It’s genuinely hard not to get excited when Threshold announces new material. That might give the game away when it comes to the eventual review score, granted, but I can’t help it. The British prog metal titans have had more people in and out than your average international airport, but never seem to lose that captivating sound or level of immense talent album to album. The band claimed that Dividing Lines, the follow-up to 2017s Legends of the Shires, would be the “darker, moodier older brother” of the two. It’s safe to say the claim has some merit.
Threshold have never been shy about dallying along the boundary line of heavier metal within their melodic prog efforts, dipping the occasional toe and often succumbing to the temptation of an entire foot. What Dividing Lines doesn’t do, ironically, is enforce any sort of boundaries. All of the elements are distinct, but never at an arm's distance or bumping into each other.
Take “Hall of Echoes”, the synth-laden opening giving way to a thumping refrain before the warmth of the chorus washes over you. It’s a rollercoaster that carves through ups and downs so smoothly, never interrupting the ride. “Silenced” and “Complex” do similar legwork in making the experience seamless, the latter especially when it’s blending proggy piano elements with decidedly less so guitar work. It’s hard to tell where one form ends and the next begins at times, it’s so masterfully composed.
It’s well known you’ll be court martialled by someone wearing a Rush t-shirt if you don’t have a ten-plus minute track on a prog metal album; thankfully, we get two! “The Domino Effect” fills a slot with roiling, brewing storms of anticipatory build-up and explosive release that sole remaining founding member Karl Groom plays up within an inch of his life. “Defence Condition”, on the other hand, feels like the mission statement for the entire album. A dizzying blend of dark, melodic atmosphere and high-octane energetics that measures its stride fantastically, bouncing from one extreme to the next without missing a beat. It’s not so much an album highlight as it is a back catalogue one, and that’s some stiff competition.
Meanwhile, re-re-returning vocalist Glynn Morgan matches his intensely varied range perfectly to whatever he is tasked with belting out. Swapping from the AOR-esque "woohoo"-s of the surprisingly experimental “Let It Burn” to the soft-spoken “Haunted” with practiced ease, he’s become the rug that ties the room together and it’s a sincere joy to hear him back again.
Both wistfully soaring and tightly focused in equal measure, Dividing Lines marks one of Threshold’s highest points yet, in a career packed to the rafters with them. It hits like a cruise missile on a peaceful country stroll at times, but the transition between that promised moody, heavier sound and the folksy-tinged prog elements is a deftly executed marvel every time. It might veer a little too close to stadium rock at times for the hardcore prog enthusiast, but Threshold are simply unmatched in sheer quality of sound; this is a record that will take some beating to dislodge it from the high bar it has set. Do yourself a huge favor and play this one again and again.