At Prog Report:
One of my all-time favorite tracks, “Secular Souls,” by Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman.
Being a rather huge (gargantuan?) admirer of Damian Wilson–especially his work with Arjen Lucassen–and, most especially, in his [headspace] collaboration with Adam Wakeman (another favorite), I eagerly preordered and helped crowd fund the new Wilson & Wakeman album, “The Sun Will Dance In Its Twilight Hour.”
The CD landed on my doorstep from Germany last week. With Wilson, Wakeman, and such a Crimson-esque title, I was expecting a scorching experimental prog metal masterpiece of galactic proportions.
The last thing I expected was what I actually received, an album that sounds as though it could have been written, at various points, by Paul Simon, Seals and Crofts, or Natalie Merchant. I’m not in any way suggesting that Wilson & Wakeman advertised falsely. Frankly, I’m sure I just missed some memo, here or there. It wouldn’t be the first time my 50-year old spaciness got the best of me. Additionally, Wilson & Wakeman are each too earnest to be deceptive.
And, that’s the best place to start an actual review of this rather beautiful album. The album is raw, earnest, sincere, heartfelt, and, from a prog perspective, absolutely minimalist. Vocals and piano dominate this album, with only the odd strings, backup vocals, and drums coming in from time to time.
Wilson and Wakeman!
No, it’s not Steven Wilson and Rick Wakeman.
It’s Damian and Adam!
I’m still listening to Damian’s last Headspace album, All That You Fear is Gone (2016), because it’s so good.
But now here’s a disc of dazzling new material since Weir Keeper’s Tale (2016):
Damian and Adam will release their second full-length album on February 16th.
The album, containing 10 brand new songs, will feature Damian on vocals and acoustic guitar and Adam on piano, vocals and acoustic guitar. It also features guest musicians Andy Dunlop (Travis) on guitar, Ash Soan (Adele, Robbie Williams) on drums, Tony Woollard (Damian Wilson) on cello and Hayley Sanderson (Strictly Come Dancing) on backing vocals.
The album will be available as digipak CD and as digital download on all major platforms on February 16th. A vinyl edition will be released on March 16th.
Best known as the keyboard player with Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath, Adam Wakeman has also released nine albums with father Rick Wakeman as well as releasing four solo albums.
As a classically- trained pianist, his albums cross many genres and styles from classical, to rock. He co- wrote the 2010 platinum selling album Scream with Ozzy Osbourne and has also toured extensively with Travis, Annie Lennox, Will Young, Slash, 10CC and many more. The most recent Black Sabbath The End world tour saw over 81 shows in 30 countries around the world, playing to over 1.5 million people.
Damian Wilson is a songwriter and vocalist who has appeared on over 70 separate album releases.
Damian is widely known in the progressive rock genre, for bands and projects such as Headspace, Threshold, Ayreon and Rick Wakeman’s English Rock Ensemble. As a solo artist he has released 5 solo albums, a DVD and a retrospective compilation album. He is currently promoting his latest solo album Built for Fighting
Damian has also worked with Guy Fletcher, Maiden United, After Forever, Mostly Autumn and Praying Mantis. He played the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables on their UK National Tour.
Hey Progarchists, a plea and an appeal. Damian Wilson and Adam Wakeman have launched a Kickstarter pledge program.
Please, please, please support them.
The campaign lasts until February, and they’ve received about 30% of what they need at this point to complete and produce the album.
For those of you who might not know, these are the two who brought us the exceptional and outstanding [headspace] albums. These guys are genius, and they very much deserve our support.
To support this project, please go here.
I’m not privy as to the reasons why this happened, of course, but it makes me terribly sad.
It doesn’t get much better than Wilson-fronted Threshold in this world of sorrows.
Threshold’s last three albums (2 studio and 1 live) have been some of the best in rock history, frankly.
DEPARTURE FROM THRESHOLD
Damian Wilson’s statement regarding the departure from Threshold:
Unfortunately this is not a mutual decision, but I respect it. After I had recorded the album and committed to the tour I was informed that Threshold were going to continue on without me. They have every right to make this choice, although it is difficult to part ways with a group of people you’ve shared so many experiences with.
I really enjoyed the past decade recording and touring with Threshold and wish them all the best for the future, with the hope we might work again on projects somewhere down the line.
The label Nuclear Blast are amazing, and with the wonderful support of the fan base the whole journey of being the frontman for Threshold has been fantastic.
Review of [headspace], ALL THAT YOU FEAR IS GONE (Insideout Music, 2016).
Tracks: Road to Supremacy; Your Life Will Change; Polluted Alcohol; Kill You With Kindness; The Element; The Science Within Us; Semaphore; The Death Bell; The Day You Return; All That You Fear is Gone; Borders and Days; and Secular Souls
Bread and Circuses rule the day, or so it seems.
On their second album, ALL THAT YOU FEAR IS GONE, prog metal act and somewhat supergroup [headspace] delve into some rather deep social and cultural problems. Specifically, the band asks, just 1) what is it that The-Powers-That-Be be do to distract us, and, perhaps more importantly, 2) why do we let them?
Lyrically, this album follows the first album rather closely. That is, the themes follow logically from before. If I’m interpreting the lyrics properly on the second [headspace] album, Wilson is even more writing a sequel to Threshold’s excellent MARCH OF PROGRESS (2012). All three albums, though, radiate a form of individualist libertarianism and anarchy.
Throughout its illustrious and long history, prog rock rarely fails to engage such problems and pose such questions, though it often does so through employment of symbolism, metaphor, and allegory. On ALL THAT YOU FEAR IS GONE, some symbolism exists, but the lyrics seem rather straight forward: the moral and virtuous individual, though rare, must resist the tyranny of the mass mind, whether that mass mind is found in schools, bureaucracies, corporations, governments, or neighborhoods.
From what little I’ve been able to glean from the internet, Wilson had little to do with the lyrics on MARCH OF PROGRESS, but he wrote nearly all of them for ALL THAT YOU FEAR IS GONE.
Regardless, there’s a lot of young Neil Peart hovering over this album.
And yet, not completely, especially when it comes to matters of religion. I’ll get to this in a bit.
Musically, the album is glorious prog metal, more driving than Dream Theater but not as much so as Threshold. And, where Haken might be playful, [headspace] is intense. Indeed, intense is the most proper and best way to think of the band’s music. And yet, within such prog metal intensity, there is to be found much variation. The opening track, “Road to Supremacy,” begins with a heavy Philip Glass minimalism before Wilson’s soaring vocals force us to look to the heavens. Tracks 2 through 11 mix everything from melodic ballads to folkish auras to classical guitar runs, but always with—here’s that word again—intensity.
What perplexes me and interests me most is the final song of the album, “Secular Souls.” First, musically, this is an extraordinary song. Not only does it reveal the wide range and power of Wilson’s voice, but every one of the musicians in [headspace] is in top form. No hyperbole here. The best of the best comes out here. Though there’s not a dud on this album, this is the best song of the album, and it is the perfect conclusion to what the album has built and earned over the previous eleven songs.
I’ve not mentioned the members of the band yet–but it really is a supergroup (a term, I dislike, generally, but it applies here). In addition to Wilson on vocals–Adam Wakeman on keys; Lee Pomeroy on bass (if you want to be blown away, watch Pomeroy on the Genesis II Revisited DVDs); Pete Rinaldi on guitars; and Adam Falkner on drums. Sheesh.
Second, the lyrics deal with the mystery of the Catholic Mass. “What!?!?!,” I thought when I first heard this, scratching my head and furrowing my brow. Is Wilson mocking the Mass? Though Catholic myself, I will be the first to admit, I’m a pretty bad Catholic when it comes to actual practice. Culturally and intellectually, though, I’m pretty much in full agreement with the Church. Whatever my beliefs about the next world, in this world, I have more respect for the Church—despite its rather blatant and often terrible failings—than for any other institution in existence. I write all of this not to convince you, the reader, of anything other than this: I take this stuff seriously.
Listening to the final song, one could arguably claim it is as anti-Catholic as it is pro-Catholic. Given the deep sensitivity with which Wilson sings the words of consecration (the part of the Mass in which Catholics (Anglo- and Roman-) believe the bread and wine become flesh and blood) and the placement of the song as the final song, it seems to me that Wilson is serious. And, at many levels, this works with the other criticisms of the album leveled in the previous songs. After all, from the first song on, this album praises in no uncertain terms the righteous individual.
If so, that righteousness ultimately stems from grace, not will. That grace comes through the rigors of faith. Just as Rome’s “bread and circuses” failed, so too will our modern equivalents. The only hope for Rome (or, really, the West) was the rise of an obscure sect from out of the catacombs, a sect preaching loving and sacrifice. These truths do not change, whether in 312AD or 2016AD.
You as well as Damian Wilson might be reading this and, legitimately, thinking: what the hell is Birzer talking about? If so, I apologize. But, until I hear otherwise, I’m going to assume that [headspace] embraces both libertarianism and Catholicism.
Wishful thinking on my part, perhaps.
Regardless, this is an excellent album. How many hours of enjoyment has it given to me already in the first ¼ of 2016? I couldn’t even count the hours. I can state this with certainty: I’m listening to [headspace], and I will be for many, many, many years to come.
As soon as you have a free moment, pre-order the new [headspace], ALL THAT YOU FEAR IS GONE (InsideOut, 2016). I’m on my fourth listen in less than 18 hours, and I’m utterly blown away by it. Yes, I know how inelegant this sounds, but it is true. Blown away.
Ok, so 1) I’m not a metal guy. And, 2) see no. 1.
Despite 1 and 2: Threshold’s latest, FOR THE JOURNEY, is just astounding. Simply and movingly astounding.
Brad’s mind: officially blown.
Brad’s soul: officially happy.
Brad’s cry: Ave Threshold!
Order it now. Or, even faster than now: http://media.nuclearblast.de/shoplanding/2014/Threshold/for-the-journey.html
A proper review is on its way.