I had been patiently waiting for the follow-up to 2003's "Summoning" from Chicago's TWELFTH GATE, figuring that if it is in league with the NEVORMORE-esque, mildly proggy traditional/thrash metal of the debut that I'd be in for a treat. After parting ways with Crash Music, Inc., the band settled on Season of Mist and now finally releases on March 21, "Threshold of Revelation". The album takes a few listens to fully appreciate, as the arrangements are more complex and the melodies are not immediately accessible, compared to what is heard on "Summoning". It is also heavier, from the standpoint of guitars and rhythm section. I should also note that TWELFTH GATE added a fifth member for the recording of the album, second guitarist Jim Stopper, giving them the fuller sound that is surely needed in a live situation.
Although "Summoning" is not exactly a light and happy disc, a decidedly darker feeling runs though each of these 10 tracks. NEVERMORE continues to be the most apt comparison for those needing a point of reference. However, that should not be taken to mean that the band does not have an identity of its own. It is in the chunkiness of the riffs, the fat bottom, and to an extent the vocal style of Scott Huffman that the Seattle band is brought to mind. At the same time, there is more of a progressive feel to the album, mainly in that the arrangements do not rely on traditional verse-chorus-verse structuring. The riffing and solos are dense and intense, not to mention shredding.
As for the accessibility factor, songs such as "Loyal" and "Human Swine" do boast memorable choruses, just not in an obvious sense. The songs tend to slowly seep into the bloodstream, often the mark of an album with lasting appeal. At the same time, the melancholic "Together Divided" features perhaps the most infectious melody. Lighter parts are woven into the album, but are infrequent and short lived, the reflective moments of "Critical Elements", which also features guitar solos from co-producer (along with the band) Chris Djuricic, one example. Backing vocals on "Inner Core" from Kristen J. Elane and the keyboards of Aaron Bell and Ed "Shreddy" Bethishou (the latter only on "Face Within a Face") are subtle and used sparingly. Those slamming rhythms and fat riffs take precedence. Rob Such's rumbling bass lines provide a stiff backbone, especially on the slower tempo "Inner Core" and the brawny "Delving too Deep", which also features moments from Huffman that are not far removed from Chris Cornell's vintage work in SOUNDGARDEN (some of it is heard on "Come Alive" as well).
Here is to hoping that TWELFTH GATE gets the attention it deserves. "Threshold of Attention" is a challenging and rewarding listen that also happens to be haunting and heavy as hell.