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JOURNEY OF THE DUNADAN

Glass Hammer

Symphonic Prog


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1 stars Wow, I get to do the first review...............for an album that was released in 1993. Well, I think there is good reason there are no reviews; the album is not very good. I got this album because I really like the Chronometree album, and at the time thought I should start at the beginning with this band and work through their catalog. Well, this is as far as I got. After seeing them at Nearfest and not being very impressed, I have not really given much thought to trying them again. But who knows, I did quite enjoy their song on the Colossus release "The Odyssey".

But back to this album. It is, apparently, some sort of Lord of the Rings tribute type album. This would be bad enough in itself (though I enjoyed the movies myself :-) , but the music is not very interesting. I suppose, being their debut they had not quite perfected their "formula" (whatever that may be) and so a weak first album is not that unusual in any case. The music, overall, is well played. The vocals are somewhat bland as compared to their more recent works, and there is strangely not as much of a retro prog sound and style on this one. Oddly, this actually detracts from this albums appeal, as when Glass Hammer focuses on doing retro prog, they usually do it quite well. Frankly, in this case I have trouble following the story (even though it is very familiar) and the music leaves me little to nothing to grab onto and enjoy. I can't recall a single melody after it is over (except, perhaps, the brief Prancing Pony, and I wish I could forget that one).

So overall for me, no songs really stand out, though the 2 longer tracks have some interesting instrumental play from what I can recall. And in general I don't get the desire to pull this one out. It is, in a word, boring. Luckily, GH would do more interesting things later. This one is really only for the die hard fans.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#117391)
Posted Thursday, April 05, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars The review of this album is one of the easiest I had to do so far. Even if this album clocks at over seventy minutes. And between us, this is was an extremely painful and long exercise.

This "concept" album is built around the Tolkien trilogy and again it is absolutely not on par with the story. The band is trying to deliver his own interpretation but this is a totally useless album.

The pace is set with an absolutely poor "overture" as "Shadows Of The Past" which is totally in-line with the rest of the album. At best, there are some extremely scarce good keyboards parts which are fully ELP oriented. These are maybe clocking at a maximum of three to four minutes.

Unfortunately! Besides these, there is NOTHING else to expect. A universe of boredom, that's what is available.

The rating? Hummm. Let's see. One star? Yes, one star. This album is really a P.I.T.A. No highlights (nor even a good song) whatsoever. Still, it is one of the best ever game to be played: to press next from track one to seventeen in a minimum amount of time.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#169038)
Posted Tuesday, April 29, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is more like it, GH's first studio work and (like the later work The Middle Earth Album) it is based on JRR Tolkiens Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I've read the books and seen the fabulous CGI epic unfold at the cinema, thus I'm fairly familiar with the story. It's ambitious to make a concept album on such a masterpeice of English fantasy literature, especially your first studio CD, but I think that GH have managed quite well and have produced some nice examples of keyboard orientated Symphonic prog rock. Yep it's derivative of ELP and YES, but thats not a thing that puts me off, in fact I welcome it. If your looking for nice keyboard arpegios and nice Hammond work, then you will like this CD I'm Sure. One track has a bit right from Heart of the Sunrise, but I'll let you listen for it. However this track was cruising towards a 3.8 and rounding down to a THREE when tracks, (15) Morannon Gate (5:41) and (16) The Return Of The King (7:55), just blow me away. This has happened on every one of GH's CD's so far (except the Middle earth effort), suddenly you get a track that just takes your breath away. On this the rocky 15th track is excellent but then in turn is overshadowed by a sumptuous keyboard instrumental that just is SUPERB and take this CD to a 4.2 thus a FOUR. Buy it for tracks 15 and 16, they are that good.

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Send comments to M27Barney (BETA) | Report this review (#176548)
Posted Friday, July 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
2 stars I was very curious to listen to GLASS HAMMER's first release since this was a so called ''love or hate'' album...Well,things aren't exactly as it has been said or written,this is just a mediocre or if you like an uneven effort...The album refers to J.R.Tolkien's trilogy but such ambitious concept efforts are in danger just to end in bad reviews and comments...and that's what happened to GLASS HAMMER who were then a inexperienced band and this one was their first album...

Half about of the tracks of the album are just dull and without any reason of existence with some folk elements,some poetic lyrics and vocals,medieval elements and bad ballads that simply shouldn't exist and push the whole effort one level down...The rest of the tracks are at least decent and well arranged...Lying between symphonic prog and heavy prog,fortunately they add a progressive flavor to the disc with influences coming out of KANSAS (mainly) as well as MAGELLAN,GENESIS and RUSH...On these tracks it's where the band shows it's talent and gives promises for a better future (as it happened...).

So the true rating must be about 2.5 stars if we assume that the bad tracks can't get over 1 star and the rest of them are lying between 3 and 3.5 stars...Not a bad album but a very uneven one with some really good but also some really bad and dull moments...

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#179964)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars A terrible debut from an otherwise excellent modern prog band.

Glass Hammer is one of the best modern symphonic prog bands along with The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, and Echolyn. So where did they begin? Well, let's just say they definitely improved over time.

Glass Hammer's album "Journey of the Dunadan" is very poor for various reasons. For one, it contains all the mistakes that typically flaw debut albums. They were still trying to find their sound, and their songwriting skills were definitely not as good as they would soon become. In addition to those usual mistakes, most of the music here is really poor. They have a good song here, and a good song there, but overall there are really only 2 or 3 songs worth listening to. After I finished listening to this album I have a really tough time recalling any of the melodies on the album. In addition to the music, this is loosely based on The Lord of the Rings, and they do not do the books any justice at all.

It's really a shame that this turned out so bad because they show their potential. In those two or three songs they hint at their greatness, but never fully apply it. I see potential in this album, but all it comes out to be is a below average progressive rock album. I'll explain every song in more detail next.

THE MUSIC:

"Shadows of the Past"- A spoken word intro starts off the album. A dark string melody soon enters. It is followed by a very ELP-ish piano and drum section. Soon a good melody comes in, but all in all this is a really poor instrumental track.

"Something's Coming"- After the poor overture, this song starts with some really good organ chords. It sounds very ELP-ish again, but in a different way. Filled with nice synths and organ, this is one of the best songs on the album.

"Song of the Dunadan"- Spoken word and some piano chords open up this song. When vocals come in we have some enjoyable melodies. After the main section ends, we have a fairly enjoyable instrumental section. It gets fairly boring after a while, and it could have easily gotten away with being shorter. Still far from the worst this album has to offer, though.

"Fog On The Barrow-Downs"- The fourth track opens up with some wind sound effects. Some voices come in, but my no stretch of the imagination is this a "song". Just some talking and noises.

"The Prancing Pony"- It starts with the sound of fireflies, then we just hear an acoustic guitar with a bunch of people talking. A completely meaningless song.

"The Way To Her Heart"- This song is also available on their following album "Perelandra", and I recommend you hear it there. It is arranged much better on their next album, and that album is far better as a whole. As for the version on this album, it's a beautiful acoustic song, but like I said, a better version can be found on their following album.

"The Ballad of Balin Longbeard"- It opens up with some people chanting and clapping. A flute and acoustic guitar melody enters, and is then followed by vocals. People talking follows as the music begins to fade out. The song ends with clapping and talking. It captures the atmosphere of the album well, but it is a pretty lousy song.

"Rivendell"- A rhythmic drum and synth line begins this song. There is some more spoken word. To be honest, the fact that there's spoken word in almost every song it really detracts a lot from the overall value of the album. After the speaking we have a pleasant enough instrumental synth line.

"Khazad-Dum"- This is a solo piano piece that isn't very memorable at all. It's not the worst from this album, but it isn't good either.

"Nimrodel"- What a surprise! It's opened by spoken word! After that we have a decent instrumental track. It has some fairly enjoyable parts, but it really isn't that good.

"The Palantir"- A spoken word opens up the piano chords that would soon follow. The whole band soon comes in. The melodies aren't very captivating at all. Another decent track?

"Pelennor Fields"- An opening of organ chords is followed by a synth line. This mostly keyboard driven instrumental is one of the better songs on the album.

"Why I Cry (Arwen's Song)"- After a short piano intro we have some feminine vocals. This is a pretty nice song, but once again it is nothing special.

"Anduril"- An organ intro opens this song. There are vocals on this song, and it sounds very ELP-ish. The only problem is that even right after I listened to it it's tough to recall any of the melodies.

"Morannon Gate"- The only guitar orientated song isn't too bad. It's nice to know that they actually have a guitarist that is present. This is an almost hard rock song at times, and it is one of the better songs here. Still nothing too out of the ordinary, but it is enjoyable.

"The Return of the King"- The only reason you might want to consider buying this album. Some nice synth and organ lines open up the closing song. I really like the melodies to this song, and it is definitely the highlight. This is the only song that I'll really remember after hearing this album.

I might raise this rating to a 2 just because the last song is very enjoyable and there are a few other decent songs here. However, I will give it a one simply because if you are going to get into Glass Hammer, this should be the last album you purchase from them. Even then, it's really not worth getting unless you are a completionist. Thus, it fits the one star description. It would be a 1.5 in a perfect world, but since that is not available on our current rating system, I will give it a 1 simply because Glass Hammer has done much better.

1 star.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#244545)
Posted Tuesday, October 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
FORUM & SITE ADMIN GROUP
Admin / Heavy Prog Team / Math Rock Team
2 stars Eh....

Glass Hammer, a great modern prog band influenced by classic prog and filled with great musicians, didn't exactly step out on the right foot. Journey of the Dunaden, an album loosely (very loosely) based on Lord of the Rings, heavily relies on cheesy synthesizer sounds and drum machines, which in general isn't good. The melodies themselves sound computed and then computed again, making the music lose any real organic quality and giving it over to a synthesized aura of unoriginal cheese and filler.

Because there are 16 tracks (not including the "single edit") and reviewing all 16 would be a rather lengthy review, I will break it up into 5 sections.

Section 1 (1-4): The stronger part of the album. Shadows of the Past and Something's Coming are a nice into duo, that somewhat set's up the plot. The title track is really one of the best on the album, with some nice, albeit computerized, instrumental sections. Fog on the Barrow Downs is just a creepy sound bit track that really is hard to understand and doesn't have much effect on the "plot" of the album. Section 1 overall: a half-strong intro with weak sections and strong sections.

Section 2 (5-7): The Prancing Pony is another nearly useless sound bit track that just takes up time on the album. The voices are difficult to understand again and I can't see what it really has to do with the album's plot. The Way to Her Heart is a nice ballad, however, and finally starts the music again. However, another pseudo sound bit track is featured as The Ballad of Balin Long Beard. Section 2 overall: weak, with mostly sound bit tracks and very little musical value.

Section 3 (8-10): Rivendell is a narrator's track with some nice background music. At least on this track you can actually hear what is being said. Khazad-Dum is a nice piano track, although the piano sounds incredibly cheesy. It is a great little "classical" piece, although I don't really see what it has to do with Khazad-Dum. Nimrodel is similar to Rivendell as it is a narrator's track with mostly new-age background music. Section 3 overall: the section is a little stronger that section 2, but the music is so much more like new-age than the others that it can easily be overlooked.

Section 4 (11-13): The Palantir is one of the better tracks. It actually has some musical value! It is more ballad-like, with slower tempos, cheesier drum lines, and more solemn vocal melodies. Pelennor Fields is a continuation of the cheesy music, but it is a faster tempo and can be tolerated. It is a nice song, despite the horrible drum machine solo. Why I Cry is Glass Hammer's "single." Even more ballad like that any of the others, it is, oh so surprisingly, about love! It's cheesy, border on humorous, and can easily be overlooked. Section 4 overall: A cheesy section with lots of fake ballads. Some of the music is creative, but the instruments are so fake you can't even enjoy them.

Section 5 (14-16): The "climax" of the story! Anduril is a more upbeat song, that nonchalantly proclaims the end of Sauron with nearly no emotion. Morannon Gate has a little bit of a dynamic change, but it sound so much like an 80s electro-pop song it's extremely forgettable. The Return of the King haphazardly finishes the album off by uniting all the "plot" nodes and reusing some of the previous cheesy riffs. Section 5: one of the stronger sections, but that isn't saying much. Still cheesy, still fake.

ALBUM OVERALL: Weak. Very weak. More new-age that prog, more filler than music, and just not impressive at all. I don't know if they just couldn't afford a drum kit, but the drum machine really angered me throughout the album. Even the bass was put through a synthesizer. Pathetic. They definitely improved with later releases.

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Send comments to Andy Webb (BETA) | Report this review (#298897)
Posted Sunday, September 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars The debut album from Glass Hammer.

The career of Glass Hammer started with an overly ambitious concept album, this seventy odd minutes long album. Another album based on Tolkien. One of many hundreds Tolkien based albums. Most of them are over the top and borderline insane. This album falls into that category.

The story here is driven by narratives and some keyboards which reminds me about Saga. The keyboards sound is OK. The spoken words too. The vocals are OK too.

There are some good melody lines here. But after x amount of listening to this seventy two minutes long album, you feel ready to quit albums reviewing altogether and take up angling for trouts in Mongolia. In short; this album is faaaaar too long. And far too boring too. It is a borderline turkey, but I have heard worse albums than this. Although not by far. This album is only for Glass Hammer, Tolkien and symph prog collectors. One or two stars ? I fall for one star.

1.5 star

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#557720)
Posted Thursday, October 27, 2011 | Review Permalink
Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Crossover & JazzRock/Fusion Teams
3 stars First of all, this album loses point from me because of the subject matter. The Lord Of The Rings? Really? And for your debut album? I'm sorry, but playing into stereotypes doesn't win me over. And at that time, Tolkein's trilogy was just a series of nearly unreadable novels, and a pretty bad Ralph Bakshi cartoon. It took Peter Jackson to extract an epic story out of that jumbled narrative.

Then Evolver sang: I took a walk down by the moor Dum dee dum dum doo I found a CD in the store Dum dee dum dum doo

Other than the inspiration, the album itself is not too bad. While the LOTR story loses my interest, Glass Hammer plays passable prog here, let by some fine work by keyboardist Fred Schendel. I question his choice of synth patches at times, but his playing is certainly very good.

The better songs seem to be at the beginning and end of the album. The middle sections tend to get too pastoral and almost boring at times. But the thunder at either end makes up for it.

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Send comments to Evolver (BETA) | Report this review (#699146)
Posted Thursday, March 29, 2012 | Review Permalink
Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
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.

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Send comments to Aussie-Byrd-Brother (BETA) | Report this review (#849452)
Posted Saturday, November 03, 2012 | Review Permalink

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