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Glass Hammer - Shadowlands CD (album) cover

SHADOWLANDS

Glass Hammer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.70 | 174 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

chessman
Prog Reviewer
4 stars After reading reviews of this band, I downloaded "Run Lisette" from this site, and then visited the official Glass Hammer site and downloaded "So Close, So Far". The first time I played these tracks, I wasn't sure how I felt. Both sounded to me like a mish-mash of sounds. But, on playing them a second time, something clicked in my head, and I realised both tracks were excellent! Therefore, I took a chance and purchased the album. Comparisons to Yes and Elp are not really accurate, except in the keyboard department, although there is the occasional touch of Steve Howe guitar. Vocally, this group is a million miles from both of the aforementioned bands. Nevertheless, this band stands up very well on its own, needing no comparisons. the opener, "So Close, So Far", is excellent, with acoustic guitar leading into a complex piece of music. The middle of the song has some nice guitar, with the lovely and plaintive female vocals adding an extra dimension to the song. The male vocals, I have to say though, are adequate and workman like, but not startlingly brilliant. The end of the song has some nice chord changes to finish it off. What suprised me about this, is the amount of guitar on the song. Although keyboards are the dominant instrument on the whole album, there is far more guitar than you would at first expect. And it is played very professionally too. Schendel and Babb are obviously the descendants of Mike Oldfield when it comes to multi-instrumentalism! The second track is very complex again. I won't say what it is about, as it is always nice for the listener to discover such things himself. Again though, the playing is very professional, and the whole production is clean, clear and bright. Plenty of tempo changes here and some nice organ, sounding somewhat like Rick Wakeman, around the time of Going For The One, whilst the guitar is, in parts, again like Steve Howe from the same album. The lyrics have to be listened to carefully as there is a section where two distinct voices sing different things at the same time. Even harder to dissect is a similar thing near the end of the song, where in fact three voices sing different things! Even if you read the lyrics at the same time as you listen, it can be hard to differentiate between them. This is an excellent track though. Next we have "Farewell To Shadowlands", the shortest track on the album, at 7.30. It is one of my favourites though. The impression I got whilst listening to it is of a girl walking down a forest singing to comfort herself. The lyrics convey this image to the listener, but the music also does this, even if you don't pay attention to the words. That is how it came across to me, anyway! The song starts with nice bass, drums and keyboards, a touch of guitar wafting melodically over it. The whole thing progresses and builds up, the keyboards dominating, until the slide guitar takes over and leads into the vocals. The keyboards are always present though, and the whole sound is sonically tremendous. The female voice, with a trace of echo on it, suits this track very well indeed. Then comes more keyboards, in classic Yes style, bringing to my mind parts off the "Relayer" album. A very good and, again, technically complex song. The fourth track is "Longer", a cover version of the old Dan Fogelberg song. This is, comparatively, the weakest track, in my opinion. It is still very good though, starting off with solitary piano, which turns into an organ sound, and builds up nicely, drums coming in unobtrusively. Then the melody is played, Rick Wakeman style, and the song bursts into action. The lyrics here, whilst ok, don't seem to fit in with the rest of the album, as this is really a standard love song, whilst the singing, despite some nice harmonies, is never more than average. Nevertheless, musically it fits in with the overall style of the album, and is still enjoyable. Finally comes the 'epic' track on the album, "Behind The Great Beyond", coming in at over 20 mins. This has an almost 17th or 18th century feel to the start, with a string trio joining in to good effect. Then the keyboards, bass and drums take over, again reminding one strongly of Yes. For some reason, the female vocals here almost remind me, in places, of Wendy Smith from Prefab Sprout! They have that sort of clear and innocent sound. Very effective though. The melody is very strong and the harmonies are accurate. The middle section changes nicely, bringing in some Steve Hackett-like classical guitar. Then the electric guitar brings in some more Steve Howe effects, and nice mellotron in the background behind the vocals. This leads into the end section, which builds up nicely with more slide guitar. All the strands tie in nicely at the end and show this band's capabilities off very well. There is an almost Irish jig atmosphere to it, with all the instruments playing their part, whilst the final moment comes in the shape of a beautiful keyboard sweep across the senses. This band is very talented, and I hope to acquire more of their albums in the next few months. American bands like Dream Theater, do nothing for me, appealing more to the teenage metal fans, but this band is different. And good. Try it and see!
chessman | 4/5 |

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