If your father is the legendary Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, you’ve got a lot to live up to, especially if you start your own progressive rock band. The fact of the matter is that I Am Anonymous, the debut release from Headspace with Adam Wakeman on keyboards, shows more muscle than that flabby, bloated old-age bore-fest album (Fly From Here) that Yes (without Wakeman and without singer Jon Anderson) put out last year. Of course, that’s not saying much, so it’s unfair to compare. I Am Anonymous is the best Yes album by a group that’s not Yes—ever. It’s dramatic, filled with dynamics that constantly alters its own landscape, and that singer, wow, he may sound like Jon but he adds a wistful innocence in an almost earthy folk mode. But then Pete Rinaldi’s guitars bash ‘n’ crash enough to give it the kind of heft one wants. And when you put Rinaldi’s riffs in conjunction with the bombast of drummer Richard Brooks, prog rules fly out the window. Yeah, they’re young, they’re still learning, but their credentials are in order. Hell, Wakeman’s serving as keyboardist on tours for Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath this summer, no small feat. Bassist Lee Pomeroy has played with Steve Hackett so he must know his stuff too.

Themes? These boys don’t kid around. The concept of a “Stalled Armageddon” means we’re living on borrowed time. “Fall Of America” may be doomsday prophesying but it sure sounds good. “Soldier” and “Die With A Bullet” go together and the latter hits home hard with a visceral thud, as Wakeman goes all Keith Emerson on us rather than his dad. And that’s a good thing. As the songs fly by in a blur of incredible chops and thought-provoking lyrics, it becomes less Yes and more Rush, Genesis and Dream Theater. Singer Damian Wilson takes over and the chops become subservient to the songs, which is the way it should be. Still, guitarist Rinaldi asserts himself time and time again with just the proper amount of fuzz like sprinkles on your ice cream cone.

With Wakeman’s church organ spilling out in waves as an intro to “In Hell’s Name,” Wilson asks that musical question, “Doesn’t everybody heed emotions they can’t see?” The organ then sounds like a celestial choir before the band kicks in hard like a grumpy mule. When this band plays all together in a hard rock setting, they’re positively glorious. But the glory is always short-lived as they like to tease: stop on a dime, inject a soundtrack-styled dreamscape dose, then kick back before starting the tease all over again. It all amounts to some pretty heady stuff, and for this to be a debut? Pretty damn impressive.

Plus, they’ve got the balls to include the 15-minute “Daddy Fucking Loves You.” It starts out like a lullaby hymnal, morphs into an acoustic anti-war protest song (“never thought to stop and complain or to question what it was for”), and grows into an electric anthem complete with Wakeman-esque dipsy-doodles. Then the guitar crunch obliterates everything in its path. Bang that head! Rinaldi’s a monster! And here comes Wakeman gaining ground fast on the outside as they head down the final turn! The two parry and thrust as that bass/drum rhythm section dares to get a word in edgewise. It’s sports for the head! And no one’s keeping score. The rattle and hum keeps on keeping on and when Wilson starts singing again, he sounds more like Jon Anderson than ever. Was Yes ever this good? Sure they were. The song ends in a bizarre nursery rhyme of some little girl sounding like the undead before Wilson soothes her savage soul by returning to the main theme that started this whole trip a quarter of an hour ago.

“Invasion” (8:28) and “The Big Day” (9:54) wrap it up in Grand Guignol style and I could go on and on but it seems like I’m out of space.

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