Review by Paul Quinton
(Inside Out Records)
If the name is ‘Headspace’ is at all familiar, you may remember them as having supported Ozzy at the NIA in 2007. At the time they also released an EP, ‘I Am’, which was well-received at the time, but since then? Nothing. The various band members have had various other commitments, both personal and musical, but now we finally have the album, and it really has been worth the wait. Headspace are a quintet of hugely respected and talented musicians who can boast some serious pedigree. Adam Wakeman might come from a keyboard playing family, but you don’t get to play with Ozzy and Sabbath, without knowing what you’re about and if bassist Lee Pomery is good enough to play with It Bites and Steve Hackett, that should be good enough for anybody (we’ll pass over his session work with Take That, everyone’s got to pay their bills). Similarly, apart from having rejoined the mighty Threshold, as well as his own projects, including Maiden United with Within Temptation’s Ruud Jolie, Damien Wilson is always in demand as a guest and session singer with the likes of Arjen ‘Ayreon’ Lucassen.
It’s certainly a mouthwatering line-up, but does the album match up to the expectation? Oh heavens above, yes. In fact it exceeds the expectation by a handsome margin. In fact I’d go so far as to say that this is my favourite album of 2012 so far, and yes that does include ‘Clockwork Angels’. It’s a stunningly good record, 8 songs, 73 minutes of ambitious, literate, and superbly played and sung rock music. Progressive metal, if you want to categorise it and as good as anything Dream Theater have done in the last ten years, at least..
Both the song titles and artwork suggest that this is a concept album, a meditation on war and the people connected to it, although most of the album’s lyrics are a lot deeper and more layered than that. Opener ‘Stalled Armageddon’ sets the tone early on with a lengthy opening, long enough to make you wonder whether you’re actually listening to an instrumental. Short, staccato guitar gives way to some Petrucci-like power chording from guitarist Pete Rinaldi, and the song moves easily from atmospheric prog metal to more reflective parts, with a real sense of impending doom heightened by Damian Wilson’s effects treated vocal. The song’s 8+ minutes never drag, and despite the instrumental passages there’s no sense that it’s song is being stretched out or outstaying its welcome, and that’s typical of the whole album.
The second track , ‘Fall of America’, continues the intensity, although you might find parts reminiscent of Anathema, before giving way to ‘Soldier’, the shortest track on the album at a mere three and a half minutes, and a comparatively gentle piano led piece. It’s a temporary respite as ‘Die With a Bullet’ goes straight back to the metal, although never forgetting it never loses sight of the fact that these are songs, with hooks and melodies.
As good as what’s gone before, it was merely a preview for the two lengthy tracks that form the centrepiece of the album, the superb ‘In Hell’s Name’, with Wilson in the best form of his career, followed by the absolute monster that it is ‘Daddy Fucking Loves You’. For me this is almost the perfect prog metal song, nearly fifteen minutes of ambitious, inventive brilliance, with a gentle acoustic part to open, leading to some extremely muscular riffing in some highly proggy time signatures. Wilson’s lyrics are passionate and heartfelt without being sentimental, it really is a brilliant performance all round. As good as it is, the eight minute ‘Invasion’ is almost an anti-climax after that, despite some fine, sinuous bass playing by Pomeroy and a great chorus, and the whole feast is finished with The Big Day, yet another nine minutes of absolutely top notch music.
To sum up, all I can say is that I was absolutely blown away by this album. The first few days I had it, I almost couldn’t stop playing it. With the various members other commitments, it’s not clear how much of a long term project Headspace is. Nonetheless, when the time comes to list the best albums of the year, ‘I Am Anonymous’ is going to take some beating.
9.5 out of 10
- Visit Headspace here
- Stalled Armageddon
- Fall Of America
- Die With A Bullet
- In Hell’s Name
- Daddy Fucking Loves You
- The Big Day