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Symphonic Prog • United States

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Glass Hammer biography
Glass Hammer is a symphonic-progressive rock band from the United States. They formed in 1992 when multi-instrumentalists Steve Babb and Fred Schendel began to write and record Journey of the Dunadan, a concept album based on the story of Aragorn from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. To their surprise, the album sold several thousand units via the Internet, The QVC Shop-At-Home Network and phone orders, leaving Babb and Schendel convinced that the band was a project worth continuing.

While many musicians have appeared on Glass Hammer albums over the years, Babb and Schendel have remained the core of the band. Both play a variety of instruments, but Babb mainly concentrates on bass guitar and keyboards while Schendel plays keyboards, various guitars and drums until the addition of live drummer Matt Mendians to the studio recording band in 2004. They also sing, although a number of other vocalists have also handled lead vocal duties including Michelle Young, Walter Moore, Carl Groves, Susie Bogdanowicz and Jon Davison. Worthy of mention, Yes vocalist Jon Anderson provided backup vocals on two songs from 2007's Culture of Ascent.

Lyrically, Glass Hammer is inspired mostly by their love of literature (most notably Tolkien, C. S. Lewis and John Krakauer) and Babb's love of Victorian prose and medieval mythology.

Musically, they lean towards 70's driven symphonic rock, with strong keyboard orientation; specifically Hammond organs in the tradition of ELP. They have a superb melodic flow to the music they make, encapsulating real power and dynamics without ever becoming overpowering. Their most apparent influences are Yes, ELP, Genesis, and, to a less noticeable extent, Camel. While Glass Hammer have, for the most part, combined those influences into a characteristic style of their own, they made much more direct references to the aforementioned bands on their 2000 album Chronometree and the 2010 release If. Without a doubt, GH remain one of the most popular groups in the progressive rock genre. All the albums are very conceptual, and there is great musicianship overall.

Current band members include co-founders Steve Babb (bass guitar and keyboards), Fred Schendel (keyboards and guitar) along with Alan Shikoh (guitar) and lead vocalist Jon Davison.

Contributors to this article: ProgArchives, Wikipedia, Sound Resources

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Sound Resources 2016
Audio CD$10.99
$12.89 (used)
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2010
Audio CD$11.99
$9.97 (used)
Double Live Deluxe EditionDouble Live Deluxe Edition
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2015
Audio CD$23.93
$24.37 (used)
Culture Of AscentCulture Of Ascent
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2007
Audio CD$10.87
$11.62 (used)
CD Baby 2016
Audio CD$9.99
$7.99 (used)
Cor CordiumCor Cordium
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2011
Audio CD$11.99
$10.66 (used)
Journey of the DunadanJourney of the Dunadan
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2009
Audio CD$224.90
$34.99 (used)
The Inconsolable Secret Deluxe EditionThe Inconsolable Secret Deluxe Edition
Box set · Import
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2013
Audio CD$24.56
$22.99 (used)
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GLASS HAMMER discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

GLASS HAMMER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.02 | 73 ratings
Journey Of The Dunadan
3.07 | 75 ratings
3.07 | 79 ratings
On To Evermore
3.31 | 139 ratings
2.41 | 69 ratings
The Middle Earth Album
3.75 | 172 ratings
Lex Rex
3.72 | 192 ratings
3.40 | 181 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret
3.54 | 157 ratings
Culture Of Ascent
3.02 | 103 ratings
Three Cheers for the Broken-Hearted
3.90 | 291 ratings
2.97 | 45 ratings
3.75 | 200 ratings
Cor Cordium
3.87 | 182 ratings
3.46 | 139 ratings
Ode To Echo
3.84 | 136 ratings
The Breaking Of The World
3.89 | 115 ratings

GLASS HAMMER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.06 | 12 ratings
Live and Revived
3.66 | 24 ratings
Live At Nearfest
3.90 | 11 ratings
Double Live

GLASS HAMMER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.26 | 20 ratings
Lex Live
4.11 | 24 ratings
Live At Belmont
4.44 | 9 ratings
Live at The Tivoli

GLASS HAMMER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.75 | 15 ratings
The Compilations, 1996 to 2004
4.08 | 13 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret - Deluxe Edition

GLASS HAMMER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Chronometree by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.31 | 139 ratings

Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by nandprogger

4 stars When I hear something of GL, I think: is more a prog tribute to classics of progrock. In this case is the same, but is more fantastic tribute. As a big fan of Elp I love this album, not only for this. A grand advantage of a lot of albuns of Gl is a mix of other elements that make sounds different. The sounds involving psychedelic elements of spacial/alien history. This psychedelic voices in ballads and the bass sounds create a immersion into history. In other had, I think if you are a big fan of ELP albuns but there are albuns that don't like, hear this. The theme "chronommetree" is in a whole of album inspired in the sounds of hammonds. Is right the criticism of variety of sounds of GL sounds only a tribute for 70's prog rock bands, but is don't take away the merit of a lot of GL albuns. For me is more a ELP album don't done for ELP as TRIUMVIRAT. 4 stars for fantastic ELP inspired album and immersion history
 The Inconsolable Secret by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.40 | 181 ratings

The Inconsolable Secret
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by csglinux

5 stars I left a pretty scathing review of Valkyrie on progarchives a few weeks ago, which prompted a response questioning where my positive reviews of my favorite Glass Hammer albums were. Whoops. My bad. I do seem to have more of a tendency to complain than praise and I realized I don't have any positive reviews of GH on this site. So let me try and make amends, starting with my favorite GH album, The Inconsolable Secret.

The Inconsolable Secret doesn't seem to be well-known enough to garner the reputation it deserves. Curiously, it's not had much attention on Progarchives, but it's currently rated 4.5 stars on Amazon. I consider this a masterpiece and one of my all-time favorite albums. The effort that went into producing TIS is evident from the Tolkien-like backstory by Babb (available as a separate CD/book - 'The Lay of Lirazel'), Roger Dean album artwork, packaging - and then re- packaging with updated re-recordings featuring Davison/Shikoh. The original version of TIS comes as a double album (13 tracks) and runs over 95 minutes of music. I'm usually wary of double albums, as they tend to get diluted or stretched a bit thin (The Wall?, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway? Tales from Topographic Oceans?). That's not the case here. Almost every track is a classic - and each forms part of the story, which is quite epic in its own right. (I've always felt TIS would make a great movie!) One small point of confusion for me is that the tracks appear to be, chronologically, slightly out of order. For example, the album opens with "A Maker of Crowns", but it's really "Long and Long Ago" that sets the scene. I presume tracks were re-ordered to fit more easily on the LPs/CDs? In any case, the structure is that disc 1 contains the two longest tracks, "A Maker of Crowns" and "The Knight of the North". These are both prog masterpieces. A Maker of Crowns starts out with piano, but Fred switches up his keyboard sounds throughout, so they never sound dull or repetitive. I love the tone of the synth keyboard solo at 10:00. Schendel's keyboards are second to none. He has the technical virtuosity of the likes of Rick Wakeman or Lyle Mays, but is also able to play in a way that touches your soul. There's an emotion in his playing that I've never heard that consistently in any other keyboard player. Next up, "The Knight of the North" starts with perhaps a slightly unconventional sound of bass playing over a string section. This is one of the finest moments of symphonic rock I've ever heard. It's not terribly complex musically, but it just works. The same track also finishes with a pretty loop of all instruments covered by choral vocals - one of the most epic-sounding pieces since Yes' Awaken.

"Long and Long Ago" introduces the main theme which eventually gets reprised at the end of the album. One of the best tracks on the album with great instrumental solos and outstanding vocals, particularly from Flo Paris. (BTW, try to name the Yes track at 7:00!) "The Morning She Woke" is a shorter track that picks up the narrative of the story, with Susie taking the role of the King's daughter. "Lirazel" is another shorter track that expands on that main keyboard theme, before Susie picks up more of the narrative. "The High Place" has some of the most beautiful, gentle instrumentation and choral work. Very atmospheric. "Morrigan's Song" has a slightly Celtic sound. I think Fred would call this an interstitial piece, but it's very cute in its own right. "Walking Towards Doom" is an atmospheric instrumental with some spooky choral work which sets a scene of foreboding. You know something bad is going to happen... Mog Ruith picks up the tempo with some up-beat keyboards, which is a bit ironic, because from my recollection of the story, Mog Ruith is where our heroine meets her nemesis. "Through a Glass Darkly" seems to be a fan favorite, and rightly so. It's one of the prettiest pieces on the album with gorgeous harp, strings and vocals from Susie. (Without ruining the story for you, things aren't going too well for the heroine at this point.) "The Lady Waits" is a tasteful string piece that continues the slightly sombre mood, but with some really pretty classical music in the middle. This leads to "The Mirror Cracks" - a brass/harp/string choral lead in to some very tense, doom-laden, dramatic-sounding music which is basically a prelude to the (eventual) happier ending of "Having Caught a Glimpse". This final track is the highlight of the album for me. The build-up and vocals are stunning and the keyboard re-cap of the melody from "Long and Long Ago" with the added choral vocals is just stunning. One of the best endings to one of the best albums I've ever heard. An easy 5 stars.


P.S. TIS is now available in a deluxe version which has re-recordings of Long and Long Ago, The Morning She Woke, A Maker of Crowns, The Knight of the North and Having Caught a Glimpse. These are all great new recordings with additions from Kamran Alan Shikoh and Jon Davison - totally worth having, but I still prefer the originals. As good as JD is, Walter Moore's and particularly Flo Paris' original vocals are some of the most haunting I've ever heard. Thankfully, with the deluxe version, you get both versions :-)

 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 115 ratings

Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by csglinux

2 stars I want to preface this review by saying I'm a huge Glass Hammer fan (I own all their albums) and my musical tastes almost invariably align with Progarchives ratings for each and every artist/album I've ever heard. However, Valkyrie is an anomaly. Currently, "Valkyrie" enjoys a 4.37 rating here, which would rank it by far the best album Glass Hammer have ever made, and also place it comfortably into the top 100 prog albums of all time. Is it really that good? No, it's not. Not by a mile.

This simply can't be the same band that produced classics like Chronometree, Lex Rex, The Inconsolable Secret, Culture of Ascent, If, Cor Cordium, Perilous, etc. I've suffered through Valkyrie half a dozen times now, and each time it gets more painful. As usual, Glass Hammer's material is well recorded, there's lots of interesting sound effects and lots of virtuoso bass, keyboards and guitar, courtesy of Babbs, Schendel and Shikoh, respectively. But where's the spark? Where's the Glass Hammer magic of old? The first two tracks are utterly non-descript and totally wash over you. The third (No Man's Land) is turgid and way too long, given that nothing interesting happens. (BTW, Fred & Steve - please don't sing! I'd rather listen to my cat wail than your vocals. Can't you get Flo Paris back? Please?!?) Nexus Girl is the first interesting track, but it's electronica - not really any kind of prog. The title track is the best track on the album, but it still isn't anything I feel I'd want to play again. Fog of War is 8 1/2 minutes of your life you'll never get back. I wish I could say the same of Dead and Gone, but this one's worse - it has this annoying "hook" that goes: "There's hope and there's joy... there's love for the soldier boy-ee". Ick. The album would have been better without this track. Eucatastrophe heavily plagiarizes Genesis at the beginning; you expect to hear "Home from work, our Juliet...". The rest of the track is pretty, but nowhere near the quality of "Cinema Show". Rapturo finishes the album with some simple arpeggios on the keyboards, with some tinkly guitar-string sound over the top, all of which goes on way too long. (It wasn't interesting for even the first bar, but it's dragged out for two whole minutes.) Anyway, we finally get a little drum roll into Susie singing about how he's gone (sorry if that's a spoiler, but there's really not much more to spoil about this album).

I can't believe I paid $15 for this. I never thought I'd say this about Glass Hammer, but I want my money back. I'm going to persevere with this album and will change my rating if, at some point in the future, it "clicks" with me and I finally see the genius in this. But honestly, right now I'm dreading having to listen to this album yet again...


P.S. One has to expect some vitriol as the first person to post a less-than-5-star review of any new album. "You must be deaf!". "You're not a proper fan". "Your mother and I are both very disappointed in you". etc., etc. It is quite interesting to get some vitriol from the band itself. However, if this leads to the follow-up album having even just marginally more melody, with only fractionally less electronica/distortion/vocoder effects and only slightly fewer vocals from Steve & Fred, this will have been a worthwhile endeavor. Let's face it, Comfortably Numb only worked because Roger let Dave sing the chorus. Steve & Fred - you're super-talented individuals, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I know you know where I'm coming from.

I realize I may have offended and for that I apologise. I will change my rating - I was wrong - I am, in fact, only a small-to-medium-sized Glass Hammer fan. My 2-star opinion of Valkyrie still stands though. This is a poor album by any standards, but particularly poor coming from a band as capable as Glass Hammer.

 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 115 ratings

Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Using a more open space, 'live' recording style, this band of American veterans has produced what is, in my opinion, their best album ever. The sound here is often quite similar to that of their 'vintage-instruments-only' magnum masterpiece that they contributed to the 2005 Colossus Magazine/Musea Records production of Odyssey: The Greatest Tale. I have not actually contributed many reviews to Glass Hammer releases because they have never really connected or resonated with me before. (Their NeoProg bombast is usually so cheezy and over-the-top Yes- imitative as to not feel worth my time--especially since I do not generally like to give poor reviews--[unless a bubble needs bursting]. Until now, Glass Hammer was free to go about doing what they do [imitate Yes] and I would respectfully leave them alone).

1. "The Fields We Know" (7:37) opens familiarly but then enters into Olympus with the multi-voiced chorus. Despite the presence of oft over-used and domineering Hammond organ and Rickenbacker bass, the boys use the two in different enough ways to allow the melodies and music to feel fresh and not bombastic. (9/10)

2. "Golden Days" (6:20) Though I like all of the vocal contributions to this album, having Susie Bogdanowicz on lead vocals certainly does make for an improved sound. Great melodies and key/chord progressions throughout. (9/10)

3. "No Man's Land" (14:20) opens with a rather long introduction (nearly three minutes) containing some beautiful instrumental soundscapes and chord progressions before the music shifts into a more syncopated stop-and-go section in which tuned percussion and acoustic guitars are given some of the spotlight. A minute later chunky bass, Hammond organ, Steve-Howe-like guitar sounds and riffs and synth washes help support Susie's lead vocal during the first verse. The chorus is more of a collective, male-dominated affair, but then Susie regains the lead with the second verse. The song gets a little funky and a little predictable in the second half--especially in the use of the organ. The vocals get mixed up quite a bit, but then those Hammond runs come in and kind of remind us of why prog died out in the 70s ("too much of that organ" my daughter would say). (8/10)

4. "Nexus Girl" (2:58) is a very modern sounding little instrumental that opens with some great keyboard work supported by some kind of techno-trip hoppy computer-programmed drums. Again, some extraordinary ear candy in the form of the chord progressions, melodies and solos from the lead instruments (synths, MONO-like tremolo electric guitar). Great song! (10/10)

5. "Valkyrie" (5:54) opens in a very Neo Prog fashion with BIG instrumental intro (including Wurlitzer-sounding church organ) before everything quiets down to support a vocal that is interesting for its muted effect for the first verse. The second verse allows the vocalist(s) to go unmuted. Nice melody--which is eventually taken over by Ms. Bogdanowicz. Nice! (9/10)

6. "Fog Of War" (8:23) finds the band, unfortunately, reverting to YES-imitation (Drama's "Tempus Fugit" and others comes to mind immediately). A lead vocal by Susie Bogdanowicz does much to distract us, but then a male takes over in a temporary RUSH-like passage. Back to YES for the fifth minute. Well executed and just original enough to be a total ripoff, but, still . . . Yes was Yes, this is now. (7/10)

7. "Dead And Gone" (9:56) for the first 3:35, this is a fairly simply structured and instrumented song over which Susie Bogdanowicz sings a gorgeous plaintive lyric about soldiers (as metaphor for ) But then the ELP-like Hammond bombast enters and threatens to take over. Luckily, this is fairly short-lived, until a GENESIS-like section takes over for a Steve Babb's brief turn at lead vocal. By 6:30 we're back to the simplicity and beauty of the first section. Some of the instruments do crank up their volume and intensity a bit in the eighth minute before a heavier, funky, effected instrumental section takes over before another brief Steve Babb vocal. Then, at the nine minute mark the music shifts to fast, more ELP instrumental bombast. I guess it's hardwired in these guys by now . . . (8/10)

8. "Eucatastrophe" (3:30) opens with the arpeggiated chords that ended GENESIS' "Cinema Show" before shifting into a gentle acoustic support for Susie Bogdanowicz' gorgeous lead vocal--which is sung mostly in the upper registers with her head voice. At the two-minute mark begins an instrumental onslaught led by Hammond organ and Rickebacker bass to end the song. Odd and incongruous--earning it's marks for the gorgeous first two minutes. (9/10)

9. "Rapturo" (6:12) opens with a couple of bell-like synth notes being played percussively while echo-y piano emotionally fills some of the lower end spaciousness. Really pretty! And then at the 2:25 mark drums, synths and Susie Bogdanowicz's gorgeous, almost angelic vocal fill the cathedral skies. The end of the depression is always uplifting but at the same time scary cuz you never know when 'the Dark One' will return. Thank god this one did not venture into Yes-land. If anything, it stayed in Post Rock territory! Gorgeous and powerful song! (10/10)

Despite producing one of my all-time favorite prog epics for the Odyssey: The Greatest Tale project, GLASS HAMMER has had a great deal of trouble winning me into their corner. With Valkyrie they may have finally done it! Four stars; an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 115 ratings

Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars War. A revolting human trait that has plagued mankind since that silly monkey decided to bash that nasty gorilla over the head with some abandoned saurian femur, as depicted so vividly on 2001 Space Odyssey. Seems like advanced and enlightened societies fare no better that the primitive barbarians (as if the Romans were fuzzy and wuzzy in their conquests!) It is impossible to be a historian, amateur or professional, without dabbling in some kind of "cassus belli" that defines some period in human development. Sad. True. C'est la vie!

Veteran American prog band Glass Hammer continues to delve further into this subject matter, proving its importance by making a gigantic leap forward with this splendid effort "Valkyrie". Arguable perhaps, their finest career moment remains the live at the Belmont DVD as well as 'the Inconsolable Secret' double album, a perennial favorite of many GH fans. I really liked "Culture of Ascent" as well but it seemed to me and many others that subsequent albums while being quite tasty, never really hit the heights of that whopping 2CD masterpiece. "Cor Cordium" and "If" were fine recordings but had no staying power in terms of melodies and return visit yearnings. It seemed somehow missing soul or even depth, though the playing was phenomenal. With "Valkyrie", it obvious immediately that a new infusion of sound as well as a deepening sense of pace has taken root and flourished. Sprinkled throughout this opus are some snippets that are totally new to GH, as if Schendel and Babb searched out more resonating sounds that were modern, yet retro, futuristic and also backward looking historic ( a sort of oxymoron, as history knows only one tense). This is best expressed on the brief but exhilarating "Nexus Girl", a tremendous oblique innovation to the GH sound, featuring some robotic pulsations from drummer Aaron Raulston (a total revelation here btw) and swirling synthesizer furls that wink at the Simon House-penned Hawkwind instrumentals. I was floored when I first 'eared' this track.

Within seconds of "The Fields We Know" opener, the resilient bass guitar steers the arrangement, always a welcome navigator of progressive oceans, Steve Babb has definitely acquired the Chris Squire methodology of tyrannical leadership of the low end. From that point onward, the symphonics are elevated to new heights through a variety of shifts and tones. "Golden Days' is a definite plateau, with some stellar playing by everyone, shading behind ominous timbres and sprightly horizons, guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh showing off a comfort level that finally achieves maturity. Co-founder Fred Schendel is a master of the keyboards, showing off new found energy on electric piano, strange how that instrument is often a benchmark for musicians looking for that higher plane.

The epic "No Man's Land" is a track I can relate to both musically as well as historically, as I was being carried as a six-month old child across the Iron Curtain , in my father's shielding arms , as gunfire erupted when we were already in the 'killing zone' between Austria (freedom) and communist oppression in Hungary. Musically, all the emotions are surely entwined , woven in a variety of silky passages, from soft and gentle, to sentimental, to actively bellicose, almost King Crimson-ish (this is the newfangled addition in the Glass Hammer style) in the mid- and final sections. Rambling organ reminds us that KC was no keyboard virtuoso's showcase, but the gloom and doom are definitely "Bible Black". This eeriness is most welcome, as its gives the band new impetus while strictly adhering to the subject matter of this opus. The spoken word poetry is forlorn, despondent and imbued with the glacial droplets of fear and death. Easily one of GH's finest tracks, a modern, historic, propulsive and melancholic piece of music.

The title track introduces colossal symphonics in the form of pipe organ blasts, as in some kind of keyboard artillery barrage, elevating another exhausted soldier's voice, pleading from some respite, as if some nebulous mist has permeated the battlefield of sounds. There is a Beatles-like dreamy passage that presents another new facet to the growing GH sound palette.

Top of the class is "Fog of War", a gruesome assault on the prog senses, lavished with bass cannonades that bruise and concuss, an active Raulston drum kit that is used as a missile launcher of deadly and precise beats, tortuous sniper fire keyboard volleys and a fusillade of machine gun guitars that seek out and destroy. Vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz takes a larger part of the stage, fulfilling the wants of the fan base and the needs of the musicians. Steve Babb does sound like the sadly departed Squire but he also possesses a tone reminiscent of Peter Hook of New Order fame, by all accounts both very upfront and in your face bassists, for which we all should remain thankful that the crown is still being worn by the 'hidden ones'.

Follow that up by the blissful epic "Dead and Gone", featuring a glory-draped vocal plaint from Bogdanowicz, spooky organ in tow slowly burning through the soul, the band sounds very much like fellow proggers Magenta, the voice neighbouring Christina Booth's , a vibrant compliment in my mind. The arrangement evolves into something raunchier in the mid-section, a dazzling organ solo at first and then a darker and heavier march into battle. A return to the solemnity of the opening minutes, deeply emotive and serene, displaying a sense of restraint that is again quite new to GH.

The short ballad "Eucatastrophe" is sizzling with ominous drippings, but the classical guitar leadership is given full value with a tearfully poignant Bogdanowicz rendition, gentle orchestrations for company. The second part is Jürgen Fritz-like organ plastering (sounding like vintage Triumvirat), sombre themes and desolate ending. This bleeds (pun) nicely into the stately "Rapturo", a demure nocturne that shows off tremendous sensitivities, symphonically morphing into a mellotron and drum concoction, slow and gentle, imperial and riveting. The sun sets melodically on an inspired performance, sourcing new motivations and innovative tweaks that show a band clearly progressing beyond its alleged limitations, as GH was often cruelly pilloried for being too close to a Yes clone, the Jon Davison episode certainly fueling the fire of unjust gossip. This trivial branding can now be buried in some appropriate military cemetery as GH has found a new level of creativity and a wider panorama of sounds. Really impressive release and harbinger of things to come.

4.5 Valhalla handmaidens

 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 115 ratings

Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Here's a concept album about the trauma suffer by those who survived the war and how this trauma can take many forms in life. In the recent past years, the band wrote individually, so the songs were eclectic. Now Fred and Steve wrote together the concept like they did in the early days. They took the time to find the best guitar parts to go with that concept and they worked a lot more with tone before recording. I was disappointed with their last albums, the songs were a bit sloppy and I thought I was tired of the band sound. But when I listened to this new one, I discovered a new sound and a new direction which is not obvious in the first song "The Fields We Know" But in the second song "Golden Days", some heavier guitar parts surprise me and some new keyboards sounds. I could even hear some Crimsonesque of the late period vibe in some places. The epic "No Man's Land" is the most complex and dramatic song with some dark atmosphere, an avant-garde passage. There're some recurrent themes bringing the song to some cohesion despite many moods and rhythm changes. I never heard a song like this from the band. "Nexus Girl" is an electronica, post-rock interlude that is showing another time another side of Glass Hammer. The title track is in the pure band symphonic style. "Fog of War" show some Geddy Lee and Chris Squire bass style with some heavy prog music. "Dead and Gone" is another highlight starting as a ballad but the pace picking up in some dark atmosphere and with some groovy instrumental parts from every musician. The album end peacefully in a post-rock atmosphere.

I think that the band has succeeded here with some concise songs, you can feel the work behind this just by listening to the sound of each instrument. If the keyboards of Fred Schendel are still playing a big role in the band sound, this time, the others musicians have more space to create an album that has a richer and fuller sound

 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.89 | 115 ratings

Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator Rock Progressivo Italiano Team

5 stars Once they hit their first stride early in the mid Nineties with `Perelandra', American progressive rock band Glass Hammer have delivered a consistently strong series of symphonic-prog albums, earning the well-deserved reputation as one of the premier modern bands playing in that style along the way. Two of their albums in particular, first 2002's `Lex Rex' and the epic double-set `The Inconsolable Secret' three years later are often considered modern symphonic classics (and fans of the group will happily argue back and forth amongst each-other about which of their numerous other releases over the years can join those two!), but 2016 finally brings not only the undisputed next album to join that duo, but one that is likely to become the defining Glass Hammer album of their entire career to date.

`Valkyrie', a lyrically rich concept work telling the tale of a loving couple separated by war and a soldier's eventual emotional and mental struggle upon returning home is ripe for a lyrically and musically dramatic interpretation, and the group completely convey the trauma and turmoil with great sincerity and empathy - certainly a grounded story a world away from the fantastical elements so often found on progressive rock albums! But while fans and progressive music listeners only aware of the type of style Glass Hammer play in would be right to expect another grand symphonic work to match the story, what will likely surprise everyone is just how modern sounding this `retro prog' band is throughout the disc. It's still instantly recognisable as the Glass Hammer their fans know and love, but this is hardly some mere vintage prog re-enactment. `Valkyrie' sees the band experimenting with little traces of elegant cinematic grandness, Post Rock, jazz-fusion, psych-pop, electronica and even hints of heavier rock, making for a work with a rejuvenating, eclectic and contemporary edge that has all the musicians sounding completely refreshed and determined to impress.

With previous singer Carl Groves away from the group again for now, the time is perfect for three of the most important contributors to the Glass Hammer sound to reclaim their throne. Taking the well-deserved leading lady spotlight once again and delivering a career best performance is Susie Bogdanowicz, and far from being just a lovely singer with a pretty vocal, as always she brings true spirit, powerful conviction and a dramatic heart that puts most of her fellow contemporary prog ladies in check. It's also a delight to discover GH founding members, bass player Steve Babb and keyboardist Fred Schendel, taking equally as many of the lead vocals again too (especially the latter). They might not quite have the bigger vocal ranges that past singers such as Groves, Jon Davison and others had, but they've been singing on Glass Hammer discs since the beginning, and their voices have always been full of personality and character, making this something of a `homecoming' vocally for them, and a real joy to hear for long-time Glass Hammer fans. The two other players are now long established in the group and must be well on the way to be part of what can be considered the `definitive' Glass Hammer line-up - Aaron Raulston's drums rumble with such variety, depth and purpose, solidifying him as the best and most complex drummer to ever be a part of the band, and gifted guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh once again finds way to delivering equally ravishing and subdued performances, reaching in some surprising directions here we've never heard of on previous Hammer discs.

Launching right from the start into delirious proggy excess balls-and-all (or as politely as prog can do `balls-and-all!'), `The Fields We Know' bombards the listener with plenty of what Glass Hammer do so well - up-tempo and lively colourful instrumental flashes racing in all directions alongside catchy vocal passages with the perfect mix of whimsy, warmth and drama. It makes for an energetic opener that instantly calls to mind their `Lex Rex' album, with moments of dreaminess and little playful call-outs to Genesis, all backed to Steve's rumbling bass leaping about loud and proud - is there seriously a better bass player active today performing this type of prog music who always sounds this good?! Next up, `Golden Days' is sprightly and warm to match the wistful lyric, full of Fred's always sublime zippy keyboard solos and embracing Susie and Fred vocals with glorious multi-part group harmonies, but a Pink Floyd-flavoured electric-piano come-down and grinding brooding guitars to end on hint of approaching darkness. `No Man's Land' is mostly comprised of several lengthy instrumental passages, including a booming synth introduction, manic jazz-fusion twists, loopy percussion twitches and seamless bursts up and down in tempo, an unsettling edge to an eerie droning spoken-word-like interlude and a distortion-heavy stormy climax the final destination.

But even when the band isn't charging headfirst into a dozen different proggy directions there's still wonderful things to discover. Instrumental `Nexus Girl' bristles with slinking electronics, programmed beats and Post Rock-flavoured chiming guitars behind the whirring synths, and the simpler Steve-sung title track `Valkyrie' is dreamy and drowsy psychedelic pop that eventually rises in power. Alan's chugging heavier guitars and Steve's mud-thick menacing bass make `Fog of War' rumble with a toughness, and the track holds one of the most joyful and unashamedly poppy choruses the band have ever delivered with a strong crossover appeal (well, if the rest of the track wasn't Prog dialled up to 11!).

`Dead and Gone' effortlessly moves between melancholic, hopeful and mischievous! Sad piano and a treated haunting vocal from Susie cry ethereally from beyond throughout, but creaky Mellotron-slices, humming organ and life-affirming guitars lift the track in hope and victory, but still with a looming tension. It's a nice showcase for Kamran too, who's guitars offer everything from weeping strains, infernal snarling bites and cutting jazz-fusion fire all in under ten minutes - and just dig that darkly grooving finale from the fellas!

The pristine `Eucatastrophe' is a heart-breaking Susie-led ballad, the chiming classical guitars throughout reminding of the final moments of Genesis' `Dancing with the Moonlit Knight', and it's one of the most precious and sobering moments on the disc before the piece dashes into tougher E.L.P-flavoured keyboard flare. The opening acoustic guitar reflection and pin-drop still piano of final track `Rapturo' show just how well the band deliver quieter, sedate moments, the rest of the carefully focused piece going on to soar with Anathema-like reaching guitar shimmers and a dignified powerful vocal send-off from Susie that makes for an album closer unlike any to appear on a Glass Hammer before.

A widescreen masterclass example of current progressive music that perfectly fuses vintage and modern sounds with an equally on-point balance of subtlety and bombast, Glass Hammer have completely set the symphonic-prog standard of the year with `Valkyrie', their most ambitious, mature, grandiose, vocally exquisite and instrumentally rich work to date. Long-time fans will absolutely adore it but also likely be very surprised as well, and newcomers to the group could not pick a better place to start exploring their wondrous music. Crackling with warmth, variety, inspiration and overall progressive music excellence, it is very possibly the greatest musical statement of Glass Hammer's near 25-year career so far, but indisputably one of the finest and most essential prog discs of 2016.

Five stars.

(Please note - This review was made available to various GH street team members for advance reviews ahead of the 27th September 2016 release date , no dodgy download here, thank you very much!)

 Cor Cordium by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.75 | 200 ratings

Cor Cordium
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by aglasshouse

4 stars Glass Hammer has been putting out consistently for the entirety of the 2000's and even more frequently this decade. Of this constant flow of new albums Glass Hammer has had very few missteps during the 00's, and, so far, even less during the 2010's. The decade started out with the stellar If, a slight slip-up with One, and a hearty rejuvenation with Cor Cordium. Now I myself have not gotten my hands on a physical Glass Hammer until I spotted Cor Cordium, and my was it a good first.

This album is nothing short of expected of Glass Hammer, a punchy, melodic prog-athon of the highest caliber. A part of the greatness of GH to me is their sense of self-awareness, particularly when it comes to how they define themselves genre-wise. All of the old prog bands weren't necessarily fond of calling themselves 'prog', either because it was an extremely new tag, or the bands simply didn't like themselves to be referred to as such. Glass Hammer however embraces the progressive rock label, letting it define every single musical blip that they make. Of course it must be addressed that Glass Hammer takes extreme influence from Yes, however for me I feel that the former is the superior. This may sound short sighted by Glass Hammer's clean cut modern utilizations of musical technology that Yes didn't have allows them to sound...just...better. Now I suppose you could just chalk this up to me being easily influenced by pretty sounds as opposed to the hard-work of Yes, but my respect for Yes has never waned. However their time has passed, and I believe Glass Hammer is a perfect band to take the mantle. Don't get me wrong, Yes can be more respected for what they were able to accomplish with much less to work with- I certainly do. But Glass Hammer is just, I guess, the "new Yes".

Enough case study, how is Cor Cordium itself? Like I said before, it is very punchy in it's delivery, and harnesses a sort of neo-prog type sound with it's heavy double-kick drums and booming electric. I know this might be heresy, but I actually consider Jon Davidson's vocals to be superior to Jon Anderson's (even in his prime). Davidson's harmonizations are simply better, and is more along the lines of Geddy Lee in quality standards. The opener 'Nothing Box' is simply fantastic, with a great atmosphere and also very lyrically sound. 'To Someone' is for those who like the long stuff, with changing tempos and moods- expected of a prog epic. The album closes out very nicely with 'She, a Lonely Tower', which is the final of the four epics of the album, and carries with it a somber note to the otherwise quite jovial album.

Another quality album from the oxymoron bunch. If you're looking for an example of great modern prog rock, then this album is for you. 4.5 rounded to 4.

 The Breaking Of The World by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.84 | 136 ratings

The Breaking Of The World
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

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.

 The Breaking Of The World by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.84 | 136 ratings

The Breaking Of The World
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

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.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to [email protected] for the last updates

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