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Glass Hammer - Valkyrie CD (album) cover


Glass Hammer


Symphonic Prog

3.87 | 153 ratings

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4 stars Glass Hammer is a band that I have always liked since I first bought "If" a few years ago and I felt they had great ability to produce some fantastic symphonic prog. The thing was that the albums I bought after "If" (older albums) were not as impressive to me and I finally decided to leave off buying any more albums until some future date. Last year I was ready to give the band another chance to impress me as they had already released a few albums after "If". Since "Valkyrie" was the freshest delivery, I decided to go for that one. One review I read praised it while another review warned that it was not as good as previously released albums. What would my impression be?

Well, first of all, I had the impression that Glass Hammer were slowly trying to become a modern day Yes. It was as if they were saying, "If Yes won't do it this way then we will!" One can't help but feel that way when "The Culture of Ascent" covers "South Side of the Sky" and features a guest appearance by Jon Anderson or when "If" and "Cor Cordium" vocalist Jon Davison goes on to become the lead vocalist for Yes, or when they have this wonderful bass guitar sound that resembles Chris Squire's so much. But to be fair, Glass Hammer are not exactly like Yes, and on "Valkyrie" I think they have moved along, taking much of the Yes decor out of their music and adding in other influences and ideas.

Though the music intrigued me from the start, I was on the cusp of moving on from contemporary prog and into other styles of music, so I left this one for nearly a year before coming back to it recently. The album surprised me because as I walked home with my phone in my pocket and the ear buds pumping the music into the space between my ears, I kept taking the phone out of my pocket to check the song titles. That's because it was like, "Wow, that sounds really cool. What song is that?" And this process continued from the second track throughout nearly the whole album.

This is a story of a soldier returning home from the horrors of war to the girl who loves him, and to bring the story to life we have founding member Steve Babb (who also gives us that awesome bass) on lead vocals for the male lines and Susie Bogdanowicz on lead vocals for the female parts. My honest opinion is that while Steve Babb can lay down some fabulous bass work, his lead vocals are a notch behind what I'd like to hear from a lead vocalist for this kind of music. The good point is that he doesn't sing too often and Susie gets more lead vocal work (so I felt anyway). But how strong Steve is as a vocalist becomes a negligible concern as the album rolls on. As is usual for Glass Hammer, they very naturally write and produce some far out classic-prog-inspired symphonic prog. Aside from the rumbling and outstanding bass playing, you'll get a great blend of organ and guitar solos, and lengthy songs that cover different changes in music. There's pretty; there's almost a light Beatle-esque pop approach; there are ELP moments, hints of Pink Floyd keyboards in a place or two, and some music that goes a little darker and harder or heavier than what I've heard in the past.

I made some notes as I listened to this album for the second time recently (not counting the times I heard it last year) and it seems I have noted that "Golden Days" could be my favourite track, or maybe it's the 14-minute "No Man's Land" which is a true epic with some many changing parts, or it's "Fog of War" for its darker parts, or maybe it's the surprising change toward more dramatic music from lighter in "Dead and Gone". But then "Eucastrophe" features a beautiful acoustic intro with a dynamic organ/bass/drum passage coming in. "Nexus Girl" is a unique piece on this album and reminds me a bit of Nine Inch Nails in their softer, quieter moments.

So, this is the album that has reawakened my interest in Glass Hammer. It is not something grand and new and mind-blowing but "Valkyrie" has proved to me that Glass Hammer are capable of surprising me in a very positive way.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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