Keyboard player and singer-songwriter Mike Kershaw has released several albums over the past few years, both under his own name and under the moniker “Relocate to Heathrow”.
What Lies Beneath comes out under the more prosaic of the two personae, and while it’s promoted as a progressive rock record, the focus here is on songwriting rather than complex instrumentation. It boasts an impressive supporting cast with, amongst others, past and present members of Galahad, Also Eden and Fractal Mirror.
Unfortunately the album gets off to a very poor start; nine-minute opener “Gunning for the Gods” combines cheap and nasty 80s synth sounds with a borderline unlistenable vocal performance, coming over as The Folkie from Viz fronting a second-rate neo-prog tribute act. The next couple of songs aren’t quite as cringeworthy, but neither are they particularly memorable.
It’s only once you get into the second half of the record that things improve. Much of the time Kershaw does sing within his limitations, and while his vocals never rise beyond workmanlike he manages to avoid ruining the songs. The highlights are “Two Eyes” with some delightful melodic guitar work, the Floydian “Another Disguise”, and the atmospheric ballad “Wounds”, the last of which features Tom Slatter on vocals.
In the end, the closing track “The City of My Dreams” epitomises both the album’s strengths and weaknesses; a very flat vocal drags down what could have bought the album to a soaring epic conclusion.
This is a curate’s egg of record; Kershaw clearly has plenty of worthwhile ideas as a composer and arranger, and Gareth Cole’s guitar work is impressive throughout. But the way the one track with a guest vocalist stands out leaves you with the impression that Kershaw might have been better off working with a proper lead singer able to bring the material to life, rather than singing most of the lead vocals himself.