As you may have noticed, we’re prog wusses at AMG. We look favorably on innovation, strong atmosphere and where progressive isn’t a synonym for purely technical. Enter Headspace. Comprising high profile musicians such as vocalist Damian Wilson of Threshold, keyboardist Adam Wakeman of Ozzy‘s band (and son of the Yes legend) and Lee Pomeroy, of note for his work with almost everyone ever (including Steve Hackett), the line-up is experienced and successful. ‘Supergroups’ are, however, plagued as strong personalities pull the music in various directions, often devolving into vain wankfests. How does the group’s sophomore record, All that You Fear Is Gone, fair?
I hope you like semen. All that You Fear… confirms all my worst fears of the hallowed supergroup. It’s rife with self-indulgence and poor decision-making, and it drives me to distraction since they’re evidently talented and brim with good ideas. The ever-so-gradual crescendo on the introduction, “Road to Supremacy,” goes on for 5 minutes without ever breaking into a climax or vaguely logical structure, but neither is it simple enough to consign to ‘atmospheric intro’ territory. “Polluted Alcohol” opens as a cool desert rock ballad, stripping back with an acoustic guitar, backing gospel vocals and a sparse piano. It works perfectly well for the first 3 minutes, after which it pointlessly jollies along and doesn’t conclude until past the 6 minute mark. The record runs a ‘wholesome’ 73 minutes and I’ve had my fill as I reach the end of the proggy centerpiece, “The Science within Us.” Unfortunately, an entire second half lies in wait behind it, primed to unleash itself all over me.
Indeed, this Genesis-esque behemoth is a neat reference point for the album’s song writing deficiencies when compared with ninth track, “The Day You Return.” The former runs for 13 minutes. The latter doesn’t. The former has a 6 minute prelude to the song’s melodic crux. The latter doesn’t. The former has a 3 minute melodic crux incorporating the same 8 word phrase repeated 14 times. The latter doesn’t. The former completes itself with 4 minutes of explosive, masturbatory solos. The latter doesn’t. In fact, the latter has more imagination jammed into its understated, 3 minute progression than most other tracks over twice its size; it opens with an atmospheric xylophone and subtle chords, breaks into a groovy lead (one of the album’s best), nails a solo, before climaxing with Wilson’s resplendent vocals. It’s everything which the rest of All that You Fear… isn’t: focused, succinct, wankless.
Wilsons’s vocals are typically awesome. He runs the gamut here, stretching himself from the approach taken on Threshold, crooning, wailing, leading or supporting as required. The optimist’s view is that he is the melodic anchor for the surrounding prog, unifying disparate styles which are integrated to questionable success. The pessimist’s view is that he is the melodic crutch, the fall-back on to which the listener can clutch as much of the remainder fails to engage. As the band’s roster would suggest, the musicianship is excellent but this is null without compelling song-writing.
I’ve not mentioned many positives but rest assured that there are a few. Decent riffs are arbitrarily distributed throughout and the last third of the album is fairly evocative and consistent by comparison to the rest. This includes the aforementioned “The Day You Return” and a couple of ballads which don’t suffer from the lack of focus permeating the preceding two thirds. A reasonable mixing job which at least ensures each part of the music fits well together helps. All that You Fear… is therefore ultimately saved from the jizz-logged sub-2.0 hell.
Headspace is categorically not equal to the sum of its parts, overfilling All that You Fear… with extraneous and uneven material. It would be twice as good if it were half as long, condensing the strong elements into a more cohesive release but alas, I cannot rate such a hypothetical. The positives are present but difficult to pick out, smeared with copious, syrupy ejaculate. Perhaps they should use a tissue next time.