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Glass Hammer - Shadowlands CD (album) cover

SHADOWLANDS

Glass Hammer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.72 | 166 ratings

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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The opening synths of So Close So Far will let you know that Glass Hammer owe a debt to Genesis (having moved away from the earlier ELP fascination!), but this is no clone band. Multi-instrumentalist Fred Schendel must be one of the most underrated musicians of our time and Steve Babb (bass/some keys) is no slouch either. The vocals of Walter Moore and Susie Bogdanowicz, however aren't quite in the same league, and while they are not weak, the fact that many of the vocal passages are very "poppy" drags this album down. I must say too that while this album started off spectacularly it didn't last the pace, and it in fact, is a minor step down from its predecessor Lex Rex.

So Close So Far has some fine passages like a sudden "drop-out section" and some truly excellent synth fills. Unlike most modern prog bands, I also really like the guitar sounds Glass Hammer employ, but the way the synths colour the music is definitely the highlight of the band's sound as far as I'm concerned. The playing during the complex outro of the first track just totally rocks. Run Lisette has also got great synth fills and some excellent solos to boot (the one that takes off around the 4 minute mark is particularly awesome) and it leads to a section where strings, organ and guitar leads merge into one another superbly. The vocals can be a little precious (in much the same way those of Candice Night, of Blackmore's Night, can be) but they don't spoil this particular tune, and sometimes the harmonies are excellent.

Unfortunately Shadowlands never quite lives up to the promise of the opening two pieces. Farewell To Shadowlands is the type of tune a lot of neo-prog fans will enjoy, but I didn't. Despite the presence of a few good solo interludes, I generally found the song to be boring. Longer is only slightly better with a delicate piano intro (even if the opening instrumental passage does seem like an outtake from A Trick Of The Tail!). Unfortunately once the words and melody arrive they are too poppy for my tastes, which is hardly surprising given that it is indeed a cover of the Dan Fogelberg hit!

The concluding epic Behind The Great Beyond is sporadically excellent. It starts off with a classical intro with a piano leading a string quartet for the first two minutes, before an organ leads the whole band through a passage that reminds me of Kansas (with Moog synth solo and all). Around the 5 minute mark, the "song" starts, although the passage is just too pop for my tastes. At the 7:40 mark, an organ section leads the song into a nice string passage before vocals come back, there's some delightful unaccompanied classical guitar solo as well as another more interesting vocal part, with some great Moog accompaniment as well. But I must say that, as with many tunes that last more than 20 minutes, Behind The Great Beyond disctinctly runs out of steam towards the end. Which is a great way of summing up the whole album, actually. ... 51% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 3/5 |

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