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Threshold - "Dead Reckoning" (CD)

Threshold - "Dead Reckoning" CD cover image

"Dead Reckoning" track listing:

1. Slipstream
2. This Is Your Life
3. Elusive
4. Hollow
5. Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams
6. Fighting For Breath
7. Disappear
8. Safe To Fly
9. One Degree Down

Reviewed by on November 23, 2009

"One of the most frustrating things about this disc is that nearly every song has a great beginning. Somehow, the energy seems to fade a minute into many of the album's tracks."

One of the dangers of progressive rock and metal is that, in the quest to pile on more complexities and solos, an artist or band can lose track of the basic kernel of the song. That danger is on regrettable display on Threshold's "Dead Reckoning."

These British bashers have amassed a reputation for quality work over their decade-and-a-half of putting out albums. To achieve any kind of prog-rock success, instrumental prowess is a must, and that prowess is on full display as guitarist Karl Groom and keyboardist Richard West trade licks on tracks like "Elusive."

Unfortunately, "Elusive" is also a track where some of the band's disjointedness is on full display. The song alternates clumsily between an almost anthemic chorus and a thrashy riff, and then there are Andrew "Mac" McDermott's tries at death metal vocals. The instrumental solo break is great, though.

One of the most frustrating things about this disc is that nearly every song has a great beginning. Somehow, the energy seems to fade a minute into many of the album's tracks. The opener, "Slipstream," has a heavy riff that has a bit of harmonic squeal to it, with McDermott's death growl seeming entirely appropriate. Unfortunately, the song loses most of its energy when it hits the slow chorus and struggles to get that energy back. Great solos help me forgive that.

The album's best track, "This Is Your Life," is a fully woven-together work that blends a grinding riff and power metal chorus to good effect. McDonald's at his best vocally here, and the band gets out of his way during the full-throated chorus. The worst on the disc is the weak, piano-driven "Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams," which has a decidedly '80s pop vibe (McDonald even reminds me a little bit of George Michael here). When you add the clunky chorus and jet airplane sounds, it just gets a little silly. I will say that Steve Anderson's bass line is interesting, though.

Though I'm usually not the biggest fan of rock keyboards, I have to admit that Richard West does a good job even in the synthed-up sections, and I really enjoyed the way his piano gives way to Groom's slightly funky guitar riff on "Disappear."

Nearly every song starts strong on Threshold's "Dead Reckoning." If some of them last too long or head off in puzzling directions, that's a hazard of the genre that's mostly overcome by the band's instrumental prowess. The bottom line is this: "Dead Reckoning" isn't the greatest prog-rock album ever, but it'll keep progressive metal fans head banging for most of its 54 minutes.

Highs: Great playing throughout, with the keyboards and guitars on "Elusive" standing out.

Lows: Too many songs like "Slipstream" and "Elusive" that lose energy as they go.

Bottom line: Great instrumental skill at work on this one, but too many of the songs lose direction as they go.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)