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Headspace: I Am Anonymous

I Am Anonymous is the first full length album from the British Prog Rock group Headspace. The album is a concept album of sorts, and is about the idea of us as individuals, and our relationship with humanity. It examines the battles and turmoils that we go through in our minds and all the way through our lives, and how things settle and chaos clears, and then it cycles back around and life is thrown into chaos again.

I went into this album having no idea what to expect, and I came out a fan. If you've heard of this band, you've probably heard the name Adam Wakeman. Yes - that Wakeman family: he's the son of Rick Wakeman. But the name you may not have heard in connection to this project, but should have, is Damian Wilson - the vocalist for Threshold and one of the vocalists of Arjen Lucassen's Star One. Damian adds his stamp to this album in a big way. Having heard the name of Adam Wakeman in reference to this band, I was not prepared for the big, heavy sound that came forth. And then when Damian started singing I immediately thought "why did I not hear that he was in this band as well?" His voice is well complimented by the sound of the band, and his singing comes across with intense power. I've always been impressed with Wilson's singing as being one of the few tenors I've ever heard that I would describe as sounding powerful, and the heaviness of this album enhances that effect. There is a maturity to this release that you would not expect from the first full album of a band, with no one member of the band taking the spotlight but each member playing his part in creating a lush soundscape. The overall tone of the album is darkly epic, with peacefully serene sections only reinforcing this effect.

My favorite track on the album is the 15 minute epic, "Daddy Fucking Loves You." The title is an enigma in itself, and as I listened to this track for the first time, I realized I had no idea what this track was about. I later read an article where Adam Wakeman explained that the idea for the song came about through an encounter between Damian Wilson and a soldier he sat next to in a pub. The soldier had just come back from a tour of duty, and had expressed how difficult it was to be away from his family, not knowing if he was ever coming back. He told a story of how he held his young child in his arms one night, and was just trying to explain why he went out and did what he did, but the child couldn't understand why Daddy had to leave for so long. It got to the point where the soldier didn't know what to say, and in frustration said "Look, Daddy fucking loves you. That's why he does what he does, why he goes out to these countries." The music and lyrics of this song are paired perfectly the song starts with a gentle, lullaby like feeling, with Damian singing high and soft, very gently, accompanied by acoustic guitar and a keyboard sound that reminds me of a toy piano. But then the song grows darker, more hectic, and the lyrics shift to telling the story of being ripped away from ones family. Then the music throws the mood into chaos, with vivid, sharp, heavy instrumentalism telling the story of the horrors of war. But all of a sudden the piece gets quiet again, going back to the lullaby feeling, but this time with darker undertones as it is played in a minor key. The effect of this is incredibly emotional as the listener is presented with a musical picture of a man who has seen horrible things, trying to maintain the dam on the terrifying images he has in his head as he tries to explain things to his child gently. The perfect marriage between the music and lyrics in this piece is nothing short of profound.

Each time I listened to this album, I found myself hearing things I hadn't noticed previously, as the album is filled with subtle complexities. And after every listen, I found my rating was a little higher, until I got to a point where I decided that this album is quite near to perfection, and is most definitely in my top 5 Progressive Metal albums of the year and a contender for first place.

Track listing:
1. Stalled Armageddon
2. Fall of America
3. Soldier
4. Die With a Bullet
5. In Hell's Name
6. Daddy Fucking Loves You
7. Invasion
8. The Big Day

Added: June 27th 2012
Reviewer: Geoff Glenister
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 6210
Language: english

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Headspace: I Am Anonymous
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-06-26 16:40:52
My Score:

There has been a dramatic drop in the quality of progressive metal in recent years. Sure, many new bands continue to emerge out of nowhere, but very few of them manage to leave a lasting impact. Either they just disappear before getting a chance to release a follow-up to their decent debut or they choose to modify their writing so drastically that the end result no longer appeals to the prog metal listener.

Headspace is an exception. Of all the 'newcomers', this band is bound to impress fans of progressive metal that adheres to the principles set by mid- and late-90s bands with a nod to the prog rock giants of the 70s, mainly due to the use of keyboards. Speaking of keyboards, the band is the brainchild of Adam Wakeman, the son of the legendary Rick Wakeman. Despite being primarily a keyboard player, Wakeman is a very prolific artist: he has played rhythm guitar in Black Sabbath, keyboards on Ozzy's solo album, and he also has an ambient instrumental disc (which I need to check out soon).

His keyboard work is Kevin Moore-like in a way: dark, sparse, and atmospheric. It defines the sound character of the whole album. Rather than overplaying, though, Adam Wakeman promotes the less-is-more technique, employing sparse synths tones to achieve ominous soundscapes underscoring the heavy guitar work. Keyboard solos are kept to a minimum, as Wakeman definitely plays to the strength of the tunes, utilizing his agility and flashy lead playing during the most focal points only. The synth solo that enters at the end of "Die with a Bullet" is intoxicating! It is mindbendingly fast, but it retains its melodic focus all throughout and ends the song on a high note.

On vocals, we have the great Damian Wilson, hence many fans will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Threshold and Star One. This comparison is not off, given Wilson's work on the second Star One album was stunning and every Threshold fan is looking forward to their new album, which is also going to be their first with Damian Wilson since 1997's Extinct Instinct. Wilson's vocal skills need no explanation; he puts in a career-defining performance here, which is saying a lot given the man's tremendous back catalog. He sings some of his most memorable vocal lines on this album, particularly on the last two tracks: the infectious "Invasion" and the impossibly beautiful "The Big Day." On the former, he delivers a narcotic melody over a slow-paced, tension-filled bass figure amidst slithering organ sounds while on the latter he proves how powerful and diverse a singer he is crooning over an ethereal, dreamlike strummed acoustic passage. His vocal melodies will stay with you for days on end.

Some might expect Headspace to lean more towards the symphonic side of progressive music with guitars supplying texture and colour. While there's plenty of sound shapes added by the guitars, Pete Rinaldi also uses an 8-string to incorporate ground-shaking riffs a la Meshuggah circa Nothing. His riffs are calculated yet intense at the same time; they are used with meticulous purpose and add a melodic weight to the compositions. Angular guitar lines are hammered into shape by a solid drum and bass combination, which is used to resolve the dense arrangements and weave the sound tapestries. In this respect, some other reference points might be Dreamscape and Dream Theater (think Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence in terms of compositional diversity). Also, Rinaldi's acoustic guitar tone is amazing; it's dark and super clean, kind of like Madsword's Global Village whose acoustic guitar sound remains unmatched to this day.

As the song titles suggest, the album seems very politically motivated lyrically, but rather than being preachy and narrow-minded, it takes on a 'humane' side. Their 15-minute epic examines the state of mind of a soldier who has to leave behind his family and child to go on a mission. It's a rather theatrical song with myriad sound textures and a cinematic vibe in which Damian Wilson switches between a lullaby-like delivery and a deranged, almost maniacal killing machine.

Songs are full of surprises, too. "In Hell's Name" begins on a funereal note before becoming cripplingly heavy with weird percussive elements, jazz-like experimentation that vanishes as abruptly as it appeared, and charging guitar riffs that morph into fluid, Haken-like (they are also fantasitc!) instrumental sections. "Soldier" is the piano ballad while "Stalled Armageddon" switches back and forth between razor-sharp guitar acrobatics and dark synth modulations for added atmosphere.

The production is mindblowing with incredible dynamic range and sonic expanse. Jens Bogren should mix more traditional progressive metal.

I've never heard this band's debut EP released in 2007, so I have no idea how I Am Anonymous holds up to it, but I can only assume that in the last five years, they had more time to perfect their songwriting and mature artistically. Hopefully with this album, they will establish themselves as a solid act in the scene.

» Reader Comments:

Headspace: I Am Anonymous
Posted by Jeff Gonsalves on 2012-06-16 14:18:48
My Score:

Excellent review. This album blindsided me. I never expected such brilliance and maturity. I love every second of this staggering, searing cd. The vocal harmonies are superb, the playing is incredible, and the lyrics are poignant. My favorite track is "The Invasion".

2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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