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GLASS HAMMER

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Glass Hammer biography
Founded in Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA in 1992

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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GLASS HAMMER discography


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

2.05 | 83 ratings
Journey Of The Dunadan
1993
3.06 | 88 ratings
Perelandra
1995
3.06 | 89 ratings
On To Evermore
1998
3.33 | 157 ratings
Chronometree
2000
2.43 | 80 ratings
The Middle Earth Album
2001
3.77 | 201 ratings
Lex Rex
2002
3.70 | 220 ratings
Shadowlands
2004
3.40 | 202 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret
2005
3.53 | 178 ratings
Culture of Ascent
2007
3.01 | 121 ratings
Three Cheers For The Broken-Hearted
2009
3.88 | 324 ratings
If
2010
2.86 | 53 ratings
One
2010
3.73 | 225 ratings
Cor Cordium
2011
3.81 | 207 ratings
Perilous
2012
3.44 | 165 ratings
Ode To Echo
2014
3.82 | 174 ratings
The Breaking of the World
2015
3.84 | 167 ratings
Valkyrie
2016
3.79 | 129 ratings
Chronomonaut
2018
3.81 | 124 ratings
Dreaming City
2020

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

3.05 | 18 ratings
Live and Revived
1997
3.67 | 30 ratings
Live At Nearfest
2004
3.92 | 17 ratings
Double Live
2015
3.80 | 5 ratings
Mostly Live in Italy
2018

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

4.27 | 21 ratings
Lex Live
2004
4.11 | 24 ratings
Live At Belmont
2006
4.24 | 12 ratings
Live at The Tivoli
2008
4.60 | 5 ratings
Double Live
2015

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

3.72 | 18 ratings
The Compilations, 1996 to 2004
2006
3.95 | 20 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret - Deluxe Edition
2013
3.68 | 18 ratings
Untold Tales
2017
3.75 | 3 ratings
A Matter of Time - Volume 1
2020

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

3.80 | 5 ratings
Cool Air
2016

GLASS HAMMER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 A Matter of Time - Volume 1 by GLASS HAMMER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2020
3.75 | 3 ratings

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A Matter of Time - Volume 1
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by Steve Conrad

4 stars A Biased, Affectionate, Respectful Review

A Matter of Time

Time: nearly 30 years now (!) that two colleagues and friends with a common love of progressive rock music and fine literature (J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis anyone?), decided to join forces to create what for me has become a stellar outpouring of complex, exuberant, grand, sometimes epic music.

Time: It's an invention, one that marks the human journey; bigger brains that mine tell me it's relative- seconds can drag, hours can speed by, and personally, here I am nearing the last legs of my own journey- and GLASS HAMMER has been part of that journey for almost half of it.

GLASS HAMMER

These two- Fred Schendel and Steve Babb- then began to gather about them a community which has continued to grow and to branch out as communities when thriving will do. On this particular release, Fred and Steve called upon their percussion powerhouse Aaron Raulston, and some musicians like Dave Bainbridge, Walter Moore, Reese Boyd, and Hannah Pryor to flesh out a fundamental reworking and revisiting of music from their earliest albums, "Journey of the Dunadan", "Perelandra", and "On to Evermore".

Glass: Easily shattered, forged in fire, translucent, multi-hued, prismatic.

Hammer: An instrument of construction, hard-driving, useful, a potential weapon.

And of course, one of those contradictions when placed together- yet it somehow creates something more than the sum of its parts.

The Music

GLASS HAMMER has placed itself squarely in the symphonic progressive rock realm utilizing classically-based, grand, eloquent layers of keyboards and sizzling synthesizers and piano, crunchy and active bass guitar lines, complex and intertwined compositions in which one line grows, changes, is taken up by guitar, shifts to piano and bass, drums come pummeling in, mellotrons are added for heft or mystery, vocals bring back the grandeur, lyrics speak of heartbreak, conquest, loss, victory- and hope. Guitarists have come and gone, but the best ones have utilized tasteful acoustic and clean guitar work as well as some soaring leads. For my money, Kamran Alan Shikoh was the guitarist who was with the outfit long enough to bring a lot of sass, pizzazz, and class to the guitar input.

On "A Matter of Time" my impression is that this collection begins and ends very well. To my ears it loses momentum as it goes, and picks up again toward the ending of this album. Although as a committed listener, there's nothing bad here, it's hard to match "Lliusion", "Felix the Cat", and "Heaven".

Reworking

It takes love, grit, and time to rework old material, and what this album has accomplished is a chance to revisit and to re-hear the beginnings of GLASS HAMMER. When GLASS HAMMER is in full stride, they match the finest of outpourings from any progressive rock outfit you care to name- the grand, the stirring, the heartfelt, the bold, the positive, the lyrical, all reaching upward and striving onward, all of which for me at least makes progressive music the ultimate musical form.

They bring the requisite musical mastery- their instruments, their compositions, their ideas and concepts, and certainly have demonstrated a vision and commitment that has lasted nearly thirty years. At the core, Schendel and Babb have put forth from the beginning music that has stood the test of time- I told you up front I'm biased and respectful and affectionate.

To Sum It Up

Long may they run, these two friends, this community of musicians, this level of commitment and positivity and clear- eyed vision- our sad and suffering planet needs such as this. I rate this one four symphonic stars- "an excellent addition to any progressive rock music collection".

 Lex Rex by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 201 ratings

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Lex Rex
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by A Crimson Mellotron

3 stars I tend to gravitate towards albums with better album art, it is usually a sign that the music is going to be as excellent as the painting or the image that one sees on the front, and this is quite easy to justify, as the first impression is a very strong force in the realm of the human nature. So, I thought, judging the book by its cover, that I am in for a tremendous ride of musical grandeur? the cover in question is, of course, the surrealistic and soft-colored painting that is the album art for 'Lex Rex', the sixth studio album by American progressive and symphonic rock band Glass Hammer; one of the consistent contemporary 'retro prog' acts (definitely this definition applies perfectly to GH, whether you consider the positive or the negative connotations that come along with it). 'Lex Rex' is not a severe disappointment but a gentle let-down, as the music does not match exactly the lovely front image.

Explosive musical passages and eargasmic mellotron-infested instrumental sections dominate the album. This record is made as a sort of a play or a spectacle for the ears, with its properly placed introduction ('Good Evening), intermission and finale ('Goodnight'). And the music is indeed quite cinematic, often adventurous, yet sometimes tedious and repetitive. The strong 70s symphonic progressive rock influence hits the listener from the very beginning of Glass Hammer's 65-minute show; And here comes the first problem: this album could be considered as a decent example of why people look down upon this genre of music and why some others have coined the term 'regressive rock', despite the acrobatic and playful, often adventurous playing of the musicians.

Longer songs, of course, dominate the tracklist, with just one instrumental (and given the fact how mind-blowing most of the instrumental sections are, it is a pity that they did not focus on this kind of compositions more). And this is where I can present the second problem with this record - the particularly unimpressive vocals. Is it the fact that there are seven people that have vocal duties on 'Lex Rex' or the fact that none of them has a really strong, memorable and exceptional voice? I do not know, but the vocals on this album do not work in my book.

With this being said, I must praise the big hero of the album - Steve Babb, the man who is responsible for the bass and keyboards, the two best characters of 'Lex Rex'. Menacing and throbbing bass, intertwined with brain-melting Mellotron ignitions and Hammond organ fiestas, these could be the reasons for which I would return to this record. And I can't help but think that if this band focused on creating more, if not entirely, instrumental albums, they could have reached an Anglagard-kind of level of status in the prog landscape.

All in all, 'Lex Rex' is a good album that suffers from the boring vocals and the moments of directionless playing (or overplaying) of what seems to be excessive notes. Steve Babb, on the other hand, saves the day, making this an enjoyable ear candy for the bass and keyboards-seeking listener. The tracks under the spotlight are surely 'Tales of the Great Wars', 'Further Up and Further In', 'Music for Your Hands' and 'Centurion'.

 Lex Rex by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 201 ratings

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Lex Rex
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by BlazingProg

5 stars Glass Hammer is one of the best modern prog bands. I first listened to this album back in 2018 and I have loved it ever since. I consider this album to be one of the best albums released in the last 20 years! The keyboards are fantastic on every track. Every musician on this album plays great and plays with perfection. The artwork for this album is also spectacular, I think this is one of the best album covers ever made. I would highly recommend this album to everyone. Especially if you like 70's prog with a Yes sound. You won't be disappointed.
 The Inconsolable Secret by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2005
3.40 | 202 ratings

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The Inconsolable Secret
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

3 stars Musically, Glass Hammer continue where they left off with Shadowlands: with perfectly prepared and served 70s Prog. Babb and Schendel have once again composed some great pieces, which are colorful, varied and, despite the unmistakable coloration of their role models, independent.

The double album before us is an ambitious project that can only be realized after many years of working in modern recording studios: Fred Schendel and Steve Babb took advantage of the fact that they work with classical orchestras and choirs on a weekly basis, using symphonic reinforcement to add symphonic volume to their progressive works. It is not to say that Glass Hammer members are obsessed with symphonic arrangements, the album also showcases playful Hammond organ pieces, agile solos by Moog and of course Mellotron.

The drums, together with the bass, lay a solid rhythmic foundation on which the keyboardists can build their tone structures. It is also noticeable that the guitar clearly only plays second fiddle and most of the solos are carried by the keyboard or Hammond organ. Apart from that, the band does an excellent job and doesn't show any technical flaws.

Bottom line, it just works: the melodies are melodic, the motifs come to mind, the arrangements are surprisingly good, the recording is clear and effective, and even the "fantasy" lyrics are tolerated most of the time. There are stories about knights, about a war between good and evil, about longing and lovers, heroes and villains, magic and demons.

In conclusion, the double album "The Inconsolable Secret" by the band Glass Hammer is a justified product - symphonic rock is invested, skilled, consistent, balanced and has great emotional power.

 Lex Rex by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.77 | 201 ratings

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Lex Rex
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The two founders, Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, from Glass Hammer burn off a veritable firework of voluminous and wacky organ, keyboard, synth sounds and solos that make your ears flicker.

"Lex Rex" is about a Roman soldier who has to endure a lot of adventure on this concept work as part of his search for fame and honor, during which he even meets the ancient goddess Aphrodite. You can see this album as one long piece of detailed and melodic Sympho Prog.

Whether shimmering guitar runs, roaning Hammond organs, Mellotron chords that make goose bumps or nimble synth runs - Glass Hammer give fans of original, undiluted old-school progressive rock exactly what they expect and what they love about this style. The whole thing is rounded off by the really successful vocals, again and again with great harmony parts and choirs. The highlights are also the sprinkles that are played on a really great sounding organ ("pipe organ"). Guitar bombast, elegantly interlocked vocal harmonies and lots of filigree keyboard runs - these are the most obvious trademarks of an album that meets the band's own, very high demands almost without any problems. In addition, the full, fat production ensures the right power of the total of 11 tracks, which, with a few exceptions, are mostly in long song format between 7 to 15 minutes. In order to counterbalance the symphonic bombast, a few short transitions ensure quiet, contemplative moments, which saves the album from overload and puts it in a compact, balanced overall corset.

Although the whole album naturally breathes the atmosphere of the 70s and whether its beautiful melodies, it is still not only "retro" but refreshingly independent.

 Dreaming City by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2020
3.81 | 124 ratings

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Dreaming City
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars The concept tells a tale of a desperate man who will do everything to save his beloved and only has three days to do so, as his lover is otherwise doomed to die. This is exactly where the lyrical and musical roller coaster ride begins, through all the ups and downs of human despair and hope - a tale from a distant time, when things were still regulated with metallic weapons, sorcery and magic, a kind of "sword and sorcery" fairy tale, or through the various prog rock varieties.

"Dreaming City" reveals the band from a new, still progressive, but at least much harder side. It starts with 2 really good and really heavy/crazy tracks. Both "The dreaming city" with alienated voices, hard-riffing guitars and roaring organ, as well as "Cold star" with its cascades of various keyboards.

On the twelve tracks of "Dreaming City" a versatile, extremely interesting range of rock, folk and ballad-like passages is covered, this time even influences from sequencer-emphasized electronic music can be found. The guitar parts dominate overall, the keyboard dominance is reduced. Nevertheless, progressive, symphonic elements remain decisive, but not as expansive and bombastic as in the past. Glass Hammer doesn't just stay in familiar terrain, but rather successfully tries out new textures that match the conceptual content.

 Chronomonaut by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.79 | 129 ratings

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Chronomonaut
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars In 1992 the two multi-instrumentalists Steve Babb and Fred Schendel founded the progressive rock band in Chattanooga (Tennessee). As a result of this long, creative collaboration, a remarkable list of publications has emerged. Glass Hammer often deal with scenarios of fantasy literature as well as religious topics in their texts. It impresses with excellent compositions and high quality implementation, plus excellent vocals, which stand out particularly in harmony singing. Occasionally, jazzy passages embedded in symphonic prog rock can even be heard. The occasional brass section also contributes to a lively, even fresh and all-round successful sound experience. This time Matthew Parmenter was used on vocals. Matthew shared in solidarity, more or less 50%, vocal parts with Susie Bogdanowicz and thus, in the form of "Chronomonaut" we received one of the most successful albums in the output of this American group.

"Chronomonaut", because the sheer amount of sounds, ideas and elements, embedded in a pleasing sound, makes the album appear uniform, and the songs rarely manage to stand out as individual pieces, it always creates a pleasant hard, flowing musical feeling. We return lyrically to the story of a certain progressive rock fan, Tom, who was previously convinced that aliens were trying to communicate with him through his favorite music. Now he's an adult, he has formed his own band and wants to become a rock superstar. This is a real old-style concept album that will surely appeal to any audience of prog rock music.

With the twelve compositions, Glass Hammer has again impressively succeeded in presenting an epic musical adventure that should only bring a lot of joy to the fans of the band.

 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.84 | 167 ratings

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Valkyrie
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars On "Valkyrie" Glass Hammer do without an 'external' singer, Steve Babb and Fred Schendel take on significantly more vocal parts and of course the long-time band companion Susie Bogdanowicz - all three vocalists give the story a suitable implementation in combination with the powerful and playful music, which is particularly pleasing with the harmony singing. Glass Hammer are again acting as admirers of the classic symphonic prog of the 70s, which they bring into the present with their means. Fred Schendel lets the keys whirl and the synths shimmer and whir, organs roar, Babb's bass paws and rumbles, guitarist Shikoh plays pleasant solos and drummer Raulston lays a solid rhythm foundation - The band improvises and lets every single musician shine.

"Valkyrie" is a concept album with a storyline. It tells the story of a young soldier who is trapped in a seemingly endless war, who fights and dreams of his lover at home. Symphonic, euphoric , fragile, thoughtful moments, lyrical euphoria and gently gripping moments, the entire mixture fits on this album. The electric guitar is harder at times, but emphasizes the romantic aspect when it becomes acoustic, and sometimes takes a back seat to support the punchy rhythm section. The keyboards are luxurious and are used very flexibly. Organ, synthesizer, mellotron and various pianos come into their own in a practical and highly present manner. It is neatly tricky and complex, but always remains sensitive and symphonic.

Through the intensive use of classical organs, which are often placed in wildly circulating solos against the modern, epic keyboard walls, the music receives an unmistakable sound that is strongly reminiscent of the seventies and which underlines the impression of spontaneous improvisation.

 The Breaking of the World by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2015
3.82 | 174 ratings

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The Breaking of the World
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars Frontman Jon Davison is out for good, so Carl Groves takes over the main vocals again. Of course, as always, supported by the other musicians in beautiful choir passages. In addition to the well-known Susie Bogdanowicz (who, however, only has a few appearances), Michele Lynn is another female voice as a guest (who even gets an entire song of her own).

Shimmering synths, fast but rarely dominant guitar, rumbling and scraping bass playing and moderately tricky drumming all are presented with, of course, every now and then pieces that sound like the big bands of the 70s. " Mythopoeia" is the first song and is split into 3 parts. Starts rocking hard. Then dreamy calm in part 2 with acoustic guitar and beautiful singing. Part 3 then harder again, recapitulation of part 1. With over 13 minutes, " Third floor" sets its first fragrance brand and is also the longest track. Groves sings the lead vocals alternately with Susie Bogdanowicz. That sounds interesting. The song often changes the tempo, even takes it out completely to only accompany the voice of Bogdanowicz with the piano. Good old style Prog. "Babylon" is more of a rocker, with a driving bass and drums. At the end there are 2 longtracks. " North wind" starts with a beautiful organ, Babb's bass holds everything together again. " Nothing, everything" comes as the final piece, the song develops more and more into an absolutely fantastic jam session for the individual musicians. So the last impression of the album is fantastic.

No experiments, just noble classic prog, quite varied and with a few nice twists, as always a bit too gentle and soft, pure Glass Hammer. Organ swirls, guitar drives, violin rocks, calm and a classical guitar sounds, everything is presented fantastic and definitely meets the ears of all prog rock fans.

 Cor Cordium by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.73 | 225 ratings

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Cor Cordium
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

4 stars As usual, the band has to offer finely structured, extremely bombastic and symphonic Prog Rock, whereby with a little overview, the artwork by Tom Kuhn should make it clear what to expect. The band successfully and consistently continues the work started on the album "If". Even the artwork of both albums is similar. The colorful bird on the cover now seems to be in a dynamic movement. It soars into space, just like Glass Hammer's music.

From the very beginning of the album, from the very first bars of the song "Nothing Box", we are dealing with an album with a great epic momentum. Complex passages, multi-story instrumental parts, interesting vocal harmonies - these are the elements that the Americans use to surely conquer the hearts of listeners once again. The result, whose title is borrowed from the Latin language and means "the heart of the heart", primarily and consistently continues the path of this band. Once again they serve "only" six compositions, which, however, with the exception of the "Salvation Station", which is rather unconventional for their circumstances because it is almost commercial, makes a real prog journey. The "heart" of the album "To Someone" even lasts more than 18 minutes, although this number seems relaxed throughout, the tension is maintained and yet no space has been set aside for solo escapades - band perfectly demonstrates how epic symphonic rock of the 21st century should sound.

Jon Davison's voice, as bright as a bell, floats gracefully over expansive keyboard surfaces. In addition to jubilant urgency, the guitar also acts quite rocky at times and then knows how to skilfully pair itself with dynamic Hammond inserts. Without a doubt, there is a beautiful, spiritual euphoria, which is performed with a lot of passion and elegance. Indulgent mellotron sequences and distinctive synth tones round off this piece in a majestic manner.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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