Saturday I received the new Threshold album. Dead Reckoning has phenomenal cover artwork -- you can hardly go wrong with a zeppelin, and certainly not with five of them -- and superb music to boot.
Anticipation had built up considerably for me, as the radio edit of "Slipstream" was playing on their website and myspace site weeks in advance, the "Pilot in the Sky of Dreams" single and videoclip (on youtube) were released online two weeks before the official album release.
It's a phenomenal way to make fans hungry for a new release, and has become the common way to do this in the music industry. One wonders if this might be copied by the publishing industry: say, release a sample chapter (or a sample story if it's a collection or anthology) online, followed by a podcast of another chapter (or story). For example, Paul Di Filippo's "Wikiworld" was put online, and this was widely announced, e.g. on Boing Boing, before the release of the Fast Forward 1 anthology edited by Lou Anders. With the addendum that the music industry in general has larger budgets than the publishing industry.
Anyway, Threshold: I got interested in the band when I read a review of the debut album Wounded Land in a Dutch music magazine (then called SymInfo), where the reviewer really liked the melodic parts, but really hated it when the huge guitar riffs came chugging in. It sounded exactly like the kind of music I was looking for: I bought the debut album and have been a fan ever since. It's also why I think that reviewers should be honest all the time: in this case even a negative review sold the album to me, as I could correctly estimate from the review that this album would be to my taste.
Apart from making great music, the 'progressive metal' they play has top class lyrics. Threshold is one of the thinking man's metal bands, and is one of the examples I give when I point people to intelligent heavy metal (not unlike explaining people that there is something like intelligent SF, although for my money heavy metal is culturally more accepted than SF). Bass player Jon Jeary used to write most lyrics during the first half of the band's career, but since he left keyboard player Richard West has taken over that role with verve.
Also, Threshold is one of those rare bands that keep trying to develop and reinvent themselves, and with Dead Reckoning they have managed to get both a heavier and a more accessible sound, effortlessly mixing monster riffs with earworm choruses, subtle piano chords with heavy grooves, inventive structures with hooks sharper than knives, and thoughtful, poetic lyrics with thoughtless headbanging action.
Over the years, the band have become good friends, as well, and when they tour I hope to have a talk and a few beers with Karl Groom, Rich West and the others.
In the meantime, you could do worse than check out the band's website (or myspace site), where they play the radio versions of "Slipstream" and "Pilot in the Sky with Dreams".