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Glass Hammer - Culture Of Ascent CD (album) cover

CULTURE OF ASCENT

Glass Hammer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.53 | 121 ratings

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Prog Sothoth
4 stars Here Glass Hammer display their main influences like a streaker displays his groin at an internationally televised sporting event by opening the album with a cover of South Side Of The Sky. Thing is, this is one fine cover! It begins with a bit of new-age sitar flair, which flows unsurprisingly seamlessly into Jon Anderson's lyrics, here sung by Susie Bogdanowicz. She may not be a technically gifted singer, but sometimes the tone itself is just as important, as in this case. Her voice is smooth and pleasant, adding character to the song while not taking anything away from the epic nature of the cover. Another interesting aspect of this opener is the appearance of a shredding guitar solo towards the tune's climax. It somehow fit in, but it was still somewhat unexpected. Distorted guitar rhythm playing should also be noted, as it is heavy yet buried in the mix while the keyboards and string sections are mixed more to the front.

These solos would find their way into some of the other tracks here as well, particularly in Sun Song. They're fine, but lack in melody and restraint at times, as if the soloist is merely trying to impress by ripping through scales as fast as possible that coordinate with the rhythm track. Vocals for the remainder of the tracks are performed mainly by Carl Groves, whose voice is competent, although neutered in a sense. His voice does work decently overdubbed within vocal harmonies.

The two long epics have their merits, with Into Thin Air being the superior of the two, with some excellent and creative melodies that don't wear out their welcome despite the monstrous running time. Ember Without Name has a slight tinge of progressive metal squirreling its way into the mix, mostly noticeable by the copious usage of double bass drum battering, but the production of the bass drums on this track sterilizes the low end of the drum beat and renders the bass drum pedals sounding almost like a snare with its "click-click" sound. This is the only song in which the drums were mixed in this fashion, in which the reasoning would be to emphasize the speed and precision of the drummer at the expense of an actual strong aural bass presence.

This album was a slow grower, the opening track being an immediate attraction to my ears, but the rest of the collection seemed to meander, possibly due to the male singer's rather indistinctive vocals causing me to zone out at times. However, after multiple listening, eventually certain tracks do emerge as quite remarkable, with Into Thin Air being the highpoint. Glass Hammer were right to bring Susie to the forefront for their next album, but shot themselves in the foot, hand and buttocks by almost completely ditching the musical style they had developed by this album.

Prog Sothoth | 4/5 |

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