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Glass Hammer - Valkyrie CD (album) cover

VALKYRIE

Glass Hammer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.87 | 137 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

BrufordFreak
4 stars Using a more open space, 'live' recording style, this band of American veterans has produced what is, in my opinion, their best album ever. The sound here is often quite similar to that of their 'vintage-instruments-only' magnum masterpiece that they contributed to the 2005 Colossus Magazine/Musea Records production of Odyssey: The Greatest Tale. I have not actually contributed many reviews to Glass Hammer releases because they have never really connected or resonated with me before. (Their NeoProg bombast is usually so cheezy and over-the-top Yes- imitative as to not feel worth my time--especially since I do not generally like to give poor reviews--[unless a bubble needs bursting]. Until now, Glass Hammer was free to go about doing what they do [imitate Yes] and I would respectfully leave them alone).

1. "The Fields We Know" (7:37) opens familiarly but then enters into Olympus with the multi-voiced chorus. Despite the presence of oft over-used and domineering Hammond organ and Rickenbacker bass, the boys use the two in different enough ways to allow the melodies and music to feel fresh and not bombastic. (9/10)

2. "Golden Days" (6:20) Though I like all of the vocal contributions to this album, having Susie Bogdanowicz on lead vocals certainly does make for an improved sound. Great melodies and key/chord progressions throughout. (9/10)

3. "No Man's Land" (14:20) opens with a rather long introduction (nearly three minutes) containing some beautiful instrumental soundscapes and chord progressions before the music shifts into a more syncopated stop-and-go section in which tuned percussion and acoustic guitars are given some of the spotlight. A minute later chunky bass, Hammond organ, Steve-Howe-like guitar sounds and riffs and synth washes help support Susie's lead vocal during the first verse. The chorus is more of a collective, male-dominated affair, but then Susie regains the lead with the second verse. The song gets a little funky and a little predictable in the second half--especially in the use of the organ. The vocals get mixed up quite a bit, but then those Hammond runs come in and kind of remind us of why prog died out in the 70s ("too much of that organ" my daughter would say). (8/10)

4. "Nexus Girl" (2:58) is a very modern sounding little instrumental that opens with some great keyboard work supported by some kind of techno-trip hoppy computer-programmed drums. Again, some extraordinary ear candy in the form of the chord progressions, melodies and solos from the lead instruments (synths, MONO-like tremolo electric guitar). Great song! (10/10)

5. "Valkyrie" (5:54) opens in a very Neo Prog fashion with BIG instrumental intro (including Wurlitzer-sounding church organ) before everything quiets down to support a vocal that is interesting for its muted effect for the first verse. The second verse allows the vocalist(s) to go unmuted. Nice melody--which is eventually taken over by Ms. Bogdanowicz. Nice! (9/10)

6. "Fog Of War" (8:23) finds the band, unfortunately, reverting to YES-imitation (Drama's "Tempus Fugit" and others comes to mind immediately). A lead vocal by Susie Bogdanowicz does much to distract us, but then a male takes over in a temporary RUSH-like passage. Back to YES for the fifth minute. Well executed and just original enough to be a total ripoff, but, still . . . Yes was Yes, this is now. (7/10)

7. "Dead And Gone" (9:56) for the first 3:35, this is a fairly simply structured and instrumented song over which Susie Bogdanowicz sings a gorgeous plaintive lyric about soldiers (as metaphor for ) But then the ELP-like Hammond bombast enters and threatens to take over. Luckily, this is fairly short-lived, until a GENESIS-like section takes over for a Steve Babb's brief turn at lead vocal. By 6:30 we're back to the simplicity and beauty of the first section. Some of the instruments do crank up their volume and intensity a bit in the eighth minute before a heavier, funky, effected instrumental section takes over before another brief Steve Babb vocal. Then, at the nine minute mark the music shifts to fast, more ELP instrumental bombast. I guess it's hardwired in these guys by now . . . (8/10)

8. "Eucatastrophe" (3:30) opens with the arpeggiated chords that ended GENESIS' "Cinema Show" before shifting into a gentle acoustic support for Susie Bogdanowicz' gorgeous lead vocal--which is sung mostly in the upper registers with her head voice. At the two-minute mark begins an instrumental onslaught led by Hammond organ and Rickebacker bass to end the song. Odd and incongruous--earning it's marks for the gorgeous first two minutes. (9/10)

9. "Rapturo" (6:12) opens with a couple of bell-like synth notes being played percussively while echo-y piano emotionally fills some of the lower end spaciousness. Really pretty! And then at the 2:25 mark drums, synths and Susie Bogdanowicz's gorgeous, almost angelic vocal fill the cathedral skies. The end of the depression is always uplifting but at the same time scary cuz you never know when 'the Dark One' will return. Thank god this one did not venture into Yes-land. If anything, it stayed in Post Rock territory! Gorgeous and powerful song! (10/10)

Despite producing one of my all-time favorite prog epics for the Odyssey: The Greatest Tale project, GLASS HAMMER has had a great deal of trouble winning me into their corner. With Valkyrie they may have finally done it! Four stars; an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

BrufordFreak | 4/5 |

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