Threshold released their debut album Wounded Land in 1993 and have gone on to release five more studio albums on the way to becoming one of England's premier progressive-rock/metal bands. The band has seen countless lineup changes along the way, but have always been anchored by the same guitar team of Karl Groom and Nick Midson, as well as keyboardist Richard West. Vocalist extraordinaire Andrew McDermott, who goes only by the nickname "Mac", joined the band in 1998 to record their fourth album Clone, and has given them some much needed stability ever since.
Threshold took America by storm when they nearly stole the show at the 2002 ProgPower USA concert during their first ever visit to the United States. 2003 saw them back in Europe touring in support of their critically acclaimed new album Critical Mass, and preparing to record their first ever live concert DVD. Critical Energy was eventually recorded at De Boerderij, in Zoetermeer, Holland on June 6th, 2003, and features a career spanning 18-song performance. Admittedly, I don't own any of Threshold's albums yet, but I have heard (and liked) most of their two recent releases, Hypothetical and Critical Mass, thanks to some MP3 downloads. This genre of music (progressive-rock with a metal edge) is currently the style I find myself listening to the most, so purchasing this DVD was a no-brainer for me.
The overall production quality of Critical Energy was the nicest surprise. Typically, when a band of Threshold's limited stature (i.e. known only in prog-rock circles, non-headliners, modest album sales, etc.) releases a concert video, the results are often substandard. This is definitely not the case with the Critical Energy DVD, as almost every aspect of production is outstanding. Both Dolby Digital stereo and 5.1 surround audio tracks are provided and they both sounded powerful. The 5.1 track provides excellent instrument separation and clarity, powerful bass, and excellent use of the full surround field. The atmosphere of the small club, where the concert was recorded, was captured brilliantly. The video was equally impressive, providing an exceptionally sharp and clear picture, and there were no obvious problems handling the intense lights and colors of their impressive light show. The camera work was also very enjoyable, providing perfectly timed close-ups of each band member soloing, as well as plenty of medium distance shots of the entire band performing.
The show got off to a strong start as they opened with "Phenomenon", a rocking, hook-laden song from their Hypothetical album. Unfortunately, as they continued on with more of the songs that I weren't all that familiar with, I found myself getting a little bored at times. Many of Threshold's songs tend to sound alike, and I don't find any of the band members to be very compelling musicians. Certainly they are all very competent, if not above average musicians, but I never found myself in awe of their playing like when watching any of the guys in Dream Theater, for instance. By far, the lead singer, Mac, is the star of this band, and he was in top form this night. His vocals are both melodic and powerful, and he commands a strong stage presence, although he insists on wearing this silly leather skirt during the entire show. Must be his trademark or something.