September 11, 2023

All prog metal fans will be aware of the works of Threshold who most will agree are the premier British prog metal band and one that is very much on a par with the American greats.

Threshold has had a long and successful career going from strength to strength regardless of several line-up changes which includes numerous vocalists with Damian Wilson having three stints in front of the mike, the great Andrew ‘Mac’ McDermott who we sadly lost in 2011 and is now fronted by the one and only Glynn Morgan who is in his 2nd¬†term with the group. Despite the changes, the band goes on and that is the way it should be with guitarist Karl Groom now the only ever present and he is as good a captain as any act could ever need. Fans will know that the last album was last years Dividing Lines but this review actually touches on the monumental double CD Legend Of The Shires which came out in 2017 and which also marked the return of Glyn Morgan. This epic concept work featured some great songs from founder keyboard player and vocalist Richard West with Groom also heavily involved in the writing process and it seems that West wanted to continue with the concept but the band wanted to move on to pastures new which led us to Dividing Lines.

Photo: Patric_Ullaeus

However, West was left with an itch that he needed to scratch and so he set about writing the follow up record which we now have here. West states that he wrote The Fall of The Shires with no real regard to record it but it just seemed too good an opportunity to miss. He then brought in some good friends in the form of guitarist Ruud Jolie (Within Temptation), bassist Simon Andersson (Darkwater) and drummer Darby Todd (Devin Townsend) and to show that all remains friendly within the Threshold camp Karl Groom also supplies several of his trademark killer solos to the work. In truth, a casual listen would convince most that this is a Threshold album in all but name but there are enough differences to give it, and the band that West has put together, its own life as there is more than enough here to convince anyone that Oblivion Protocol needs to be given an extended lease of life and can function comfortably alongside Threshold!

The Fall follows on from Legend seamlessly with Ruud Jolie showing that he is an incredible guitarist with Andersson and Todd working together impeccably to provide all the necessary power and might that the great progressive metal bands need to drive the music onwards and upwards. I cannot say that Richard West is a revelation as we all know that he is one of the premier keyboard players around and his dexterity has always been monumental so ‘exceptional’ is what we expect as his quality standard and lesser musicians can only look on and be amazed at the stunning levels he achieves time after time. Indeed, his work on Legends was phenomenal but the extra freedom he has here allows him to produce a truly stellar performance. He is also a great singer too and, perhaps, many do not know just how good he is but this album will go a long way to showing that he is very much a vocalist of repute as he breathes real life into the new songs and he could most definitely and very easily move from behind the keys and up to the centre mike but I doubt he would relish that too much as he is primarily a keyboard player at heart. Interestingly, West states that his registry is lower and less heavy than Morgan’s so he went for lower tuned guitar and bass and more atmospheric keyboards to give an more of an orchestral feel to the work but whatever he did it truly works and his vocal delivery is perfect for the album.

Influences from Threshold abound (and how could they not?) but there are also elements of Rush at their most gargantuan and even a flavour of Division Bel-era Floyd but this is all about West and colleagues and they have produced a magnifiscent prog metal album that is epic and has a haughty grandeur which I think we would all have expected as it continues the story arc of Legend Of The Shires perfectly.

The Fall Of The Shires

  1. The Fall (Part 1) (3:50)
  2. Tormented (4:53)
  3. Public Safety Broadcast (5:12)
  4. This Is Not a Test (6:15)
  5. Storm Warning (5:33)
  6. Vertigo (5:03)
  7. Forests In The Fallout (4:57)
  8. The Fall (Part 2) (5:59)