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GLASS HAMMER

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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Ode To EchoOde To Echo
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2014
Audio CD$10.92
$8.73 (used)
The Inconsolable Secret Deluxe EditionThe Inconsolable Secret Deluxe Edition
Box set
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2013
Audio CD$22.45
$24.99 (used)
PerilousPerilous
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2012
Audio CD$10.93
$9.99 (used)
IfIf
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2010
Audio CD$10.97
$19.71 (used)
Cor CordiumCor Cordium
Sound Resources / Arion Records 2011
Audio CD$10.49
$9.25 (used)
Culture Of AscentCulture Of Ascent
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2007
Audio CD$9.99
$8.91 (used)
Journey of the DunadanJourney of the Dunadan
Arion Records / Sound Resources 2009
Audio CD$16.00
$9.97 (used)
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GLASS HAMMER discography


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

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

1.98 | 60 ratings
Journey Of The Dunadan
1993
3.07 | 67 ratings
Perelandra
1995
3.06 | 68 ratings
On To Evermore
1998
3.27 | 114 ratings
Chronometree
2000
2.41 | 59 ratings
The Middle Earth Album
2001
3.72 | 155 ratings
Lex Rex
2002
3.70 | 174 ratings
Shadowlands
2004
3.34 | 145 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret
2005
3.52 | 134 ratings
Culture Of Ascent
2007
3.03 | 83 ratings
Three Cheers for the Broken-Hearted
2009
3.91 | 258 ratings
If
2010
3.00 | 36 ratings
One
2010
3.81 | 168 ratings
Cor Cordium
2011
3.91 | 145 ratings
Perilous
2012
3.48 | 96 ratings
Ode To Echo
2014

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

3.07 | 11 ratings
Live and Revived
1997
3.57 | 21 ratings
Live At Nearfest
2004

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

4.29 | 16 ratings
Lex Live
2004
4.11 | 18 ratings
Live At Belmont
2006
4.29 | 7 ratings
Live at The Tivoli
2008

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

3.65 | 19 ratings
The Compilations, 1996 to 2004
2006
3.63 | 8 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret - Deluxe Edition
2013

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

GLASS HAMMER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Three Cheers for the Broken-Hearted by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.03 | 83 ratings

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Three Cheers for the Broken-Hearted
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

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

3 stars A somewhat controversial and mostly unloved release from American symphonic proggers Glass Hammer, `Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted' saw the band, usually associated with lengthy instrumental filled epic arrangements, adopt a more accessible and stripped back format for their tenth album. This is probably one of the last albums from the band that newcomers should begin with, but the idea that's it's a dud, or worse yet, some kind of commercial sell-out is absurd! Female vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz takes the majority of the lead, but Steve Babb and Fred Schendel still get standout vocal passages throughout as well. All the usual romantic prettiness, the sweeping melodies and lush instrumentation are still there, just tightly compacted into more easier to approach settings, and best of all, the band adopted some more modern influences that, in retrospect with what was come, make this a real one-off that should be reconsidered.

Tracks like opener `Come On, Come On' and the sun-kissed cover of The Zombies' `A Rose for Emily' have a Beatles-esque 60's psychedelic pop flavour, Susie's voice offering breathy sighs. The confident acoustic guitar driven gothic ballad `A Bitter Wind' is one of the absolute album highlights, with weeping Mellotron weaving around Susie's wilting tones during the sublime repeated chorus, and it's pretty much a perfect Glass Hammer piece. Fred especially excels on both the strident and somewhat jaunty `The Mid-Life Weird', which wouldn't have sounded out of place as a breather on earlier album `Lex Rex', and sophisticated ballad `Sundown Shores' glistens with his tasteful piano playing and warm urgent vocal.

Several other tracks take some unexpected and welcome changes of direction. `The Curse They Weave' is very surprising, exciting and moody electro pop with dark slinking grooves, and it works a treat! There's a refreshing brooding heavier atmosphere on `The Lure of Dreams', with Steve's thick reverbreating bass, plus imposing Hammond organ, forceful drumming and intimidating searing Mellotron. `Sleep On' has nice muscular electric guitar workouts that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Dream Theater album, while the ambitious `Schrodinger's Lament' has snarling sludgy riffs over somewhat distracting ranted spoken-word samples that drops in and out of floating spectral passsages that almost take on a dreamy Beach Boy's `Surf's Up' quality.

The almost 8 minute `Hyperbole' is the most overtly proggy standout here, but also easily one of the most contemporary and modern sounding pieces ever to appear on a Glass Hammer album. Dominated by Steve's bouncy leaping bass, a brisk up-tempo relentless beat drives electric guitar fire and infernal Mellotron choirs almost sounding like the later Porcupine Tree discs, twisting turning time-changes, ballistic synth soloing, and even Susie bringing a tougher vocal to carry the catchy repeated chorus home. I'd love the band to head in this direction again sometime soon, so many potential new directions they could investigate! Album closer `Falling' is a classy retro piano ballad from Fred that sounds just like the sort of multi-harmony honey-dipped pop that retro-rocker Matthew Sweet excelled at, and it's just as good. A gorgeous Mellotron outro closes the album perfectly.

Of course there's some filler scattered briefly throughout the eleven tracks, and the cover itself is not very special (although it's pretty inspiring to see the results of Fred's weightloss - way to go, buddy!), but `Three Cheers' frequently bristles with a relaxed energy that being free of ambitious extended and vintage flavoured proggy arrangements allowed the band. Despite some 60's pastiche here and there, this is the furthest Glass Hammer ever drifted from the vintage/retro-prog sound, and it seems fresh and full of untapped potential. I feel albums like this are more interesting and appreciated when looking back over a long discography of an artist, where risks and formula shakeups can be admired. It's a shame that the reaction from stuffier, perhaps older prog fans ensured that Glass Hammer never tried anything like this again (to date). As much as I still enjoy their albums from `If' onwards, it seems like the band had a massive panic attack from the response to this and raced back to the safe comfort of 70's sounds from then on.

The connection with Yes may have brought the band and their recent works more popularity and status, but even before Jon Davison joined their ranks, Glass Hammer already had a number of superb modern symphonic prog works in their career, and `Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted' was a very respectable diversion for patient lovers of the band, with frequently daring and unexpected experiments that we may never get to hear the likes of from them again. It's an album that revealed more variety and their own unique personality a little more than the 70's love-fests that have come since, and I wish the band would take a chance like this again...or that more of their fans would allow them to.

Three and a half stars.

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 Ode To Echo by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.48 | 96 ratings

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Ode To Echo
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by tbstars1

2 stars Mmm...the consensus appears to be that this marks yet another step forward for Glass Hammer, with a freshness and new-found accessibility that altogether forms a winning combination. I just don't see this at all, I'm afraid. After the splendid heights attained by "If" and "Perilous" (with "Cor Cordium" not far beneath them), this is a real let-down. After persevering over many listens, I conclude that there is not a single track that stands comparison with any of the true gems that have been delivered by the band in its many guises over its 20 years' existence. Here we have just a succession of discordant, instantly- forgettable tunes, with nothing very "tuneful" at all, as I see it , and with no particular melody or discernible sense of structure - just an aimless succession of tracks travelling under the generic "prog" label, where "prog" is measured solely by the yardsticks of musical cleverness and intricacy. We've been down this route before, and we don't need to repeat history. I don't doubt that what follows is near-sacriligious for the wider prog community to read, but anyone who saw Gentle Giant in their prime, as I did, will know that, whilst they were absolutely mesmerising in their versatility and artistry - and this, of course, could only be wildly appreciated and applauded - their concerts were extremely difficult to "enjoy" because the sheer complexity of the music was so distracting thta it became overwhelming.

The time is ripe for Glass Hammer to re-examine the way ahead. They have proved over many years that they can do so much better than this. This is, IMO, by far their poorest offering to date, worse even than either "Lex Rex" or "Culture of Ascent", which is really saying something.

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 If by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.91 | 258 ratings

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If
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by infandous

3 stars 3.5 stars really!

This is the kind of thing Yes should be putting out. This implies that this is something of a Yes "copy" or even tribute. I'd say the latter is more accurate than the former, as the more I listen to this album, the less the music really sounds like Yes (though there are certainly some extremely similar.......some would say "rip off".......moments).

I think the main similarity is the vocals of Jon Davison. Of course, he is now the full time vocalist for Yes, and performed for a Yes tribute band for many years. The resemblance is uncanny, so it's no surprise that the Yes comparisons are made. Then we have the guitarist, who sounds remarkably like a young Steve Howe, and was almost certainly heavily inspired by him. The bass has that heavy Rickenbacker overdriven sound that Squire was always known for, and the keys use a lot of vintage sounds, many of which were used by Yes in their heyday. The cover art is great, though again, the similarity to one Rodger Dean can not be ignored here either.

So two paragraphs in and I'm STILL comparing that band to Yes. For many people, this is where they decide that it's not for them, they don't need another prog band trying to recreate the glories of a more famous 70's prog band, etc. This was my first thought upon hearing it the first time as well. However, repeated listens have opened this album up to me as a valid and enjoyable work in its own right. There is no denying the Yes similarities, but since when has Yes produced an album as good as this? I would say not for at least 20 years. So to me, this is a welcome addition to my collection. Beautiful melodies, stirring orchestral crescendos, fantastic guitar and keys solos, odd time signatures........but most of all, emotional impact. This album moves me like Yes albums of old used to. Sure, it's not as innovative and "new" as those albums were upon release. This is unquestionably retro prog, with a heavy Yes influence. Yet, it is also a beautifully, well written and arranged prog rock album that after 2 years I still haven't gotten tired of hearing. To me, that is enough to make it essential. Tracks 1, 5, and 6 are my firm favorites, also sounding the most Yes-like, incidentally, but every song has something I like. Behold The Ziddle is the one where the Yes comparisons break down a bit, though I suppose it has some correlation to the heavier and wilder parts of the Yes' catalog.

Basically, if the constant references to Yes haven't put you off yet, then you need to own this album. For my personal taste it really is a 4 star album, but in the scope of prog music and this site I'm going to round down to 3 stars, as I don't think I can honestly say it is an "excellent addition to ANY prog rock music collection". Just to mine, and perhaps yours, if you love Yes and wish they would make good symphonic prog again.

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 Ode To Echo by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.48 | 96 ratings

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Ode To Echo
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by scaife

4 stars Ode To Echo is the latest offering from Glass Hammer. Personally, I think it's their best album since If. Their last 2 albums, Cor Cordium and Perilous took some time to digest. Not Ode To Echo. This album had me hooked on the first listen. For those who say "oh, they're just a Yes clone", I say check this album out. This is Glass Hammer sounding like Glass Hammer. There are some beautiful passages on this record (Crowbone and Panegyric), but this is also one of the heavier albums they've put out. This is a solid addition to the Glass Hammer canon. Standout tracks include Crowbone, I Am I and Ozymandias. Very recommended.

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 Ode To Echo by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.48 | 96 ratings

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Ode To Echo
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by FoldZan

5 stars Ode to Echo finds Glass Hammer back in their stride. It harkens back to their pre-"IF" era but at the same time this release expands their sound while keeping it new and fresh. To me they've never sounded so tight. Ode to Echo is their best release to date which is saying a lot compared to what's come before it. This album is solid from beginning to end and for the first time in a long time on any album I'm not skipping tracks to get to the better song.

Glass Hammer took a lot of heat from prog fans over IF and then Cor Cordium as the band tipped their hat to Yes in admiration. (I personally love those two albums) It wasn't for lack of excellent musicianship but the debate revolved around originality and not being "progressive" enough as opposed to being more retro. Ode to Echo should silence the naysayers. This is Glass Hammer centering themselves on who they are as a band and creating some fantastic new prog music in the process.

As much of a fan of Jon Davison as I am, I love, and after listening to this release, prefer the blend of vocalists Ode to Echo uses. The band uses the strengths of each to paint their picture. Carl Groves takes the lead and has never sounded so good. Jon Davison adds his unique voice and style while Susie Bogdanowicz parts are perfectly placed as the voice of "Echo" in "I Am I" and the hauntingly beautiful "Panegyric". Add Fred, Steve, Kamran and Aaron's mastery of their instruments and you have a "must have" prog album.

I personally find a lot more direction and intentionality and less prog wandering for the sake of a longer song. Ode to Echo is a mix of shorter and longer tracks that are all strongly tied into the theme of Narcissus and Echo and their love for themselves. While not a pure concept album that tells a single story, every song speaks to the theme of the album.

Ode to Echo captures what this band is all about and I highly recommend it to any prog fan looking for some of the best new prog music being put out today.

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 Ode To Echo by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.48 | 96 ratings

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Ode To Echo
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by snelling

3 stars My initial impression of 'Ode to Echo' was that I was a bit disappointed. There seemed to be less melody, less beauty and less passion than previous albums, and more what sounds to me as progginess just for the sake of sounding proggy rather than clear compositional direction. However, the album was new and like other GH albums, the music opened up to me with repeated listens. Yet the feeling of satisfaction that swept me with previous albums isn't quite there with me on this one, save for the glorious first two songs, 'Garden of Hedon', and 'Misantrog'. These tracks are fantastic, and I thought would set the stage for another near masterpiece. But then tracks like 'I Am I' just don't do it for me. To be fair, I do like most of the songs, and the fact that the band seems to break new ground on this album. Songs such as 'Pangegyric', and the albums closer, 'Ozymandias' are pretty cool, as well. I guess I expected more than pretty cool from the albums closer though. I also much prefer Jon Davison's vocals, and he mostly takes a backseat to Carl Groves, whose vocals to me are pretty good, but somewhat forgettable. So overall a solid 3 and a half stars at this time.

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 If by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.91 | 258 ratings

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If
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by Mr. Mustard

4 stars If you were to clump all of the sounds and stereotypes of 70's prog into one album, then If by Glass Hammer would be this album. It isn't a secret this album's (and band's) music is highly motivated by classic prog, especially symphonic. This record bleeds Yes, Genesis and ELP, all in a modern and more polished fashion. Despite all of this, these guys manage to have their own sound that is marked with very melodic passages, deep and lush atmospheres, and great musicianship and virtuosity.

Song-wise, this is a bit harder to deconstruct due to the songs being based on the same songwriting scheme. As mentioned, each song will have heavily Genesis, Yes, etc inspired passages with frequent use of organ, Mellotron, and synth, as is custom with symphonic prog. Though there really isn't any weak song on the album, I feel as though it could have been shortened slightly, a problem with many modern albums, no doubt. But this problem is minor, especially when considering the phenomenal production and mixing values; everything is clear and the instruments are given plenty of breathing room.

The highlight of the album is probably the final epic track, 'If the Sun,' which seems like an endless stream of high energy, catchy melodies, but also includes some deep, atmospheric parts as well.

What this album lacks in adventurous music, it makes up for in its melodies and lush atmosphere. If you like catchy melodies one after another, all played in a highly symphonic fashion with superior production, and don't mind the overall derivative nature, then this album is certainly for you.

8/10

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 Lex Rex by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.72 | 155 ratings

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Lex Rex
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars For those with long memories I have reviewed Glass Hammer before but it was way back in #36 (August '96) when I gave them a strong review for their second album 'Perelandra'. Now it is 2000 and this is their seventh album so what do I think now? It starts with an announcer telling invited guests about the concert that is going to take place. Later there is an intermission as well as a thanks at the end where the gentlemen are invited to retire to have some brandy while the ladies have some refreshments. Each time I heard it I couldn't help thinking of Jethro Tull's 'A Minstrel In The Gallery' where a similar device has rather more effect.

But in no way is that going to detract from what is a quite superb album. It is multi-faceted and multi-layered and given that it is basically all the work of just two people (Steve Babb and Fred Schendel) the accomplishment is even more remarkable. When I played this the first time I put it on immediately after playing The Flower Kings, and I was struck by just how different the two albums were. This also brings in many strands and musical styles but they all become part of the overall theme instead of trying to take over the piece. Both guys are strong singers, as well as good musicians and this is an album that I have really enjoyed playing. It is prog that while often based on keyboards also has a strong guitar element and manages to be all things to all progheads as those who want shorter songs can have them while those who want long instrumental passages are also catered for.

It may have been six years since I last reviewed a Glass Hammer album but yet again I find myself recommending that all proggers get hold of this as soon as possible. Visit the band web site at www.glasshammer.com.

Originally appeared in Feedback #70, Oct 02

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 One by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.00 | 36 ratings

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One
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by ramien

5 stars Babb & Schendel's finally made it!... or not???

Glass Hammer consistent lack of passion finally comes to an end. That could be a great news, but the problem is, even if "One" was published in 2010, in fact they are the very first compositions of the band, this time as a duo by its core musicians. When I hear this magnificent (althought simply arranged) album, there's a lot of questions that come to my mind. The more important two are: why didn't they follow this path? Because the music accomplished here is a lot different than any other GH albums (which were composed afterwards), and in this case, the lack of passion (which, in my humble opinion, is the very setback of GH music) is notably absent, and gives way to a construction simple but very connected between tracks. The second question is: after making this, how could they have donesuch a horrible mess as "Journey of the Dunadan"? The answer, I think, lies in their desire to make "complex" music such as their master influences (mainly Yes, but also ELP and, very scarcely, Genesis) and to imitate them. That's why they didn't keep in touch with their own spirit and lost their way. "Chronometree" was a great album, but lacks passion. "Three chears for the broken-hearted" was a good effort (unlike other members, I really enjoyed it), but they are constantly restraining themselves in the composition. "If" was a great album, but it was a YES album, even if Yes didn't make it themselves. Here is where the real Glass Hammer lies. It's a pity it didn't stay afterwards. I really hope someday they'll be reborn.

Grossly neglected by the audience. Five stars for me.

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 If by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.91 | 258 ratings

BUY
If
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by toilet_doctor

5 stars "The Song Remains the Same" (Led Zeppelin)

What a beautiful music. it's purring like balsam on the wounds. Vocal is outstanding (just a sample, how history repeats itself); organ and bass work is excellent. Entire album is great, especially last 2 songs (about 35 min) - real masterpieces of prog rock, not less. The more you listen to it, the more you like it. Since release of Close to the Edge a lot of musicians were fascinated and inspired by it. However, nobody came so close and did it so well, as Glass Hammer with their last 3 albums. Artwork is remarkable, as well. as the music. It deserves to be at least on cardboard sleeves.

This album is recommended for Yes fans and for all complex symphonic prog lovers. What, if you're not one of them? Then, it is not necessary to leave your review.

When Glass Hammer said "If", it means: If this album was done by Yes with Anderson vocal, how would you rate it? In other worlds: Is it fair to rate the same music differently, depending on the group name? Is this "buy or die" album? For those, who want that the song never ends, it is. 5 golden stars.

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