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(53:53, Progrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Theatre of the Absurd 9:13 2. Stranger in the Looking Glass 9:43 3. The Centre Cannot Hold 4:10 4. A Gathering of Crows 11:25 5. The Sleepers Are Waking 4:15 6. A Time of Shadow 15:07 LINEUP: Liam Campbell vocals; guitars Gerry Mc Gerigal guitars; vocals Wilson Graham bass; vocals Chris Norby keyboards Mickey Gallagher drums
Prolusion. The Irish band DEAD HEROES CLUB was formed sometime after the millennium by seasoned musicians who were tired of playing mainstream pop and rock and wanted to create music with a stronger emphasis on artistic virtues and refined melodies. As fans of the original Neo movement this stylistic expression was soon chosen for the band, and a debut album recorded and released in 2004. Following this they finalized their line-up and started working on their sophomore effort. By 2009 "A Time of Shadow" was finished and Dead Heroes Club was then signed to Progrock Records, which subsequently issued the album.
Analysis. The expression of Neo progressive rock may have a multitude of different meanings and associations, very much depending on who's asked to define the idiom. One act that most often will be mentioned one way or another is Marillion, and in particular the time when the vocalist in that band was a certain Derek Fish Dick. And while Dead Heroes Club is far from being a clone of that band, comparisons will be made in that direction, first and foremost due to the singing of Liam Campbell. It was an intriguing experience to listen to his vocals. Apart from dominating this album from start to finish - those longing for extended, instrumental passages are out of luck on this occasion he has a tone and a choice of delivery that often reminds of Fish, and even more of Peter Gabriel. At the same time he comes across as a vocalist with a better range, much stronger in terms of melodic expressions and with a grit and darkness to his voice not too often encountered in acts exploring the Neo progressive universe. A sense of drama verging on the melodramatic is another nice feature of the lead vocals here and, generally, Campbell comes across as an accomplished vocalist and among those whose presence will elevate a composition from the ordinary to something better. As long as the listener likes his voice, that is. The major downfall of an album as vocal-heavy as this one is that the listener needs to become fascinated by this part of the composition to be able to enjoy the album. The musical backdrop here will be rather familiar for most anyone who's encountered this stylistic expression on previous occasions. Dead Heroes Club focuses on the mellower part of Neo, giving ample room for piano passages and wandering, mellow guitar themes. The keyboards may be given less space than what many are used to, while guitar riffs with a distinct blues-meets-hard rock flavor to them are carefully utilized to add grit and variation to the proceedings. On one occasion, the track The Centre That Cannot Hold, this grittier guitar sound is given the dominating spot as well, in a song that may not possess too many progressive leanings until the final 90 seconds but which nonetheless adds a welcome pause from the mellower, melancholic musings pre- and proceeding it. Personally I find the opening track, Theatre of the Absurd, to be the most interesting one, to the point where I'd describe this particular effort as a creation that should be on the shortlist of anyone interested in this brand of art rock. The opening 6 minutes are rather standard fare, lifted immensely by the aforementioned lead vocals, but for the final three minutes darker textures are added alongside subtle, swirling synths to create a hypnotic atmosphere blended in with the voice of Campbell and the rest of the instrumentation.
Conclusion. Those who might fancy a slice of vocal-dominated art rock from the mellower part of the Neo progressive universe should feel right at home with this sophomore venture by the Irish band Dead Heroes Club. It doesn't offer anything really new or innovative to this stylistic expression, but the melodies are strong, the lead vocals intriguing and the compositions generally well made. And while their moment of true brilliance is limited to the opening track on this occasion, at least in my opinion, the following 5 numbers are all rather strong efforts as well, well above average as long as the listener finds the vocals to be interesting.
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