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Glass Hammer - Culture Of Ascent CD (album) cover


Glass Hammer


Symphonic Prog

3.54 | 162 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars This one of those albums that would have been better with one track less, that track being the slightly lame cover of Yes - South Side Of The Sky. The error is compounded by its inclusion as the opener rather than a bonus track where it should have been. Once you get past that you have a well crafted modern symphonic prog album. GH have been accused of being 'Yes clones' but the addition of violin (as well as viola and cello) for the first time actually makes them sound more like Kansas if anything. There is always a retro prog thing going with Glass Hammer and it makes the music very accessible. They know how to write a good melody and rarely does the music become really 'dark' so that puts them a little out of step with modern prog. For that reason they are possibly ignored by some but I like the warmth of their music.

There is some nice chunky stuff to get your teeth into here. The opening track proper (in my personal version) 'The Sun Song' chugs along nicely,a feature being the nice multi harmony vocals. It all works fine.The next track 'Life By Light' is the most Yes sounding track (bar South Side) as Jon Anderson adds some nice backing vocals. This could be Yes circa 1977 quite easily and wouldn't be out of place on Going For The One (thats a compliment btw). Strings are again a feature as they all throughout. Lovely.

'Ember Without Name' is the first really long track clocking in at 16 minutes.Starts with some unusual (for Fred Schendel) keyboard effects and an almost prog metal feel. Matt Mendians shows why he was at this point one of the best drummers in prog. Great lead guitar as well from David Wallimann before the girls on Violin, Viola and Cello do their thing.I do like this track. Very interesting almost having a live studio jam feel about it and is about a million miles away from being Yes or Kansas or anyone else. Fred throws in some great little piano licks along the way.This is definitely Glass Hammer music of the most excellent variety.

The album is largely dominated by male vocals although of the more higher range variety. Apart from the Yes cover Susie Bogdanowicz can hardly be heard but its not a problem as the vocals are good. The longest track 'Into Thin Air' (19.14) is my favourite. Matt Mendians is again the star. Sad that this was his last album with GH (I don't know the story there) as he raises GH's music to another level much like Andy Edwards did on IQ's Frequency.As you would expect this is the most complex track and valid comparisons could be made to Kansas circa 1974/5. Its a bit lazy of me to keep referencing old bands as the music is still uniquely Glass Hammer but if you like Kansas's long symphonic work outs such as Song For America then I think you will enjoy this.

The closer is the nice little song 'Rest' ,...well its sort of short for Glass Hammer at 6 minutes!

Overall I like this album a lot. Slightly puzzled that they had to do the Yes cover and include it as the opening track. Nevertheless you still have just shy of 60 minutes of excellent GH original music featuring some very talented musicians. Its beautifully produced (as all their albums are). Not quite as good as The Inconsolable Secret but not far off in my opinion.

richardh | 4/5 |


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