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Glass Hammer - Perelandra CD (album) cover

PERELANDRA

Glass Hammer

 

Symphonic Prog

3.07 | 67 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars Still a bit of a way from true greatness, `Perelandra' sees US symphonic proggers Glass Hammer again looking towards classic fantasy literature for musical inspiration, this time around it's C.S.Lewis and `The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' books. At least this album, unlike their fairly average debut album `Journey Of The Dunadan', sees main members Steve Babb and Fred Schendel taking a big step forward in terms of better and more memorable arrangements, much higher quality control that ditches the narration and a far fuller production that highlights the talent of all the musicians. It's very satisfying to hear the band blending and gelling together better, with most of the material allowing the individual members to compliment each other throughout the various flashy displays and solo contributions. Some of it shows a refreshing sense of humour and lightness that greatly benefits their over the top music as well!

After a short sound-effects introduction that sounds like an outtake from Pink Floyd's `The Wall', the ten minute `Time Marches On' has a grand symphonic intro soon joined by the whole band on wonderful group harmonies. Fred is given a serious keyboard variety workout throughout the piece with endless synth solos, and Steve's bass is starting to get that classic epic prog upfront sound. There's a number of uplifting `Yes' like themes and classic 70's majestic prog ideas worked into the piece. Another long one, `Illusion' has lovely galloping bass, tight snappy drumming and furious E.L.P styled organ/keyboard attacks. Fred's vocals - always a little bland, but still full of character and one of the constant Glass Hammer elements fans love - are a little strained but certainly very heartfelt, just like on the reworked `The Way To Her Heart', a lovely Christian ballad from the debut album.

`Felix The Cat' is a quirky but brief 70's Rick Wakeman-styled classical workout - very catchy and cute! The instrumental title track has a darkly dramatic piano introduction backed with hypnotic programmed percussion, before a prancing and upbeat synth melody and grumbling bass kick in. The whole piece alternates between reflective moodiness and uplifting qualities, and it's a standout track on the album with endless keyboard playfulness and energetic bass.

The album suddenly enters an oddly gloomy and depressing stretch here! Singer Walter Moore, showing up on the next few tracks, gives a somber and effective vocal on the surprisingly gothic and serious `La Danse Finale', with striking and dark saxophone heightening the lonely atmosphere. `That Hideous Strength' is very strange! Heavy electronic middle-eastern themes, 80's metal synths and even strangely rapping vocals amongst swirling feedback distorted electric guitars - and there's a wonderful Steve Rothery-styled emotional solo to seal the deal too. We then have a short role-playing acted piece that is much more successful than the similar attempts on the debut album.

The stunning and restrained `Into The Night' has dreamy Pink Floyd `Dark Side-era' and early Porcupine Tree droning group vocals with drifting and moving slide guitar. It really shows how effective the band can be when they tone down the over-the-top prog workouts for a few minutes, and it's easily one of the best pieces Glass Hammer recorded on their early run of albums.

The album ends with a typical rich and symphonic longer Glass Hammer piece `Heaven', another subtle Christian piece full of majestic medieval romantic musical themes and wistful vocals handled by both Walter and Fred. There's the odd clunky lyric, but it's very genuine and positive with a lovely melody. Nice booming church organ and rumbling bass runs throughout female gospel vocals too make it a suitably grand and epic finale to a very decent album.

Out of the few Glass Hammer albums they made before their first classic `Lex Rex', this is the one to get - great production, lots of virtuoso musical variety and consistently strong vocals with pleasant melodies. It's more fully realized, mature and sophisticated than the debut, so if you're looking to delve into the history of the band before they really started making their mark, you can't go wrong with `Perelandra' - the first Glass Hammer sign of greatness.

Three and a half stars!

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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