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Glass Hammer - Journey Of The Dunadan CD (album) cover


Glass Hammer


Symphonic Prog

2.05 | 87 ratings

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2 stars Although they would later become a symphonic progressive band of some note, the first few albums from Glass Hammer are a bit of a mixed bag. None more so than the average `Journey Of The Dunadan', their official debut, although the recent release of `One' predates these recordings. Here we have a mostly lifeless album full of music, songs, poetry, narration and (urh) theatrical performances loosely based on the `Lord Of The Rings' trilogy. With the release of the first of `The Hobbit' film trilogy fast approaching, what better time, you may think, to indulge in this appropriate album? Honestly, I wouldn't go out of my way. Glass Hammer went on to make several consistently good albums later on that are far better than this, but perhaps diehard Tolkien fans may gain more pleasure and appreciation from this album than I did.

Right from the start, much of the music on `Journey...' comes across as greatly influenced by E.L.P, with inspiration from some of Rick Wakeman's solo concept albums too. The narration that opens the album and pops up frequently throughout reminds me of both of Wakeman's `Centre Of The Earth' albums. After a Triumvirat-style bombastic Hammond opening, one of the big problems pops up almost straight away - big, cheesy and boisterous chorus vocals singing cringe-worthy lyrics. Wait until you get to `One ring to rule them ALL!' refrain on the longer `Song Of The Dunadan'. Bleurgh! Fortunately it's got a ripper of an extended instrumental middle with slapping chunky bass, lovely synth runs, dancing piano and pounding drumming.

Oh, what's that? Nothing you'd like more than an musical album interspersed with theatrical role- playing, medieval bar-room chatter and minstrel ballads? Right this way...`The Prancing Pony' and `The Ballad of Balin Longbear' are just that. I wonder if they make more sense to readers of the Tolkien trilogy? But in the middle of them is a rather sweet Christian ballad called `The Way To Her Heart' which sounds exactly like some of the shorter tracks on the later Neal Morse solo albums. It's merely a simple and charming little heartfelt acoustic piece. Despite opening with some more narration, the album hits a brief decent run for a few instrumental tracks here. `Rivendell' is a lovely floating synth piece with 80's Genesis-style programmed percussion, and `Khazad-Dum' is a commanding piano piece with classical themes. `Nimrodel' is classy and pretty with medieval majestic flourishes.

Although fairly dull, `The Palantir' is slightly more somber and dramatic, it probably has the best vocals of the album with pleasant group harmonies in the first half. `Pellinnor Fields' is a rollicking E.L.P inspired instrumental full of fanfare bluster. `Why I Cry' is slick AOR with silky vocals from Michelle Young (there's also a `single version' tacked onto the end of the album if you must) but it's blatantly commercial and also rather bland - only the wispy Mellotron veils and proggy outro lift it to something slightly more bearable. `Anduril' is a pretty wretched two minute diversion that's a little too happy, while `Morannon Gate' has lame hard rock vocals ("Here comes the night, baby!!") with heavy metal wailing guitar - just an awful track! `The Return Of The King' is the closest we come to greatness on this album - plenty of imaginative and joyous synth melodies, catchy guitar runs and murmuring bass on this winning instrumental! It's far and away the best thing on the album, but probably a case of too little, too late.

The album deserves two stars, because Steve and Fred's playing prowess and virtuosity cannot be denied, even if their songwriting and arrangement skills were still developing. I also admire their sheer proudly proggy guts to attempt a long and ambitious concept album as a debut. I should also point out, the CD cover is actually quite impressive, and would look lovely on a vinyl reissue.

I would certainly prefer to listen to `One' any day over this, as that fully instrumental album of consistently stylish and sophisticated medieval symphonic prog makes more of a successful musical statement than this one does. Certainly the beginnings to what would become typical Glass Hammer elements start to show up on here, but they were some way off from being perfected and refined. The next few albums would make improvements, but it would take until `Lex Rex' in 2002 for all the potential and talent in the band to really start paying off.

However, as briefly mentioned above, there's a lot of Tolkien/Hobbit/Lord Of The Rings aficionados who may really go for what the band are attempting here. There are apparently a massive number of Tolkein-inspired albums and bands, perhaps just like the amusingly charming and frequently crummy `Wizard Rock' `movement' that sprang up during the course of the Harry Potter phenomena. So who knows, maybe a `Ring Rock' movement is just around the corner?! Hmmm, `Ring Rock'...I don't think I like the sound of that.

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 2/5 |


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