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Glass Hammer - If CD (album) cover

IF

Glass Hammer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.90 | 296 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Amazon.com has this lovely feature. It's a widget (isn't that what you call 'em?) that runs near the bottom of the screen that advertises albums purchased by people who bought the same album you are presently checking out. I have checked out a number of bands clicking down there and one night Glass Hammer's Cor Cordium cropped up. I gave a quick sample listen to a couple of songs and thought, "This sounds awesome. I'll get Glass Hammer too." But Cor Cordium was quite a bit more expensive than If and since the albums covers looked similar (love the little flying creature) I bought If.

Allow me to insert here a quick history of my interest in prog. For most of my music life I have been interested in groups that approached music with a more serious intent towards composition and song writing. Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Iron Maiden, Queensryche and lighter weights like Pink Floyd, the Moody Blues and Alan Parsons Project were already in my collection. But it was only near the end of 2010 that I understood that these artists were progressive in their music and what that all meant. I had just become a rabid Rush fan and by June 2011 I was seriously hooked on Yes.

Back to Glass Hammer's If. This sub-genre of symphonic prog really appeals to me, and so what I heard from Glass Hammer seemed like it would be right up my alley. I was looking forward to hearing If, expecting to hear something in the vein of Yes's classic years. But I didn't expect that I would hear something almost exactly like Yes! As the first song Beyond and Before... er, sorry... that's Beyond, Within played, I started thinking of all kinds of things to write. "It's as if the Topographic Oceans crew was transported to 2010 and made a new album!" "No, it's like after making the studio tracks for Keys to Ascension, the band jumped ahead to 2010." "No, it's like after the last tour with Rick Wakeman in the early 2000's and the band decided to take a break and do other things individually, a tribute band said, 'We'd like to pick up where you left off and continue producing Yes music.'" At first I could even see how similar Jon Davison sounded like Jon Anderson. But after a few more listens I felt I was able to begin to distinguish the differences.

It's not easy to review this album without citing how utterly similar the music and vocals here are to Yes and it would be easy to fall into the argument of music that attempts to imitate something that has already been done is not progressive in the true sense of the word, unless while imitating the previously established form something new is added. I can't say there's anything outstandingly new here. However, I also thought that it might be better to avoid this argument all together and just decide whether or not I liked the music.

So, at last, my opinion is that - in the manner of Yes's best music - Glass Hammer's If manages to capture all those interesting and exciting elements. There are epics and a super epic, all of which feature the expected odd time signatures, the abrupt changes in style and pace, acoustic guitar bits, Steve Howe-like rock guitar bits, lots of keyboards including Moog synthesizer solos that sound a lot like Rick Wakeman's from The Revealing Science of God and Mind Drive, Chris Squire-like bass sound, and some cool drumming that fits right in without being overzealous. The track If the Stars has a guitar part that's almost straight from Onward and the song ends with a snippet of guitar from The Revealing Science... The longest track If the Sun sure will take several listens to digest in whole, and Grace the Sky has some suspiciously Christian-sounding lyrics but overall I rather like the song and the music. Perhaps, to my ears anyway, the song that sounds the least like Yes is Behold, the Ziddle. It's a little darker at times and the lyrics are bizarre. This is the one track where I feel Jon Davison's vocals are weak in places and where I am sure Jon Anderson would have handled the vocal duties more skillfully.

It's not all Yes, however. I picked out a Steve Morse-like guitar solo and at times the music seems to carry the symphonic prog Yes banner with more zeal than Yes did. There's a strong musical theme throughout the album that seems consciously adhered to, unlike Yes albums that were more about creating and expanding this "new" approach to music way back when. If I have anything truly negative to say about If, it's that by the time the final, super epic track If the Sun begins, the uniform sound of the album begins to sound over stretched. For all that the music has to offer, there's no respite from the continuously reinforced onslaught of symphonic prog in modern style. Perhaps if the album were 10 minutes shorter or offered something different either heavier or lighter?

I am still having mixed feelings about how good I actually think the album is. I recently also purchased Wobbler's Rites at Dawn and I am finding that one more enjoyable because I think it's a step and a half further away from Yes than this album. I also think Jon Davison's vocals are not as strong as Jon Anderson's. They have the timbre of Jon Anderson but not that slight bit of edge that Anderson has. I expect I might find some of Glass Hammer's older albums more interesting maybe. Still, all things considered, as a symphonic prog album, or maybe it would be better to just call it a symphonic rock album, it has most of what I like to hear. The compositions are musically strong if not overindulgent at times. There is no question of talent or purpose. This might be an album that will grow on me more as I explore progressive music further.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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