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Dead Heroes Club - A Time of Shadow CD (album) cover

A TIME OF SHADOW

Dead Heroes Club

 

Neo-Prog

3.80 | 28 ratings

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tszirmay
Special Collaborator
Crossover Team
4 stars And to those who loudly claim that neo-prog is the weakest link in prog, here is another example of scrumptious quality to go onto the podium along with scintillating albums by Abel Ganz (Shooting the Albatross), Credo's last 2 , Anubis (Tower of Silence), Airbag (All Rights Removed), ICU (Now and Here), Collage (Moonshine), Galahad (Empires), as well as the last few IQ and all the Satellite recordings, among many others. Sorry naysayers, there is without any doubt some fabulous quasi-symphonic material out there that will knock you down, stunned. Generally, the deal should really rely on a great vocalist to carry the relatively mundane symphonic backdrop and reach for higher musical glory. Well, Liam Campbell has a voice that simply transcends the monotone and vaults these Irish lads into a contending place among the above mentioned warriors. The vocals are intensely passionate, expressive yet husky, without any hysteria and overblow, recalling the prime quality of Marillion-era Fish and Manfred Mann's Earth Band vocalist Chris Hamlet Thompson.

Everything about this record shines, from the glorious cover art and the sleek production, to the impeccable musicianship and forceful delivery. Guitarist Gerry McGerigal has a unique timbre and provides glimmering riffs and massages them with slithering leads, the drumming is particularly solid without that mechanical binary weakness deployed by some of the weaker neo-groups, allied with a powerful bass and supple keys that finish off the instrumental side more than competently. The material is vivacious both in its succinct messaging and its audio intensity, but the vocals really take all this by the jugular and waltz the compositions into the prog twilight. The herculean "Theatre of the Absurd" is an astounding "entree en matiere", full of bluster and unmitigated confidence, bellicose riffs, reptilian bass and brawny drumming shoving the mood forward and providing the platform for some eyebrow-raising moments (such as the Manfred Mann ?like synthesizer solo), some gentle passages that float and flutter as well as some rockier sections that recall Brit legends Spooky Tooth. Campbell wastes little time in showing off his animated vocal prowess, contrasting sweet and sour better than a Cantonese chef. The track's second half burst into a sizzling detonation that sets the swarthy tone right there and then, recalling the finer moments from the Earth Band. An outstanding track that is available on PA for you to sample.

Being Irish, you have the requisite Christian relevance (the "House of reverence" lyric) on "Stranger in the Looking Glass", a mid-tempo, volume-pedal guitar caress that blooms nicely into a stately bluesy lament proclaimed brilliantly by the thrilling Liam Campbell vocal and a sulfuric lead guitar excursion into the loftiest heavens. Not very technical one may say but goose-bump material of the finest vintage nevertheless. The genuine ingenuity of the lyrical content and its essential delivery is simply remarkable to even the most jaded ear. Little dabs of acoustic guitar, svelte backing whispers and deft drumming combine with power chords to provide a constant sense of movement and entertainment. The raucous and concentrated "The Center Cannot Hold" introduces some snarl and nastiness, pummeling relentlessly a stark message of social despondence. McGerigal riffles his axe with merciless abandon so as to underline the rage, distinguishing slashes of doom to fade out from the storm.

"A Gathering of Crows" is a rather sarcastic stab at the hypocrisy of war and its socio- religious masters, accusing jihad and crusade alike, and asking "Where is the faith that brings us peace". With the new millennium, it's about time we see artists tackling subjects that crested rock in the first place: condemnation of a faulty human condition that claims illumination and yet showcases unending primitivism. A jaded, bored and unintelligent planet of web-surfers who are now anesthetized from the reality of their idiotic routine. Where "waking up" is replaced by "logging on" without the responsibility or the guilt. The lyrical content is astonishing, Liam is quite the spokesman and the lads infuse some lavish ditties like the fabulous piano insert but truth is we are reminded of Marillion's anti- war Script of a Jester's Tear message. The applause for the courage displayed is well- earned.

"The Sleepers Are Waking" is perhaps the most accessible track here, featuring another breathless vocal exhibition and a notably more acoustic presentation which recalls vintage the Strawbs, not exactly paltry company. A beautiful track that is a dedication to a deceased friend.

To finish "en beaute" as the French like to say, how about a 15 minute masterpiece title track, that encompasses everything previously stated, emotionally on par with IQ's devastating "Harvest of Souls"? Fueled by a deep sense of pace and atmosphere, this is cinematographic prog at its finest, Liam offering a multitude of voice resonances (plus some game-show host sample babblings), with bassist Wilson Graham booming along fiercely, brooding e-piano and jangling guitar arpeggios adding to the palette. The second half is even more desperate and anguished, the main theme achingly excruciating within dire lyrical content, this is no happy party music but rather intelligent and thought-provoking progressive rock music that has meaning and necessity.

This album pleased me immediately and to my astonishment, it gets even better with repeated auditions, sliding nicely into my recent favorite's list. Liam Campbell is a stellar voice and the bands kicks ass. I think the recording is spectacular as this material must be amazing live.

4.5 Irish Matrixes

tszirmay | 4/5 |

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