Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone – Album Review
Album Title: All That You Fear Is Gone
Label: InsideOut Music
Date Of Release: 26 February 2016
UK progressive metal band Headspace came out of nowhere to floor me with their debut album, ‘I Am Anonymous’ in 2012. Until I was sent the promo to this record, I’d not heard anything about them or even knew that they existed. It was a surprising black hole of knowledge because Headspace weren’t a band of newbies or unknowns. Comprised of vocalist Damian Wilson (Threshold, Maiden United), keyboardist Adam Wakeman (Ozzy Osbourne), guitarist Pete Rinaldi, bassist Lee Pomeroy and new drummer Adam Falkner (replacing Richard Brook), Headspace were actually in danger of being given the dreaded ‘supergroup’ tag.
‘I Am Anonymous’ was an instant hit with me. It was heavy, technical and ambitious; it encompassed just about everything that I wanted from my prog metal. Indeed even today, the likes of ‘Daddy Fucking Loves You’ and ‘Fall Of America’ feature regularly on my various playlists. Naturally, the follow-up sophomore effort has been highly anticipated and now it’s here, does it live up to my lofty expectations?
After a lot listening, soul-searching and even more changes of opinion, I have to report that ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’ is a worthy successor to the debut. However, it wasn’t always thus; initially, I felt very negatively towards this album and had that nagging feeling of disappointment hanging over me. Indeed, I have actually had to completely re-write this review. Twice.
However, I’m a stubborn chap and so I stuck with it in the hope that something clicked. I’m pleased I made the effort because ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’ has slowly, almost reluctantly blossomed into an album from which I derive a lot of pleasure.
It’s still not all totally positive because I remain unconvinced by ‘Polluted Alcohol’ and after a few attempts, simply press the skip button. I just cannot warm to the music. I’m not a fan of the slide guitar technique and it comes across as a sloth-like song that might emerge from the bayous of the Deep South. Then there are also a couple of shorter interlude-type tracks that, as far as I’m concerned, don’t really add an awful lot to the record musically-speaking.
I generally hate being negative in my reviews so I now want to focus on the positives of ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’. And on that score, I now have plenty to say.
Initially, I thought that there was far too much slower, softer and lighter material on this record, to the point where it felt like it meandered to a conclusion with a bit of a whimper. Without doubt, Headspace have reduced the heaviness but my initial thoughts are more than a little wide of the mark. The all-out attack and crunch of the debut is still present but nowhere near as frequently but that’s in keeping with a different overall vibe to this album than the debut. ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’ is more varied and arguably more mature with the quieter passages demonstrating a different facet of what is unquestionably a highly talented team of musicians.
On ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’ nothing is apparently off limits and nothing is seemingly beyond the ability of the quintet. Wakeman’s keys are both subtle and at the forefront, challenging the listener with a myriad of different sounds and textures as the mood takes him. Pomeroy refuses to allow his bass to shrink into the background offering clever and often melodic flourishes whenever possible. Rinaldi’s guitar-playing is multi-faceted, equally comfortable in heavier or quieter climes and new drummer Rich Brook is certainly no slouch, delivering interesting beats and clever fills throughout. That just leaves Damian Wilson who is responsible for the vocals and the lyrical concept.
Lyrically, there is a link between this and the last album. Whereas ‘I Am Anonymous’ focussed upon an individual attempting to fit in with the group, ‘All that You Fear Is Gone’ turns this concept on its head and instead looks at the way in which the group tries, often ineffectually, to control the individual. And here, the ‘group’ includes any number of organisations, governments or religions right through to smaller groups within the family or friends dynamic.
As you’d expect, the lyrics that form this concept are delivered with a great deal of skill, care and natural ability. Damian Wilson has one of the most instantly recognisable and emotive voices within the progressive music world and once again, his vocals stand out. Indeed, this shift in musical output plays into Wilson’s hands somewhat, affording him the space and freedom to deliver a compelling, honest and passionate performance from beginning to end.
The opening one-two of ‘Road To Supremacy’ and ‘Your Life Will Change’ sets the album off in really positive fashion. The former has a sense of urgency and drama that fools you in to thinking that it is heavier than it actually is. It is immediately melodious with Wilson’s voice booming over a really cool dampened guitar lick. When it explodes into life, the heavy riffs present themselves but their life within the track is actually quite truncated. ‘Your Life Will Change’ on the other hand wastes no time in getting going as a powerful riff duels with a piano melody to nice effect. The guitars are more prominent within this song but even so, there are plenty of quieter, more delicate and beautiful passages to be heard. It all comes together to create a real high point on the album.
‘Kill You With Kindness’ kicks off with a great stop-start stomping riff that again duets with the piano but by the halfway mark the heavier façade is forgotten with acoustic guitars, swathes of keyboards and subtle, engaging melodies taking centre stage. The epic ‘The Science Within Us’ is the longest composition on the record and is truly ‘progressive’ in its 13-minute construction. It is a wonderfully intelligent piece of music that’s as quirky as it is memorable, challenging the listener with a huge number of different ideas all the while managing to sound cohesive and homogenous. If the immense and intricate song-writing skill of Headspace was ever in need of being underlined, this is the track to do it.
Later in the album, things take a further quieter and contemplative turn. And whilst I initially questioned the prudence of such a run of more subtle and introspective songs, I now embrace them and find myself gravitating to them ever more frequently. ‘The Day You Return’ has the slight feel of a Katatonia track thanks to some of the synth effects and the quiet brooding intensity that eventually blossoms into a really uplifting and positive crescendo with a surprising amount of bite. The title track features some utterly exquisite classical guitar playing and, if I am to stick my neck out a little, some of Wilson’s best vocals ever. ‘Borders And Days’ is equally as beautiful if you give it the time and attention that it deserves. The acoustic guitars and keys together create a simple and effective soundscape that’s only enhanced by some expressive bass work and more melodious vocals from Wilson.
The album then closes with ‘Secular Souls’ which begins in dark, disturbing and slightly uncomfortable fashion. It ups the intensity nicely however and ends this sophomore album in a suitably and satisfactorily epic manner.
After a very rocky start, I have finally and fully fallen under the spell of ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’. It isn’t a part two of ‘I Am Anonymous’ and for that reason some will go away disappointed. I was nearly one of those people. However, if you’re willing to persevere and listen to ‘All That You Fear Is Gone’ on its own considerable merits and accept that it has an identity all of its own, the chances are that you too will end up loving it and will willingly take it to your heart.
The Score Of Much Metal: 9.0
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Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
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Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
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Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
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Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
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Arcturus – Arcturian
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The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
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Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld