Threshold / Balance Of Power / Power Quest
2 September 2004
Camden Underworld

I really had high hope for Power Quest and their opportunity to play to a full Underworld tonight and this is certainly not the review I wanted to write, but I`m afraid it just didn`t happen for them. Whether they were put off by the admittedly poor sound I don`t know, but where I wanted them to grab us by the throat for their 30 minute set, they actually came across as nervous and sloppy.

To their credit they had wisely chosen a selection of their stronger up-tempo material, but even Sacred Land, which is one of my personal favourites, didn`t cut it tonight.

I also think that Power Quest need to look at their stage image which with a mixture of string vests, gaudy Hawaiian shirts and black nail polish is rather confusing.

A quick check on t-shirts showed Power Quest had drawn a good few of their own fans. Prior to Neverworld Alessio Garavello thanked Threshold to be comically met with a shout of "I came to see you". I`m not sure whether they would have made many new fans tonight though, which is a shame.

Power Quest Set List:
Wings Of Forever / Sacred Land / Edge Of Time / Temple Of Fire / Neverworld (Power Quest Pt.2)

By contrast Balance Of Power were positively on fire. For them this was a warm up for the weekend`s Bloodstock festival, where I was already looking forward to seeing them again only half way through second song Chemical Imbalance.

Balance Of Power have a knack of writing heavy songs but not at the expense of melody. This was none more ably demonstrated by Shelter Me with its huge chorus. Full marks to the band for clearly having thoroughly rehearsed their back up vocals.

Wake Up Call took the pace back up a few notches, with Pete Southern teasing squeals from his guitar. With such a heavy guitar sound on cd, I was wondering whether the band would suffer from only having one guitar but this was not the case and Southern`s playing was impressive throughout.

Of course vocalist Jon K is relatively new to the band but any concerns of how he would handle the older material were soon forgotten. Vocalists with a range of Geoff Tate`s don`t grow on trees but Jon K has that range and I look forward to seeing him with his other band Biomechanical in this same venue in a couple of weeks time.

Of course to muster such power, a tight rhythm section is essential and Tony Ritchie & Lionel Hicks are certainly that. Ritchie in particular is in the crowds face throughout and really exuded passion into the likes of Searching For The Truth.

A short but definitely sweet set, now if only they`d play more live dates.

Balance Of Power Set List:
Heathen Machine / Chemical Imbalance / Shelter Me / Wake Up Call / Searching For The Truth / Day Breaker / Sins Of The World

Although also playing Bloodstock, this was no warm up for Threshold being actually the first date of their Subsurface tour. Tonight`s set was to be longer than their set at that festival and even for a first date it came as no surprise with Threshold`s class that it seemed like they had been playing material from their new album for an age.

Opening with album openers Mission Profile and Ground Control it apparent the band are not the only ones who have been rehearsing as a good portion of the crowd seem to know all the words. The man whose actual job it is to deliver those words is Andrew "Mac" McDermott who handles the material seemingly effortlessly whilst conveying warmth with the audience that has you rooting for the band. If you`ve watched the Critical Energy with the brilliantly funny commentary from Karl Groom and Richard West, fun is poked at Mac for wearing his own leather skirt creation. Well it seems he has a fetish for skirts as tonight he`s in a kilt which I`m sure received some droll comments from the guitarist and keyboard player.

With a rich back catalogue and many songs pushing the ten minute mark it must be a difficult task compiling the set list and The Ravages Of Time was a welcome surprise addition. Interestingly only one song pre-dated Mac joining the band, being Into The Light from Psychedelicatessen. This one seemed lost on a good portion of the crowd, though not to say it wasn`t well received. At times the haunting gothic guitar work on the verse of this one had me curiously thinking of The Sisters Of Mercy.

There`s not a great deal of onstage movement at a Threshold show, not that it needs it, and as Nick Midson was occupying the opposite side of the stage to where I was stood I didn`t get a great view of him, but I certainly didn`t hear him putting a foot wrong. I did however have a clear view of Karl Groom whose lead work was excellent. It`s not about speed with Groom`s solos, they just pack in a great deal of feeling.

Similar to its position on Subsurface, The Art Of Reason occupies mid-set with a sense of majesty. Honestly this song was immense with the crowd singing along to the book-ended cry`s of "I don`t believe that it`s right". Between these it`s a rollercoaster ride of staccato rhythms and chugging riffs. Rhythm section Steve Anderson and Johanne James really showing their worth.

Pressure ought to be the song that opens Threshold up to a wider audience if it was to get the airplay. It`s as near as you`ll get to a condensed single and catchy as hell. Richard West adding piped flourishes on the keyboards.

For an encore we get Fragmentation and crowd favourite Long Way Home. Afterwards I introduced myself to Richard West as he was receiving change at the bar with Richard jokingly offering me his hand full of change for a good review. There was no need for that however as it was already in the bag. Bands in the prog-metal genre can often come across as cold and mechanical, but there`s a warmth about Threshold in the live environment and I`m looking forward to a second chance to experience it at Bloodstock.

Threshold Set List:
Mission Profile / Ground Control / The Ravages Of Time / Freaks / Falling Away / The Art Of Reason / Pressure / The Destruction Of Words / Into The Light / Light & Space / Fragmentation / Long Way Home

Balance Of Power
Power Quest