|Review: Threshold - Subsurface|
Label: Inside Out Music
Year released: 2004
Genre: Progressive Metal
Review online: July 27, 2015
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
Rated 4.33/5 (86.67%) (9 Votes)
Back in 2004, Threshold released their biggest album to date, a hulking, crystalline opus known as Subsurface, and while Hypothetical put them on the map, this was the one that saw the band truly take flight. Everything up until this point had been a building block for what is arguably the band's masterwork, and with a bigger production and more scope in song writing than they had before this, Threshold marched into the history books with one of the finest albums the modern Progressive Metal genre has ever known.
Now, if you're familiar with Threshold's unique sound during the Mac period, you will know what to expect here. Gigantic post-thrash riffs, neo-prog instrumental finesse, AOR-esque choruses, and politically aimed lyrics that snarl and bite. Threshold had never managed an album that overflowed with such intrinsic brilliance as this one did, and it upped the band's stock considerably in the melodic metal world. The material here sits closer to Hypothetical in tone rather than its melancholic follow up Critical Mass, but really, this is just Threshold using all the tools at their disposal to create a unified, artistic album that balances between short, snappy songs like "Pressure" and florid epics such as the lush "Art of Reason". The artwork is a good indicator of the sounds at play here; there is something of an airy, lake-side feel to the album that breathes life into "Static", "The Destruction of Words", and other laid-back numbers that might have otherwise seemed contrite or even boring.
But Threshold have always been about the songs, and they don't let atmospherics get in the way of wowing their audience with killer cuts like the tumbling "Ground Control" and "Stop Dead", one of the oddest tunes the band would record, utilizing a zippy pop melody that launches feet-first into one of Threshold's very best vocal lines. The album is pretty much defined for me by its two humongous epics, those being "The Art of Reason" and opener "Mission Profile". The former is one of Richard West's best takes on social commentary, while the latter takes off at full speed, careening in every direction, overlaid with Mac's wondrous vocals and vivid backing choirs. You're looking at the greatest Threshold song of all time here, and possibly my favorite album opener, too. It sets the bar high and the album can't quite make it back up to the same heights by the time it has run its course, instead opting to take you on a journey through sublime landscapes tempered by inventive, soothing lead work and celestial keys.
Mac's vocals were on top form here, and I'd certainly say this is the best work he did with the band (though it takes nothing away from its commercial follow up, Dead Reckoning, Mac's swansong), and even now, with the return of Damien Wilson, Threshold haven't quite managed to top Subsurface. This is smart, involving, highly-compositional metal for connoisseurs of the style, and stands not only as Threshold's crowning achievement, but also as one of Progressive Metal's truly essential albums. Claim it at any cost.
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