Review by Paul Quinton
Sadly, one of only two UK dates at the end of Threshold’s lengthy European tour in support of their ‘For The Journey’ album, the other being in London the previous evening. It had been a similar story a couple of years ago when the band played in Derby, but this time the gig drew a really healthy crowd to what was a new venue for this reviewer. A very nice venue too, with a good sized stage, a good PA, and very easy to find for out of town visitors, being, literally, just over the road from Chester station.
Commendably, the band not only have two supports on the bill, but also take the chance to give two comparatively unknown bands some exposure to a wider audience.
First up were Greek prog metallers The Silent Wedding to begin the evening’s entertainment, and pretty good job they made of it. With a sound that verged toward the more melodic end of the genre, although there was no arguing about the force and meatiness of their riffing, they went down really well with a growing crowd, especially if you judge them by the rush to the merch desk at the end of their set. With only a 25-minute set, comprising a mere four songs, it was a bit of a surprise when one of them was a cover of Savatage’s ‘Gutter Ballet’, and it was a little disappointing that the sound mix all too often drowned out the guitars and vocals with the piano, but this was more than made up for by the last song, ‘In Vitro’ being something of a belter. A good band, well worth looking out for, and I hope they can play around these parts again.
Continuing the multi national theme of the bill, next on stage were the Italian band Overtures. Unlike the other two bands on the bill, there wasn’t much of a progressive element to their music, instead we were in much more of a European Power Metal zone. The band went about their work with a lot of enthusiasm, but their set didn’t seem to work quite as well as The Silent Wedding’s did, perhaps because their songs didn’t feel as strong as the Greek band’s. Nevertheless singer Michele Guaitoli worked really hard to rouse the crowd, including a nice moment when, after calling for a cheer for the crew, for The Silent Wedding and for the headliners, he then cordially invited the crowd to boo his own band, ‘Come on, come on, we’re Italians, you hate us’. While the crowd were happy to go along, they nevertheless gave the band a really good reception at the end, but apart from the last song, ‘Fly Angel’, there wasn’t a lot in this set to make it really memorable.
So to the headliners, and one of Threshold’s far too rare UK gigs. I always feel they’re far too underappreciated in the UK and this set really had all the evidence you would need to place them right at the top of their field. Unsurprisingly, the set was built around the two most recent albums, recorded since singer Damian Wilson re-joined the band, although they opened with the classic ‘Slipstream’, from the last album recorded with Mac, now sadly no longer with us. On the subject of the set list, while the band chose to omit what might be regarded as some of their most popular material, they did pull a few surprises out of the hat, including ‘Siege Of Baghdad’ from their debut, and a brilliant ‘Part Of The Chaos’, where the instrumental break included the sight of Wilson appearing in the balcony as if to get his own view of the band in action.
Of the new songs, all of which worked really well live, ‘Watchtower On The Moon’ was a real highlight, with a tremendous collection of riffs, and the epic ‘The Box’, that closed the main set, was matched for intensity and atmosphere only by one of the great songs from the Mac era, ‘Pilot In The Sky Of Dreams’.
As might be expected at the end of a tour, the band were honed and tight, although there may have been one or two signs of tiredness. The vocal harmonies on ‘The Hours’ were superb, ‘Ground Control’ was like a machine, so tight and powerful, and some of the twin guitar work between Pete Morten and Karl Groom was a real delight. A mention too, for the rhythm section of bassist Steve Anderson and drummer Johanne James, who were as inventive and precise as ever. James in particular, a frequent nominee as ‘Best Drummer’ in the Classic Rock Society’ awards, is one of the best drummers around, always entertaining to watch. Meanwhile Damian Wilson, back in the band that seems his natural home, apart from singing his socks off, is never still, frequently leaving the stage to pass through the audience. It’s possible some might find this distracting, but he probably wouldn’t be the frontman he is if he curbed this side of himself.
All in all, a great night out, three bands, in a very decent venue, headlined by a great band who deserve to be far, far better known in the home country than they are. I strongly recommend they should play more gigs in the UK and give more people a chance to see them and appreciate what they do.