There are prolific voices who help great songs find their way to the repeat button. Yet few have received the same accolades as Scott Stapp (ex-Creed, ex-Art of Anarchy). Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum selling artist, and an integral part of the soundtrack to the ’90s, Stapp has seen and done it all, garnering more than a few stories along the way. Some stories speak to the innocent, others of nostalgia, some of surviving the lessons learned. On ‘The Space Between The Shadows’, Stapp’s third solo installment, tales, observations, and lessons learned the hard way come hard and fast with a thundering velocity, landing with the force of a gut punch, or an angel’s breath. A vulnerable, powerful and transparent piece of work ‘The Space Between The Shadows’ is something very special indeed.
From its opening apocalyptic newscaster, stuttering doom through the airwaves, ‘The Space Between The Shadows’ heralds the end of things old and speaks to new, hard-won beginnings. Having had a tumultuous few years fighting his own personal battles, many surrounding his mental health, Stapp took a long, hard look at the man in the mirror and strived to make some changes. A process captured with unvarnished honesty and full disclosure in the explosive “Purpose For Pain”. An anthem for anyone who has ever struggled in the dark, “Purpose For Pain” is an act of defiance, embracing the negative and turning it into something overwhelmingly positive. A sentiment echoed in the rising from the floor, singalong anthem, “Heaven In Me,” as well as the brilliant “Survivor” and the album’s pulsating closer, “Last Hallelujah.”
Vocally, Stapp is arguably at his best on ‘The Space Between The Shadows’. Nurturing his craft and not relying on the sheer force of his natural ability as he perhaps once did, Stapp’s delivery is simply stunning. As is his range, riding the emotional and vocal highs and lows. Yet if one element risks eclipsing all this; it lives among the lyrics.
Stapp made the conscious decision to approach the lyrics with a visceral directness. And he excels and exceeds his own expectations, revealing the universal in the person in doing so. Take the heartbreakingly brilliant “Name,” which sees Stapp recalling a moment when he looked at his children playing, prompting reflections on his own childhood and the one jarring difference. Scott, who describes himself as a husband and a father, did not know his own father and swore his children would never know that pain. A sentiment that informs “Name” whose haunting, laden paced opening feels like trudging through the muds of personal pain, before rising, phoenix-like, and soaring free of the shadows.
A sentiment replicated, lyrically and vocally, throughout. Whether it be arena-ready anthems such as “Face of the Sun,” or knee-weakening ballads such as “Ready To Love,” or the sublimely beautiful “Gone Too Soon,” a song remembering Scott’s peers such as Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, and Scott Weiland, Stapp is exceptional, ever-present, and ever invested in every second.
Sometimes you can have all the right ingredients; a great singer, songwriter, and musicians, but it just doesn’t make the cut. Not the case with ‘The Space Between The Shadow.’ Lyrically, musically, and vocally Stapp makes no excuses. If music as therapy can sometimes feel a little self-indulgent, Stapp transcends that danger and makes his own tales speak to all. One of the rawest, honest, and human albums you are likely to have the good fortune to listen to in 2019, ‘The Space Between The Shadow’ is also one of the best. An experience close to a state of grace, ‘The Space Between The Shadows’ is simply unmissable.