Review Summary: Headspace may feel anonymous now, but hopefully after this effort, they won’t for much longer.
Many would agree that progressive metal is a genre that is very hit and miss. Bands such as Dream Theater have a history of losing and gaining fans and critical acclaim from album to album, this is something that is now widely regarded as coming with the territory of being a ‘serious musician’. Headspace is a band made up of members who display a wealth of experience including Damian Wilson (singer-songwriter and vocalist of Threshold), Adam Wakeman (current keyboardist with Black Sabbath) and Richard Brook (long-time live drummer for Avril Lavigne). Damian Wilson defines I Am Anonymous as an album about “you and your relationship with humanity, ultimately the battles fought within the mind from child to man”. It is clear then that even with the presence of Brook this is not meant to be a simple venture into pop-rock.
The album is instead progressive from the get-go, combining elements of both classic and modern metal. The opener “Stalled Armageddon” creeps in with a slow doomy riff, before exploding into a series of subtle, groove-laden polyrhythms, then rests into a mixture of power-metal inspired vocals, and guitar solos reminiscent of Dream Theater’s more focused material. This succeeds in being a fine example of how to make elements of metal that have been around for decades sound fresh and exciting once more, and in doing helps give Headspace the individuality they so clearly seek.
Experimentation continues to run rife throughout the album; this is highlighted most by “In Hell’s Name”, which throws practically everything but the kitchen sink at the listener. It begins with a dark ambient atmosphere, complete with organ, choir and lyrics surrounding fear and death. This depressive wall of sound then erupts and we are suddenly thrown into the Orient, a sitar dances along with a groove-laden bass-line, and is accompanied by a strong performance on drums by Brooke. The band puts forward this unusual song structure with such confidence that it ignites the listener’s anticipation for the rest of the album (which consequently delivers in spades), an admirable achievement for any band.
Overall, clocking in at 73 minutes, this eight track odyssey is one that demands a serious attention span and a few listens to fully appreciate. However, those who are used to songs of eight-plus minutes are bound to find many things in I Am Anonymous to keep them interested and connected to the music. For instance, for me the dissonant guitar tone and riff structures in parts of “Die With A Bullet” occasionally remind me of In Mourning’s recent release The Weight of Oceans, whilst Wilson’s vocals in “Fall of America” occasionally bring forth a whisper of Akerfeldt from Opeth’s classic “Benighted”.
In a genre cluttered with almosts and not-quiets, this is an example of how progressive music should sound; engaging, adventurous and most importantly, memorable.