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Glass Hammer

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Glass Hammer The Breaking of the World album cover
3.82 | 186 ratings | 8 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2015

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Mythopoeia (8:34)
2. Third Floor (11:04)
3. Babylon (7:56)
4. A Bird When It Sneezes (0:34)
5. Sand (5:46)
6. Bandwagon (6:20)
7. Haunted (5:55)
8. North Wind (9:26)
9. Nothing, Everything (8:50)

Total Time 64:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Carl Groves / lead vocals
- Susie Bogdanowicz / lead & backing vocals
- Alan Shikoh / electric, acoustic & classical guitars
- Fred Schendel / keyboards, lead (2) & backing vocals
- Steve Babb / bass, keyboards, backing vocals
- Aaron Raulston / drums

- Michele Lynn / lead (7) & backing (2) vocals
- Steve Unruh / flute (3), violin (6)

Releases information

Artwork: Michał "Xaay" Loranc

CD Arion Records ‎- SR 3423 (2015, US)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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GLASS HAMMER The Breaking of the World ratings distribution

(186 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(47%)
Good, but non-essential (30%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

GLASS HAMMER The Breaking of the World reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It's hard to believe that American symphonic prog band Glass Hammer are now sixteen studio releases into their career after forming in 1992, and with no signs of slowing down, it's even more impressive that they're still as exciting, inspired and creative as ever. 1995's `Perelandra' was the first to hint at true signs of great potential, and each album since then has shown the group and the various musicians that contribute to the core line up of bass player Steve Babb and keyboardist Fred Schendel becoming more ambitious, gradually growing in maturity and musical intelligence. `Chronometree', `Lex Rex' and the double CD `The Inconsolable Secret' (which just may be a true modern symphonic prog classic) were all big leaps forward for the band, and the addition of future Yes frontman Jon Davison for the trio of albums `If', `Cor Cordium' and `Perilous' certainly lifted the profile of the band. But with Jon busy with `the other fellas' and another reworked line-up of the band in place since previous album `Ode to Echo', 2015 brings one of Glass Hammer's most deceptively complex, lavish and sophisticated works to date with `The Breaking of the World'.

This current version of the band is now led vocally again by Carl Groves, making this his third contribution after fronting 2009's `Culture of Ascent' and returning with last year's `Ode to Echo'. Considering this might be Glass Hammer's most vocal dominated release to date, thankfully Carl remains the very natural and expressive singer he always was, and is more than up to the challenge of so many different kinds of vocal passages here. In addition to Steve Babb, simply one of the most distinctive and dynamic bass players in modern prog, Fred Schendel's variety of colourful keyboard flavours and Aaron Raulston's elaborate drumming, two other musicians help make this one of the most exotic Glass Hammer release to date. Guitarist Alan Shikoh is now six albums into his career with the band, and this time his warm acoustic guitars especially are given more prominence than ever before, and guest Steve Unruh of Willowglass and the Samurai of Prog offers crucial and exquisite flute and violin contributions that really help define the identity of this particular Hammer release (although the violin here shares similarities with Carl's first album with the group and its use of the string trio, the heavy guitar sound of that one is absent). Finally, of course, the sensual, compassionate and evocative voice of Susie Bogdanowicz made a very welcome comeback on `Echo', and in her few lead moments here she reminds in an instant why she has become one of the truly essential, defining elements that makes up the Glass Hammer sound.

`The Breaking of the World' is a continuation of the sound of the previous studio disc, and like all of their albums, listeners will find a strong collection of unpredictable symphonic vintage flavoured prog rock with wondrous melodies from soaring vocals and complex energetic instrumental displays, along with those couple of standout moments that go on to become something of classic Glass Hammer pieces. An energetic blast of spiralling keyboards, busy drumming, driving guitars and buoyant bass charge through the three-part opener `Mythopoeia', and an acoustic passage simply backing Carl's plaintive voice in the middle interlude is a thing of fragile beauty. Although it starts with prancing flute and regal organ pomp with a sprightly spring in its step, the lyrics of `Babylon' about the `stench of morality, real or imagined, reeking like burning hair' and `Pious Judases, let them all burn in the world they hold dear' takes things to darker and more confronting places.

Despite a cutting and biting lyric, energetic vibes race through the peppy and infectious `Bandwagon', the closest the band comes to a Yes-style piece here with some added frantic violin, and `Northwind' floats on mellow dreamy uplifting breezes. The band's quirky sense of humour is firmly on display on `A Bird When It Sneezes', a barely thirty second glimpse of an addictive instrumental jazz/fusion spasm! Come on, Fred and Steve, give us a full album of the Glass Hammer interpretation of jazz/fusion sometime in the future! Actually, the band come close anyway on the album closer `Nothing, Everything', which moves in and out of gently grooving jazzy instrumental runs in between Mellotron/Hammond flights of fancy and a very spirited joyful chorus.

But as for those classic Glass Hammer pieces that appear on every disc, `Third Floor' is already a bit of a firm favourite among GH fans, and with good reason! Endless symphonic instrumental passages jumping back and forth and a lovely variety of vocals from Susie, Fred and Carl convey a baffling fantastical story about a (wait for it!) sentient elevator and the man travelling inside her! It's oddly sadly romantic, slyly humorous and perhaps even a little darkly obsessive, lines such as `I feel you in my circuits, but it's fleeting, and now you're gone. Use me and complete me then just leave me all alone' and `All encompassing, I stand in the heart of her, she takes me higher and higher' are all delivered with tragic conviction!

While Prog bands, and Glass Hammer themselves, are certainly no stranger to fantastical lyrics, it's when they move beyond that and offer something more grounded that true magic can happen. `Sand', with a deeply personal and quietly reflective lyric written by Fred and mostly carried by his sparse warm piano, is one of the most genuinely heartfelt moments to appear yet on a Glass Hammer album, beautifully sung by Carl. Later in the disc, the sublime `Haunted' is a melancholic standout not only for Susie's voice, but it shows the band playing with careful restraint, knowing when to keep things simple and just deliver a piece with great taste. It feels like it could have easily fit in on the second disc of `The Inconsolable Secret', and is truly a very moving solo showcase for Susie.

Is this one of Glass Hammer's best albums to date, to place alongside those above mentioned standout titles from their back catalogue? As always with this band, it's a little too early to tell, but a few years and more releases from now will likely answer that question. Yet there is no doubt it's one of their most varied, intricate and joyful works, and is the embodiment of the sort of album that really needs time devoted to it, the kind that always ends up being the most rewarding in your collection. But for now, there's no denying `The Breaking of the World' is another superb release from one of modern prog's leading symphonic groups.

Four stars.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Other than their epic contribution to 2005's Colossus Magazine-Musea Records project, Odyssey: The Greatest Tale--which is one of the best modern symphonic pieces I've ever heard--I've had quite a bit of difficulty connecting with the music of Glass Hammer. I have heard many of their albums according to recommendations of friends and other PA and PE members but have not been able to connect with any. While technical masters, their sound styling has been just too imitative of classic YES for me. How can I love WOBBLER's Rites at Dawn and not connect with any of Glass Hammer's work? I think, as I said, it is the band's nearly exact recreation of the sounds and playing styles of Chris SQUIRE, Bill BRUFORD, Steve Howe, and Yes harmonies that irritate me. With Wobbler, there is an awesome melding of the CROSBY, STILL, NASH & YOUNG singing styles, much less exact imitation of Squire and Bruford, and much more of a Steven STILLS lead guitar sound and style that Steve Howe. Anyway, this is all a moot topic for this was then, and today I'm writing a review of Glass Hammer's latest album, The Breaking of the World. As Aussie-Byrd-Brother mentioned, this is a much more diverse sounding album from Glass Hammer--not as tightly bound to YESsounds, which makes it more interesting for me. Songs like the jazzy snippet, "A Bird When It Sneezes" (0:34) (8/10) and the more laid back and melody-driven, "Sand" (5:46) (9/10) and even parts of the opener "Mythopeia" (8:34) (8/10) are much less Yes-complicated. But, then, this more simplistic approach makes them sound like 'prog-by-numbers' 'mainstream' NeoProg bands like IQ. The song which gives Glass Hammer their most distinctly 'unique' sound is the album's finale, "Nothing, Everything" (8:50) (9/10) which has some very jazzy chord and melody lines as well as several very interesting and engaging shifts in dynamics and keys. "Babylon (7:56) (8/10), "Bandwagon" (6:20) (6/10) and "North Wind" (9:26) (7/10) are examples of the band's not straying too far from the usual YES-with-ART IN AMERICA (Chris FLYNN)-vocals sound. Then there is the odd duck--which happens to be the jewel of the album--the stunning, "Haunted" (5:55) (10/10) which has a sound all its own--more RPI than Neo- or RetroProg--which is due to both the more FRANCESCO ZAGO/EMPTY DAYS sound as well as the gorgeous and highly underutilized female lead vocal of long-time adjunct member Susie Bogdanowicz. In conclusion, this is definitely a step in the right direction for my ears. The contributions of "Haunted," "Nothing, Everything," and even "Sand" bring the music of Glass Hammer much closer to my liking. A 3.5 star album I'm rating up for the band's usual stellar sound engineering/production and exceptional instrumental skills.
Review by Conor Fynes
4 stars 'The Breaking of the World' - Glass Hammer (72/100)

I will assume the majority of people reading this had the legends of symphonic prog-- you know, Yes, Genesis, et al.-- soundtrack some (if not most) of their youth. The intelligent warmth of some of those masterpieces has followed me well into adulthood, and I don't think anyone forgets the first time they listened to Close to the Edge. Even with the sort of timeless warmth I think is inherent to the symph-prog formula, the genre's fallen upon sobering times in recent years. Some of the best modern symphonic groups, like Wobbler and Monarch Trail seem to fall on deaf ears, while overblown trash like Transatlantic gets all the attention; and even then, it's only from a niche market.

While I wouldn't exactly call Glass Hammer a mainstream band by any means, they are one of the few quality acts that have managed to carry the present torch beyond obscurity. With a discography now bigger than a lot of the first wave bands that inspired them, these guys are probably the best name I think of when the current state of symphonic prog comes to mind. Between the epic scope of 2005's The Inconsolable Secret to recent strokes of excellence in 2010's If and Cor Cordium from the following year, Glass Hammer have maintained an impressive frequency of output. Although I was a little disappointed by their last album Ode to Echo, 2015's The Breaking of the World is, in many ways, a return to the things I've liked most about Glass Hammer. They may not necessarily be pushing their genre's boundaries here, but they've certainly reconfigured the sound of the legends as best suits their means.

I have sometimes struggled with the concept of originality in traditional prog, but given that timeless quality I was talking about, it's not like the techniques Glass Hammer are using have a shelf life. Although the warm, optimistic sound on this record isn't far from Ode to Echo or earlier works, The Breaking of the World stands out through its diversity. While the band have been considered (by fans and detractors alike) as closely following the Yes-formula (for whom their old vocalist Jon Davison now fronts!) there's much more going on here than I might have expected after the last album. "Mythopoeia" has a clear affinity for the twangy rhythm guitars of Rush, while "A Bird When It Sneezes" and "Nothing, Everything" favour the angular complexity of Gentle Giant. Others, of course, favour the traditional warmth of Yes and Genesis.

To a prog rock newcomer, the aforementioned influences would probably all seem to fit under one category. Of course, those who know will should understand the sort of scope Glass Hammer are covering with this album. I don't think this is the sort of album that's trying to cater to anyone but lifelong fans of symphonic prog either. That's not a bad thing. The Breaking of the World has an immediately familiar sound, but unlike Ode to Echo, it fuels this familiarity with a renewed sense of wonder. Listening to "Third Floor" for the first time, I remember being moved by the sudden switch from clustered ambiance to a dreamy motif with acoustic backing. So too was I surprised when Glass Hammer amped their technique to max with "A Bird When It Sneezes". The sound there may have been derived from Gentle Giant come Octopus, sure, but it takes a certain kind of passion to make the discovery feel knew again.

While I grieve the loss of Jon Davison as the band's vocalist, Carl Groves and Susie Bogdanowicz have always done a fantastic job on fronting Glass Hammer. The same's obviously true on The Breaking of the World. With that said, it should be taken as a positive that this is arguably Glass Hammer's most vocal-driven album to date. The band's impregnable sense of do-good optimism can feel predictable by album's end, but there's nothing stale about the warm tone here. If anything impresses me most about their performance on this record, it's the fact that they're able to focus most of these compositions on the vocals without giving up the sophisticated instrumental chops. I've found many bands of their ilk switch between technical passages and the more conventional song bits, but Glass Hammer keep their art consistent through and through.

The Breaking of the World is easily more ambitious-sounding than Ode to Echo. It's also distinctly less modern. I remember nods to Porcupine Tree on songs like "Crowbone" off the last one. There's nothing of that sort here. Glass Hammer have hunkered down on their vintage influences here, and I don't think that's going to disappoint anyone that considers themselves a fan of this band. Though potentially a bit long for its own good, I'd say Glass Hammer have bolstered their discography with yet another in a long line of successes.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Disclosure number 1: The Spinal Tap fan in me insists on making my brain see the title of this album as "The Breaking Of The Wind".

Disclosure number 2: I am not one of those who dislikes a band because they sound similar to one of my favorites from the seventies. So when Glass Hammer released songs, and even whole albums that sounded very similar to Yes' style, I was delighted, not offended. Jon Anderson liked them enough to sing on one of their albums. Yet something on this album just seems wrong.

Perhaps Steve Babb and Fred Schendel were still seething about Yes appropriating their Anderson sound-alike Jon Davison when they were recording this album. Maybe it was unconscious. But many of the tracks on this album sound to me like they have deliberately played Yes licks woven into them, often in a different context to hide them from inattentive listeners.

I hear sections of Perpetual Change, Awaken, and too much of Siberian Khatru, among others across this disc. They stand out to my ears, as I've probably heard the original songs hundreds, if not thousands of times in my life, as prog has been the soundtrack of my life for close to half a century now. And yet, I still find this album compelling.

Despite the issue I mentioned above, the style is not a clone of Yes, or any other band for that matter. It's the style Glass Hammer has been honing for some time. An original symphonic prog that has always paid tribute to their forebears by wearing their influences on their sleeves.

Standout tracks to me are "Third Floor", that starts out with a Mike Kennealy-like guitar riff, then moves to a Khatru lick behind a slightly jazzy verse, moving through sound that refer to King Crimson and Gentle Giant, then "A Bird When It Sneezes", a very short piece that sound's like Bill Bruford's fusion. I also especially like "Babylon", another Gentle Giant flavored track that's now of my favorite Glass Hammer pieces.

I've listened to this album enough times now that I am not disturbed by the Yes licks anymore, but they still stand out to me. And I give it 4 stars.

Disclosure number 3: Windows Media Player on my computer identifies this album as "Cronometree", Glass Hammer's album from 2000. This is definitely not that album.

Review by kev rowland
4 stars Since Fred Schendel (keyboards, lead & backing vocals) and Steve Babb (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) formed Glass Hammer in 1992 they have had a line-up which changes quite fluidly, with members leaving and sometimes returning, yet during the last 30 years they have had a prodigious output by modern prog standards, rarely dropping below their own very high standards. Here they are joined by Carl Groves (lead vocals), Susie Bogdanowicz (lead & backing vocals), Kamran Alan Shikoh (electric, acoustic & classical guitars) and Aaron Raulston (drums), which apart from the loss of Jon Davison (Yes) was the same line-up as the previous 'Ode To Echo' which had seen both Carl (Salem Hill) and Susie return after some time away and the introduction of Aaron to the band.

Fred and Steve are major fans of Yes and they have not hidden those influences over the years, and surely this was one of the reasons Davison got his current role, yet what surprised me most about this album is that while they have stayed true to the symphonic prog style, they are not nearly as Yes-like as they have been on many of their albums in the past. True, they do like male lead singers who perform in a similar fashion to Anderson, yet female vocals are also a key element in their sound, and this album finds them move much more closely to the music of Steve Hackett than I would have thought. Note, I deliberately said Hackett and not Genesis, and his late Seventies albums in particular. Yes, there are some keyboard sounds one recognises from Tony Banks, and others from Wakeman, but they are performing a style of prog which relies on certain keyboards so that is not surprising. Mind you, the introduction to "Nothing, Everything" is classic Gentle Giant and brought a smile to my face.

I have always enjoyed the depth and care which goes into their arrangements, and they are never as overtly flashy and "look at me" as some others, as they combine multiple melodies and strands and allow the singer to then find his/her own path over the top. For music as complex as this it is perhaps surprising that space is also a hugely important element which ensures the music has the room to breathe and really live. This is an album which definitely looks back in time and could easily have been released in the heyday of the genre but is also modern and shows that 16 studio albums in the band has a colossal amount to offer, and it is no surprise that 8 years on from this they have released another five. One of the most enjoyable progressive rock bands around, Glass Hammer continue to operate at very high levels indeed.

Latest members reviews

5 stars Leave it to Babb and Schendel to make a truly gorgeous album out of the ACADEMIC work of Tolkien and Lewis, not just out of their fantastic works. Amazing. From the opening note to the closing one, THE BREAKING OF THE WORLD soars. Ever since CHROMONOTREE (itself, a thing of beauty), Glass H ... (read more)

Report this review (#1457667) | Posted by progarchist | Saturday, August 29, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars The Breaking Of the World is Progressive Rock at it's finest. It's obvious from the opening of "Mythopoeia," the first track, that the level of musicianship here is world class indeed. Every band member shines throughout, very reminicent of Yes in their heyday, when every instrument was telling ... (read more)

Report this review (#1457135) | Posted by Jackaranda77 | Friday, August 28, 2015 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Glass Hammer were formed in 1992 when multi-instrumentalists Steve Babb and Fred Schendel wrote and recorded 'Journey of the Dunadan', an unexpectedly successful concept album based on the story of Aragon from The Lord of the Rings, this success convinced them that the band was a project worth c ... (read more)

Report this review (#1420757) | Posted by Hutchy123 | Thursday, May 28, 2015 | Review Permanlink

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