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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.

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Sound Resources 2016
Audio CD$12.99
The CompilationsThe Compilations
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2006
Audio CD$12.32
$15.52 (used)
Double Live Deluxe EditionDouble Live Deluxe Edition
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2015
Audio CD$22.33
$17.50 (used)
The Inconsolable Secret Deluxe EditionThe Inconsolable Secret Deluxe Edition
Box set
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2013
Audio CD$22.32
$29.02 (used)
Cor CordiumCor Cordium
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2011
Audio CD$11.93
$10.88 (used)
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2012
Audio CD$12.09
$12.08 (used)
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2010
Audio CD$12.12
$6.48 (used)
The Breaking of the WorldThe Breaking of the World
Arion Records 2015
Audio CD$12.59
$11.55 (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)

2.00 | 70 ratings
Journey Of The Dunadan
3.06 | 71 ratings
3.07 | 76 ratings
On To Evermore
3.29 | 130 ratings
2.41 | 66 ratings
The Middle Earth Album
3.75 | 167 ratings
Lex Rex
3.71 | 182 ratings
3.37 | 168 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret
3.54 | 148 ratings
Culture Of Ascent
3.01 | 97 ratings
Three Cheers for the Broken-Hearted
3.91 | 278 ratings
2.97 | 41 ratings
3.74 | 192 ratings
Cor Cordium
3.87 | 174 ratings
3.48 | 131 ratings
Ode To Echo
3.87 | 124 ratings
The Breaking Of The World
4.93 | 10 ratings

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

3.06 | 12 ratings
Live and Revived
3.64 | 22 ratings
Live At Nearfest
4.00 | 8 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
4.00 | 12 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
 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.93 | 10 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
3.74 | 192 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
3.87 | 124 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
3.87 | 124 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.

 Double Live by GLASS HAMMER album cover Live, 2015
4.00 | 8 ratings

Double Live
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

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

4 stars American Symphonic Progressive band Glass Hammer may be sixteen studio albums into their near-quarter century career, but they've only delivered two previous live albums (yet three live DVD's) in that time, and not one for eleven years. 2015's `Double Live' is here to change all that, a thrilling live document that highlights not only the best tracks from Glass Hammer's superb recent album from earlier this year `The Breaking of the World', but several fan-favourite pieces from their long career. The current line-up of core members Steve Babb (bass) and Fred Schendel (keyboards), joined by long-time contributors Kamran Alan Shikoh (guitars), Carl Groves and Susie Bogdanowicz (vocals) and recent drummer Aaron Raulston has been in place for a few years now, and their honed live skills are beautifully captured on this warm two CD set and accompanying DVD.

Three of the four tracks on the first disc are from the current studio album, beginning with a more relaxed and buoyant `Nothing, Everything', where Carl and Susie's voices lift gently together during the repeated chorus, and Fred delivers a nimble-fingered flighty electric piano run in the middle. The opening section of `Farewell to Shadowland's `So Close, So Far' is more fun and relaxed, with Kamran adding a dash of jazz/fusion simmer and ethereal shimmers throughout to the guitar solos, and the racing final vocal section has never sounded so flowing and breathless. Then it's back to the lead track from the current disc, `Mythopoeia' where Fred's Mellotron wisps stand out nicely, Carl's voice croons sweetly and Steve's bass weaves and rumbles aggressively thick and upfront (as it should on all prog albums!), and the amusing story of elevator wrong gone wrong (yes, really, look into it!) `Third Floor' sounds better than ever with a stronger and clearer lead vocal from Fred in comparison to the studio version, and `new guy' drummer Aaron Raulston reveals what an absolute talent he is, effortlessly attacking all the little fragmented sections with fluid ease. It's no surprise that this version of the band that wrote these newer pieces and performed them on that album deliver them with all the excitement that comes from playing the most fresh compositions, along with the confidence of knowing how strong they are.

Considering a previous live version of `The Knight of the North' that appeared on the `Live at Belmont' DVD featured a 150 piece orchestra, this current five member Glass Hammer line-up pull it off perfectly well all on their own to open the second disc. One of the defining Glass Hammer works, a lot of the lavish Emerson, Lake and Palmer-flavoured instrumental passages have a more frantic, deranged quality here, Aaron's drums are furious and dominating, and the loopy psychedelic break and sly seemingly fourth-wall breaking passage in the middle are more amusing than ever before! Considering ex-lead singer Jon Davison is now occupied fronting a fairly obscure prog band that will likely never catch on (wink, wink!), it's inspiring to hear Susie and Carl completely re-invent `If The Stars'. Already a highlight off the studio album `If', the band have added a more mysterious slide?guitar intro, and regal church organ booms with dignity and sophistication throughout. One of the first real Glass Hammer standout moments then closes the concert, and it's amazing to see what a template `Time Marches On' from 1995's `Perelandra' is for the band these days, and especially a showcase for Fred's dizzying variety of keyboard colour. Fans of the group may perhaps be overly familiar with some of these pieces by this stage, but the band truly rework them with a string of solos that sound very different to the studio versions, so what's old is new all over again.

But even better might be the DVD of the performance that is included on the deluxe editions, and seeing the group in action takes this set even higher. To witness the band tear through a lengthy set with power and finesse, interact with each-other with smiles all around that comes from knowing they're in an amazing band that has yet to put a foot wrong is hugely satisfying from a fan's perspective. Instantly evident on both the audio CD's and the DVD is how perfectly balanced yet upfront and powerful all the musician's instruments are, and the same goes for all the multiple different singing voices of the leads. Despite Fred and Steve being the core of the group and already long-established prog musicians of note, to see the unsung `little' guys like Kamran, effortlessly navigating his way through a army of guitar sounds, and Aaron's busy, versatile drumming performance is inspiring and may be a revelation for some viewers. The DVD also frequently shows the charisma that both Carl and Susie bring to the band, and it's nice to see their sense of humour shining through, with the raised-fists call- to-arms `This is where we draw the line?' opening of `The Knight of the North' especially infectious!

Of course, with such a wide catalogue of albums behind them, it will always be difficult to cover all the tracks that fans want to hear (and with Glass Hammer you'd need at least a quadruple disc set to even begin that, but let's face it, there'd be nothing more deliciously self-indulgently prog than a massive live release like that!), but the 90-odd minutes on offer here should more than satisfy them. To hear and see a group of musicians and singers in such fine form, performing inventive, challenging and varied symphonic music is a wonder to behold, and `Double Live' is a triumph for lovers of the grandest kind of retro flavoured progressive rock music.

Four stars, but if you're a long-time fan of Glass Hammer, add a whole other star!

 The Breaking Of The World by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.87 | 124 ratings

The Breaking Of The World
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

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

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.
 The Breaking Of The World by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.87 | 124 ratings

The Breaking Of The World
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

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

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.

 The Breaking Of The World by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.87 | 124 ratings

The Breaking Of The World
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by progarchist

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 Hammer has just gotten better and better, more adventurous, and, lyrically, more interesting. Add to Schendel and Babb the others in the band, and you realize that Glass Hammer is as much a movement--a community of true artists--as it is a band. In particular, I challenge anyone in the prog world to find someone better on vocals than Susie Bogdanowicz. She has equals, but not betters. I assume she had some kind of secret voice lessons in heaven at some point in her your life. And, Aaron Raulston, though too little known, is the equal of Peart, Portnoy, and NDV when it comes to the drums. What an astounding group of musicians to come together. While I generally prefer albums that are strictly concepts--such as LEX REX and PERILOUS--THE BREAKING OF THE WORLD is a rare and precious gem in a world torn apart by commercialization, ideologies, and fundamentalisms. Babb and Schendel, as always, are quite humane and quite exceptional. Long live Glass Hammer!
 The Breaking Of The World by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.87 | 124 ratings

The Breaking Of The World
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by Jackaranda77

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 a story of it's own yet somehow it all fit together and created something of a symphony. That's what Glass Hammer does here.

The big highlights for me are the absolutely ingenius "Third Floor," a song written about a seductive female elevator voice that the band turns into delving into the soul of the passenger as well as the elevator with that voice. It's at the same time deep and humorous. And throughout, as always, the music is stunning. "Haunted" is another favorite, featuring the beautiful and, in this case, haunting voice of Susie Bogdanowicz. "Nothing Everything" is another favorite, featuring Carl Groves writing and singing. Babylon and North Wind are also very strong tracks. All throughout the music is very proggy. It may take the listener a few times listening to really get into this album, but that is my personal measure of how good an album is. If I get into it quickly, it usually doesn't stick with me as long The ones that take a few listens, and then you really get into it, those are the best in the long run, and The Breaking Of the World fits that decription. All in all a fantastic piece of work.

 If by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.91 | 278 ratings

Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by RaelWV

3 stars It's hard out there for a Yes fan. Jon Anderson, whose voice is for many a de facto requirement for Yes, is out, having been replaced by Canadian soundalike Benoit David (from the band Mystery, who aren't all that bad on their own terms). They're touring with those musical giants Styx ? on equal terms. There's new album, Fly From Here, but it's based around a decades old leftover from the Drama days and is not being all that well received. To top it off, Geoff Downes, who's back for another stint on keyboards (as the Wheel O' Keyboard Players spins), has decided that the proper media strategy is to confront the critics and call for their mass murder.

Fun times. Fun times.

But what if you're in the mood for something very Yes-ish in the classic sense (and want to avoid forking over you cash to douchebag Downes)? You're in luck my friends ? Glass Hammer has you covered.

Glass Hammer is sort of like a Steely Dan of prog, as it's the brainchild of two guys, Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, who bring in a revolving roster of folks to fill out the band from album to album. After a brave, but not too well received attempt at a more mainstream approach, they roared back to their very Yes-influenced roots with If in 2010. To do so, they recruited an entire new slate of collaborators, including a vocalist, named Jon, who sounds an awful lot like that other vocalist named Jon (who guested on 2007's Culture of Ascent).

Seriously. If you didn't know Anderson was on the outs with Yes these days and somebody played you "Beyond, Within" and told you it was off the new Yes album, it would be hard to argue with them. Which isn't to say Glass Hammer is just ripping off the classics. They have that muscular edge to them that many American prog bands seemed to have absorbed from their arena-rock neighbors (look at Kansas or Spock's Beard, for example).

Glass Hammer doesn't really break any new ground, but they do what they do very well. If you cut your teeth on the symphonic prog of the 1970s and want to hear more of it, with a little modern sheen, check out If. You won't be disappointed.

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

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