Threshold, Grace & Fire – Islington Academy, London – 12th May 2023
Prog metallers, Threshold, finish up the UK leg of their Dividing Lines European tour in London – we travelled along to see how the latest material translates into a live setting!
It’s another early Saturday start at the Islington Academy tonight in order to allow for the club night post-gig to take place. This means that there is quite a sparse audience present for the support slot this evening, being taken up by Grace and Fire from the UK. Playing melodic hard rock, they fit in pretty well this evening and there are several links between them and Threshold’s Karl Groom too.
While the band itself is pretty young, the members of the band have been in several outfits prior to the conception of Grace & Fire and are all pretty seasoned professionals. That said, this is still a pretty big gig for them and as they take to the stage I’m detecting there is definitely an element of nervousness in the atmosphere.
Starting with the instrumental Overture from their 2021 debut album Elysium sets the tone, and allows singer André Saint 3 minutes grace period (excuse the pun) before taking to the stage for the title track from the album. Elysium is a well-crafted song with some virtuoso keyboards, sadly these are mainly lost in the mix this evening which is pretty bass heavy. Indeed, the keyboards take a backseat for most of the set which is a bit of a shame as they are definitely a major piece of the Grace and Fire recorded sound.
Paradise Lost showcases some dreamy soloing from Aaron Gidney and some well-crafted choruses. A Warriors Tale picks up the pace somewhat and sees some punchy riffing along with some solid drumming from Graham Brown. Saints’ vocals are strong throughout the short set with an impressive vocal range.
Breathing Murder is another song that was hampered by the sound with the keyboards almost buried to the point where they we virtually inaudible. Set closer Eyes Of The Seer with its punctuated riffing and driving rhythms is a good way to end the performance and leave the crowd with something positive to hang on to.
A pretty good showing from a young band, which showcases some promising songwriting and bodes well for the future. The guys definitely need to work on their stage presence though, as I’m not feeling much engagement with the audience or movement on the stage while playing. No matter, with the crowd suitably warmed up they depart the stage and the scene is set for the main course of the evening.
By the time the lights go down for Threshold, the crowd has swelled to about 2/3rd capacity, still quite a disappointing turnout to be honest for a Saturday night. However, Threshold take to the stage and from the get go it is clear the evening’s energy levels have moved up at least 2 notches. The sound has improved in quality and volume and now the keyboards are much more evident in the mix too.
Last time I saw Threshold back in 2016 they were a 5 piece, today we have a 4 piece with original vocalist Glynn Morgan back on vocals and rhythm guitar. And this has tightened the sound up and the band now sound like a very cohesive unit. At the heart of the band is powerhouse drummer Johanne James who really does drive everything along with no small amount of style. Add to that the guitar of Karl Groom which cuts up through the mix like a knife, the bass of Steve Anderson, solid and locked in with the drums, the keys of Richard West adding sparkle over the top of everything and finally the vocals of Glynn Morgan, assured and confident, and you have a very interesting proposition.
Considering Threshold have been around so long and the current output (the last couple of albums at least) are so good it is strange that the profile of the band is not greater. Sadly, they’ve not really made it into the prog metal big time which is where they really deserve to be. I digress though and back to this evening’s performance which only makes this opinion more valid!
Starting with Haunted from the current album Dividing Lines (read our review here) with its infectious singalong chorus sees the crowd welcome the band to the stage. Glynn Morgan encourages the crowd to sing along, urging participation. Indeed most of the songs this evening come from the last album, no real surprise there, this is the Dividing Lines European tour after all.
The Domino Effect slows things down a little and introduces some big keyboard lines (which are almost Tubular Bells inspired) and some funky guitar riffs. The breakdown in the middle of the song sees Groom & West knock out some impressive soloing. Groom also throwing some equally impressive guitar hero shapes! Every now and again Groom & Anderson meet on the stage to do some Status Quo’esque posing. The composition itself is a little long for my taste and I end up waiting for the song itself to kick back into gear.
Slipstream is one of a handful of nods in the set to earlier material, very well received by the crowd and Let iI Burn brings us bang up to date again. There are some very poignant lyrics here – “Mother Earth pleads as she falls to her knees” and “We could belong to this world, we have a chance to make it right, all that we’ve wronged, or we could just let it burn...”. Morgan’s vocals sound great with enough emotion to carry such emotive lyrics and all the while Johanne James takes every opportunity to twirl his drumsticks in between beating the living daylights out of his kit – he really does hit the skins pretty hard!
Defence Condition is another song from the current album that shows the strength of songwriting and the ability of the band to write big riffs and choruses that stick around in your head, there is also some nice guitar work again from Groom. Complex is probably my favourite track on the Dividing Lines album with its chunky riffing, dreamy keyboard lines and excellent lyrics, walking a fine line between accessibility while retaining an edginess – it is good to see it factor in the set.
Lost In Translation closes the set and there is a pause for a breather before the band are back on the stage to complete the evening with King Of Nothing and Small Dark Lines followed by the obligatory bows and handing out of the setlists, picks and sticks!
An excellent performance where the band have not put a foot wrong. Complex songs with an emphasis on big memorable choruses and insightful lyrics as opposed to complexity for complexities sake is what sets Threshold aside from other many other prog metal icons (the reader can fill in names here!) They deserve more success and recognition for the fine sounds they are making, especially now that they appear to definitely be in writing the best music of their careers.
Threshold continue their Dividing Lines Tour through Europe in 2023, tickets can be purchased via the Threshold website, here.
All concert photography by Graham Hilling. You can check out more of his work on his website, here.
Categories: Live Reviews