Threshold - Critical Mass - 2002


Basic melodic hardrock, with an explicit symphonic touch and a slight metal flavor. This describes the music on the album "Critical Mass", the fifth release of the English band Threshold. I guess the description progrock is a bit too much honor for their melodious, but relatively simple structured music.


The hardrock basis comes from the rather heavy and solid guitar play of Karl Groom and Nick Midson. Sometimes the guitar riffs, but probably more the sounds of the guitars tends to metal, but I wouldn’t compare the sound of Treshold with that of bands like Planet X and Symphony X. The symphonic touch of course comes from the use of keyboards, especially a lot of orchestral strings, played by Richard West. I personally think that it’s a pity that the guitar parts are mainly simple chords. More "intelligent" arrangements and sounds would make the music of this band much more interesting. What perhaps compensates for this are the good vocals. Not only lead singer Andrew "Mac" Dermott has a good voice and manages to keep a pleasant sound, also the multi-vocal or choir parts in the refrains of the songs are a pleasure to listen to. On bass and drums Jon Jeary and Johanne James do their job as you may expect from today’s rock musicians.

On this album Threshold delivers 8 melodic songs that fit into the hardrock framework, but also feature frequent ballad parts. The first two songs "Phenomenon" (5:30) and "Choices" (6:19) are quite heavy, with typical hardrock guitar riffs and solos and an occasional easy break. The second track has a good sounding “wah-wah” synthesizer solo. Track 3 "Falling away" (6:52) is mainly a ballad with a nice piano and guitar theme on a layer of strings, but contains also some up tempo instrumental parts with a nice guitar solo. Track 4 "Fragmentation" (6:34) illustrates the metal feeling, with recurring heavy rhythm guitar chords and intense drum parts in the finale, but is in fact a hardrock ballad.

Track 5 "Echoes of life" (8:55) opens, as track 3, with an easy piano/guitar part with vocals. Later on again more up-tempo with the characteristic heavy guitar chords and orchestral strings accompaniment. Halfway a nice guitar/synthesizer solo duel and near the finale again a nice guitar solo on top of a piano and strings layer. A good and varied song. It becomes a little monotonous, but track 6 "Round and round" (5:25) and track 7 "Avalon" (4:45) actually have the same opening pattern, where the first one features again heavy guitar riffs and the latter is quite a catching and pleasant ballad.

The long title track "Critical mass part 1-3" (13:35) is a piece with frequent hardrock parts, with enjoyable keyboards parts and solos, that, after a slow part with an intense guitar solo, finishes acoustically with a beautiful synthesizer melody. The second half of this piece, from the start of the intense guitar solo, resembles the sound of Pendragon.


If you like not too complex melodious rock with heavy guitar play, a symphonic touch, much room for ballad like pieces and not too much originality, you will certainly enjoy “Critical mass”. Although solid, there sound is certainly not raw, but rather polished and enjoyable.

author - date - rating - label

Wim Verweij - December 2002 -   - Inside Out