Release DetailsLABEL Inside Out
RELEASED ON 2/2/2004
posted on 3/2004 By:
Jesus H Christ...Now THIS is anachrometal done right! Start with songs that, while seemingly simple, leave a lot of room for individual movement by the various players. Add a clean singer that seems to understand the difference between singing well for a metal band and trying out for some metal soap opera where he will be playing the part of the master thespian who can't stop looking in the mirror. Throw this mix in front of an audience for a little extra enthusiasm, then take the recording back to the studio and give it a round, warm makeover. And I guess you have Critical Energy by a band called Threshold.
Who, as is often the case lately, I have never heard before. But they seem to have been around long enough for a double live record. And I guess I can see why. This is a good band and they have made a good record. And I don't just mean for a power metal band. This is a fairly good album by most standards. Not a perfect or particularly relevant album, but not everything that happens has to be cutting edge. As long as it doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, there can be some gratification for following in footsteps.
The place that I need to start is with the singer. You have or you can read some other reviews of mine to see how harshly a judge clean vocalists. If you are going to sing clean, you better fucking well be able to pull it off. It has as much to do with restraint as it does with range, as much with cadence as with emphasis. You are the human element that, no matter what else is going on musically, the listener will focus on instinctively. You will make or break the music by your performance. So I tend to hold you to a higher than normal standard. A bad singer can make good music unlistenable. But a singer that understands how delicate the balance between personal talent and the power of a song to move itself is rare these days. "Mac" MacDermott pulls this off better than just about any modern metal singer I have heard. Unafraid to let his voice find the mean of every melody, whether that means simply letting notes ring, adding a little vibrato, or adding a little growl, he enhances the songs without soapboxing them to prove his own virtuosity; one of the best metal vocal performances I have heard in years.
The music he fronts can best be described as slightly prog, slightly power but mainly heavy rock, or anachrometal. It all has a familiar feel to it, although I am not very interested in tracking it down. This is because the band makes the music theirs, and in fact that sense of familiarity may simply be a reaction to the ease with which the group presents its songs. Not unlike the singer, the various players all seem to be far more interested in creating a good set of songs then enhancing their resumes. The guitarists throw down power chords and licks that will get your head banging, then turn around and wow you with tasty solos. The emphasis, again, is on balance. Finding the mean. Same with the drummer, a timekeeper's timekeeper, steady and tasteful, but ready to fuck things up when the sound calls for it. The keys, never one of my favorite aspects of a metal band, are played with a good aesthetic, never fixing anything that isn't broken. The bassist is fairly invisible, though. I am sure that's the plan, but I like to know my brothers are out there.
If I have a criticism, it's that as great as everything sounds, it does sound a little too familiar at times. And the tasteful way the band plays also leads you to crave some serious shredding, blasting, guttural counterpoints. Two records is a long time to go without my modern metal fix. And as this is a live recording, you can pick out little mishaps if you really want to. But if you do, then you suck anyway, so fuck off.
Bottom line: While this is definitely not my style of music, and hasn't been for a long time, Threshold are that most rare of bands that leaves me not the least bit surprised that I am enjoying something I normally wouldn't. This is not for the Unique Leader fanatics, although I am one. And it's not for the grind/crust/metalcore crowd, although I am one. Nor is it, you know, fuck all that. It's a power/prog/old school metal record that someone who likes his metal heavy and brutal and venomous is still digging. I can't think of a better recommendation, as long as you understand what you are getting into. Assuming you do, this is an excellent record, and I will play it again.
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