Friday, February 29, 2008
Headspace - I am
Sometimes, you just get lucky.
You happen to look up just in time to see an asteroid shower shooting by overhead, or step out the front door at the exact pinnacle of a lunar eclipse. Or in this case, catch the birth of a star.
There I was, hanging out at the vaunted office of the Ripple Effect eating chocolate chip pancakes and drinking chocolate milk with the Popester, when fate would have it I dropped a line to a band, or they dropped a line to me and the next thing you know, the brand spanking new, still steaming hot off the production line Headspace EP, I Am, arrives at my doorstep.
And I saw the birth of a star.
Mixing tons of old-school prog, ala 90125-era Yes, with smatterings of Metallica heaviness, more melodicsm than could be found on an entire David Gates tribute CD and Dream Theater aspirations, these guys are already grander than the cosmos.
Whatever you do, don't let the fact that this is a four song EP stop you from picking this treasure up. Headspace pack nearly 25 minutes of music onto this EP, containing more time changes, power chords, melodic passages, dynamism and sheer emotion than you'll find in 10 of your lesser prog releases. "Never Let Go," blasts this rocket ship of success off the launchpad, guitars and synths blazing like afterburners before separation occurs and the stage two thrusters propel the band into a bottom heavy passage of bass and vocal distortion. Lastly, the melodic chorus kicks in and we officially have reached orbit.
Soaring in a high trajectory over the lowly earth below, several things are readily apparent. "Never Let Go," is Headspace's "Owner of a Lonely Heart," powerful, majestic prog with all the requisite expert musicianship and complex time changes, without ever losing its pop accessibility. Everything about this song screams out that it needs to be heard. Secondly, in an era where the popular trend is to vocalize as if you're belching rancid bile from a gangrenous gall bladder, Damian Wilson can really sing, and damn, is that refreshing. While the obvious comparison to Jon Anderson can't be avoided in his tonality and timbre (and the occasional hint of Geoff Barradale from the '80's band Vitamin Z) that comparison is meant as a compliment, not a distraction.
"Sane Life," starts off with a beautifully played piano and strummed acoustic passage by guitarist Pete Rinaldi, before the prog kicks in. Avoiding the overly-classical pretensions of the worst of prog, the guitar precisely picks out a complex riff, never losing melody, while Adam Wakeman's synths build underneath. And the song builds and builds like a grand prog monument. Rich Brook's drumming and Lee Pomeroy's bass add muscle until a fury of Metallica-metal roars through the speakers. Wilson's vocals grasp for a whole new level of emotion and height. Pacing, rhythm, and time changes fall through the song with the frequency of leaves dropping in autumn. The bass playing is superb and Rich Brook plays drums like an eighteen-armed mutant, keeping time through odd time signatures and shifts like a jigsaw puzzle, somehow all the pieces managing to fit together perfectly. This is every progsters dream.
I would love to say that "Sane Life," is Headspace's epic du force, but wouldn't you know it, they went on and outdid themselves on "Symbol," a spiritual odyssey told through layers of piano and electric guitar. Here you can see what Headspace is all about, filling that space between your ears with a literate quest for meaning - both in terms of lyric and melody.
Somewhere, I suppose that I should mention that Adam Wakeman is the son of the original Yes keyboard player, Rick, and is the full-time keyboardist for Ozzy. And that Damian Wilson has released four solo albums himself, and that the guys have already opened for Ozzy on tour, but truth be told, those bits of background don't really matter. All that matters is the musical chemistry these five have when they're playing together. A prog kismet of stellar proportions.
"Sober," finishes off the disc amidst a fury of stoner-metal heaviness leading into an extended passage of strong acoustics before a Budgie Breadfan-esque guitar riff explodes like a sunspot bursting from the sun, driving the song to its conclusion. The song's dynamics are engaging, powerful and propulsive.
And there you have it - a supernova has just exploded before your eyes. You've witnessed the birth of prog's newest star - a rare celestial event, packed neatly onto a four song EP.