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Glass Hammer - Culture Of Ascent CD (album) cover

CULTURE OF ASCENT

Glass Hammer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.53 | 129 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Epignosis
Special Collaborator
Eclectic Prog Team
5 stars Saturated with lengthy and satisfying compositions as this album is, it's a shame this band does not get the attention it deserves. This album combines modern electronic and technical sensibilities with the powerful and tight compositions of the 1970s symphonic progressive rock scene. The arrangement and composition of the music leave nothing to be desired, and the performance of every instrument is essentially flawless. Culture of Ascent is a spectacular album that rivals Shadowlands in majesty and splendor.

"South Side of the Sky" A Yes favorite gets a makeover and a feminine touch. It blends exotic sounds with modern electronic tones and assumes a powerfully tight rock transformation. The vocals of the lovely Susie Bogdanowicz bend the melody in subtle and unsettling ways. The lack of bass in some parts (like after the middle bit) lets the piece breathe. The full instrumentation, background vocals, and dazzling effects make the verses dark and rich. The piano section and vocal harmonies that follow are relatively unchanged, if only modernized. And it's encouraging to hear at the outset Jon Anderson's esoteric vocalizations. I honestly prefer this version to the original- it's just so?cool.

"Sun Song" More electronic sensibilities are joined by violin, viola, cello and gentle vocal harmonies. Carl Groves has a "matte" voice (compared to Walter Moore's "gloss," meaning that Groves does not have even a trace of Moore's squeal, sounding less dynamic but also less annoying). The synthesizer, violin, and guitar each have a solo in the middle, and this is the highlight of the piece- each lead instrument's part is expertly crafted and perfectly executed. Pleasant vocals, strings, and heavy electric guitar follow to bring the piece to its conclusion.

"Life by Light" Gentle vocal begins this piece, soon accompanied by piano, strings, acoustic guitar, and gentle clean electric. Anderson's beatifically soft voice drifts in and out. This song is like a thousand delicate pieces of fabric woven together to make a strong cloth- each elegant layer of instrument or voice would be fragile on its own, but its unity makes it mighty. Ultimately, this is a cornucopia of harmonic voices- lovely for its entire duration.

"Ember Without a Name" Dark and heavy riffs work over blasts of Mellotron as a gritty electric guitar solo enters. The vocal section is not as grave, with less instrumentation and the addition of those sweet strings. For those enthralled with guitar shredding, there's an amazing guitar solo tucked away in here, that gives way to a more subdued keyboard excursion. A glistening piano, all alone, leads to perhaps the strangest moment on the album, but once this passes, the vocals reenter, as do the skillfully orchestrated music of the whole band.

"Into Thin Air" Lone piano begins the epic of the album. Acoustic guitar and violin come into play after the vocal, and with clean electric guitar, once more create a rich tapestry of music over a bed of placid drumming. Mellotron is another constant is this gorgeous piece. This almost twenty-minute song is loaded with graceful yet dynamic music, maintaining a full yet not busy arrangement. The vocal melodies and themes are memorable- something always important when dealing with lengthy tracks.

"Rest" The last venture opens with a sinister atmospheric bit before yielding to gorgeous strings, subdued keyboards, and calm vocals. The melody is striking, especially as it works alongside the beautiful violin.

Epignosis | 5/5 |

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