Review & Full Album Premiere: The Age of Truth, Threshold

the age of truth threshold

[Click play above to stream The Age of Truth’s Threshold in its entirety. Album is out Nov. 1 via Kozmik Artifactz.]

Philadelphia heavy rockers The Age of Truth make their full-length debut via Kozmik Artifactz with the eight-track Threshold. They are a four-piece comprised of guitarist Michael DiDonato, standalone vocalist Kevin McNamara, bassist/vocalist William Miller and drummer Adam LauverEric Fisher played on the album, which was recorded and mixed by Joseph Boldizar at Retro City Studios in Philly — and all of these details become crucially important to the record itself when one actually digs in for a listen. This is because The Age of Truth so quickly establish a range of influence that veers well outside the City of Brotherly Love. Songs like “Supernatural Salesman,” the verses of eight-minute side B opener “Caroline” and “Oceanbones” find the singer very much out front on vocal duties as the backing progressions bring to mind Clutch, but Maryland isn’t so far from Eastern Pennsylvania if we’re thinking of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and the bulk of Threshold gives a far more European impression.

Enough so particularly in the performance and production around the vocals that one might be tempted to look at their lineup and wonder if there’s any way McNamara could be interpreted as a Swedish name. From the moment the frontman begins to top the semi-prog chug of DiDonato‘s thick, layered guitar in opener “Host (Demon in Me),” and certainly in subsequent cuts like “Come back a God,” “Holding Hands Like Thieves” the soaring chorus of “Caroline” and the winding closer of a title-track, McNamara‘s performance has enough gut-tightened lung push push to recall the likes of Janne “JB” Christoffersson during his time in Spiritual Beggars, John Hermansen‘s work on The Awesome Machine‘s underrated Soul of a Thousand Years, or even the classic presence that Magnus Ekwall brings to The Quill.

These comparisons are compliments not made lightly when it comes to what McNamara adds to the 44-minute album, which tops 50 minutes when the bonus track “Honeypot” is factored in, but the band is by no means only about this one element. Rather, the varied impressions of the songs are bolstered through a clearly diverse writing process — one suspects but has no confirmation of multiple contributors — and given further depth still by being drawn together through the fullness of the production and an edge of noise rock that seems to infiltrate the sound no matter where The Age of Truth are ultimately headed. It’s not just about intensity of delivery, either. True, “Come Back a God” wants nothing for energy behind its densely-packed fuzz tones and blown-out hook — one of several landmarks throughout Threshold — but even in the more laid back “Holding Hands Like Thieves,” the blues-driven “Caroline” or the rolling burl of “Honeypot,” where DiDonato‘s tone seems to singularly shout out toward The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote-era Scott “Wino” Weinrich, there’s an almost intangible aspect to The Age of Truth that draws from punk-based roots.

the age of truth photo useless rebel

The production around Miller‘s low end and the crispness of Lauver‘s drumming are big factors as well. One can hear it in “Supernatural Salesman” as much as the initial thrust of “Host (Demon in Me),” which launches Threshold in medias res and ties together with the finale title-track in underscoring a further complementary enrichment of the band’s sound: the previously-alluded-to progressive underpinning. They’re not engaging anything technically showy or anything like that but neither are their arrangements or progressions unthinking, and that’s shown in the two longer tracks — “Host (Demon in Me)” is 7:42, second only to “Caroline” at 8:11 — as the opener breaks into an open midsection before delivering its parenthetical title line as it builds toward its second-half apex and ends in feedback, and likewise, as “Caroline” moves from its blues to boogie shuffle, there’s an echoing space set in motion by DiDonato‘s dual-layer solo that, as it leads into the final slowdown, brims with enough complexity and purpose to resonate as progressive fare.

A further degree of nuance shows itself as “Threshold” seems to directly answer the spirit of “Host (Demon in Me)” in unfolding its own guitar-led movement, more patient and less aggressive in its charge than the opener, but still rich in its presentation and how it ties together sundry pieces of the record that bears its name. McNamara seems to underscore the representative point by referencing the band’s moniker in the chorus even as he draws upon another previously unheard influence, topping the last bit of shove with a series of repeated “Come on!”s that one half expects to be followed by an invitation to go “Space Trucking.” Sadly (maybe), that invite doesn’t come, but “Honeypot” as a bonus cut does offer a more classic feel to its roll that stands it out somewhat from the bulk of Threshold, though in its comfortable mid-paced fluidity, one finds again an impression drawn from European fare in terms of the vocals.

This may be a source of novelty or intrigue when it comes to early listens of Threshold, but between the record’s art drawing from the theme of the alleged C.I.A. murder of Frank Olson (a scientist experimenting with biological agents who was also dosed with LSD without his knowledge as part of the MK-Ultra project) and the fact that the band’s range is nonetheless presented as a cohesive and well-developed sonic persona of their own rather than simply a series of pieces sourced elsewhere, their debut hits with a marked impact that more than earns multiple revisits. Indeed, “Holding Hands Like Thieves” and “Oceanbones,” which might seem easily digested or overshadowed by compatriot tracks in some way, stand themselves out further on going back through Threshold again, and ultimately do much to tie together the flow that emerges throughout this impressive and thoughtful-but-not-overcooked debut. That The Age of Truth would strike such a rare balance their first time out of course speaks to the forward potential for what they might go on to accomplish craft-wise, but that shouldn’t be considered in place of the achievements they’ve already made in this material, which are significant.

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3 Responses to “Review & Full Album Premiere: The Age of Truth, Threshold

  1. Simon says:

    Great review JJ!

    I love these dudes!
    I love this album!
    Age of Truth!

    Psymin

  2. […] Review & Full Album Premiere: The Age of Truth, Threshold […]

  3. RolanStone says:

    .nice review. awesome album, git u sum if u ain’t got it! I was not drinking when I first heard Host (Demon In Me), I felt rowdy. I got shot back to COC, Clutch, and so many more greats. well done! I wish these dudes well, and I hope they make to Texas for a show.

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