessary punch; they do, just in different ways. I love the way Mac's vocals soar on "Echoes Of Life," which also features another terrific guitar solo.

This is simply one of the best things released in 2002 ? and the more I listen to it, the more I am loving it. Sure, it's not progressive in the sense that you don't recognize it as Threshold -- they haven't strayed from their chosen genre, the music it fits in with the bands previous material, certainly of the last few albums. But it seems even tighter, more focused than Hypothetical. It's is a classy album that may just end up being the band's best ever (and deserving of my rating busting 6 of 5?)

Released in Europe by Inside Out (SPV 085-65202 CD IOMCD 108)

Phenomenon (5:30) / Choices (8:19) / Falling Away (6:52 ) / Fragmentation (6:34) / Echoes of Life (8:55) / Round and Round (5:26) / Avalon (4:45) / Critical Mass, Pts. 1-3 (13:35)

Karl Groom - guitar
Jon Jeary - bass
Mac - vocals
Richard West -keyboards
Nick Midson -guitar
Johanne James ?drums

Wounded Land (1993)
Psychedelicatessen (1994)
Livedelica (1995)
Extinct Instinct (1997)
Clone (1998)
Decadent (1999)
Hypothetical (2001)
Wounded Land: Special Edition (2001/2002)
Psychedelicatessen/Livedelica: Special Edition (2001/2002)
Concert In Paris (2002)
Critical Mass (2002)
Wireless - Acoustic Sessions (2003)
Critical Energy (2004)
Extinct Instinct: Special Edition (2004)
Subsurface (2004)
Replica (2004)
Surface to Stage (2006)
Dead Reckoning (2007)
The Ravages Of Time (2007)
Paradox - The Singles Collection (2009)
March Of Progress (2012)
For The Journey (2014)
European Journey (2015)
Legends Of The Shires (2017)
Two-Zero-One-Seven (2018)

Critical Energy (2004) (DVD)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin UK

Added: January 12th 2003
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 1435
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]