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Glass Hammer - The Inconsolable Secret CD (album) cover


Glass Hammer

Symphonic Prog

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2 stars I was going to hold off reviewing this for a few years or so just so that I can take it all in.Trouble is that no one has posted a review so i'll have a go.Basically this 2CD set is some 100 minutes of prog music.Glass Hammer, for those who don't know, are a keyboard lead band stylistically recalling ELP and Yes at times but managing to write thoughtfull music that is their own.Normally they record their albums as a 2 or 3 peice with the talented Fred Schendel playing nearly all the instruments.Here they take their live incarnation into the studio for their magnum opus..or that is the intention.Sad to say this falls well short of their brilliant Shadowlands album.Here the ideas and great hammond licks seem spread thin. They even resort to 'filler' on much of disc 2,while disc 1 just seems very uninspired.However its all very polished production wise and nicley presented with a lovely Roger Dean album cover.Just a shame that they couldn't make an album to grace the cover.(in 2 years I'll be proclaiming this to be the greatest prog masterpeice ever and deeply embarassed at my feeble attempt of a review!)
Report this review (#39184)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars They did it yet again, and even topped themselves in the process. Yes indeed, The Inconsolable Secret by GLASS HAMMER is a true symphonic prog masterpiece. This double disc set starts with two epic tracks on Disc One, A Maker Of Crowns and The Knight Of The North. Both tracks weave effortlessly through various emotions and styles, masterfully telling a story based on a lengthy poem (The Lay of Lirazel) by Steve Babb. The musicianship is absolutely top notch, and aside from the immeasurable talents of Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, features the very capable acoustic drumming of Matt Mendians. Disc Two picks up where Disc One left off with Long And Long Ago ... and then the music takes a very distinct turn, becoming extremely symphonic, orchestrated, and choired. The tracks are stunningly beautiful and the vocals are equally impressive. To make a long story short, The Inconsolable Secret will absolutely become a progressive rock classic. This album is truly that damn good. Add in the always gorgeous artwork of the world-renowned Roger Dean, impeccable design and layout, and a very generous smattering of added bonus goodies on the enhanced disc one, and you have a package rarely seen in today's music industry.
Report this review (#39218)
Posted Tuesday, July 12, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Glass Hammer's latest offering, The Inconsolable Secret, is a 2-CD Progressive Rock album that eclipses their previous concept album masterpiece Lex Rex in nearly every aspect.

Musically, the sound of both Lex Rex and Shadowlands are represented and built upon exponentially, and the addition of Matt Mendians (Live at Nearfest and Lex Live) as GH's studio drummer will simply shut up the long time grumblings of fans and reviewers alike. The band experiments with styles never heard before on pervious albums, and the wide range of sound benefits the overall feel of both discs and highlights Babb and Schendel's growing maturity in songwriting that comes with their eighth major release. The production work is crisp and pristine, with a balanced sound. No instrument is ever too loud for need of overpowering the others, and having heard the album on a variety of systems, it seems to play well without much tweaking.

Lyrically the album centers around a 60+ page epic poem by Steve Babb entitled "The Lay of Lirazel" which in its own right is an incredible work, and is included with other goodies on the digipack-enhanced first CD.

Disc One, entitled "The Knight" contains two songs that are very much done in the fantastic "stripped down" sound of lush vocal harmonies, organ, mellotron, synth, bass, and guitar that made Glass Hammer famous. It opens with 'A Maker of Crowns' a powerful song that has a piano, organ, and a synth riff running throughout that harkens back to Camel's work. The 25+ minute epic 'The Knight of The North' has many sections and moods that work together as a whole- you never realize that you listened to near a half-hour of one song. At 7:50 into this track, there is a blaze of inspired synth and Hammond work, but there are simply too many highlights to mention; the piece closes strongly with warm choir and orchestra.

Disc Two, or "The Lady," is a cohesive set of songs that tell a story just as Lex Rex had, book ended by two tracks over 10 minutes in length. The beautiful female vocals get to take center stage multiple times, showing the incredible talents of both old and new girls. 'Lirazel' remains a favorite of mine; although I wish it was longer! Many of the instrumental and symphonic pieces in the middle of CD two evoke a very "movie score" feel to them- you are taken along for the ride, like something out of The Lord of The Rings. 'Mog Ruith' is an explosion of drums and keyboards fit for a battle scene. The soft ballad 'Through a Glass Darkly' evokes emotions that run deep, and fits nicely within the set. 'Having Caught a Glimpse' has soaring vocals and melody, and culminates in an incredible way, bringing themes and cues from other songs on the album to bring disc two to a close, which sent shivers through my whole body.

All this incredible orchestration, especially at the end of 'Having Caught a Glimpse' almost worries the keyboard fan in me slightly. Fans need to make sure GH never forgets the sound that Lex Rex and Chronometree made famous.

That small reservation aside, which in no way detracts from this work as a whole, this is a must buy for any fan of Yes, Kansas, Echolyn, or keyboard-driven symphonic prog as a whole. Special mention must be made of the wonderful cover art and new logo created by famed artist Roger Dean.

One wonders how they might top this album, for Glass Hammer once again has taken a myriad of musical influences and made it completely their own: 5/5.

Report this review (#39320)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Well probaly it's better to erase one star at least, as I could resume my score this way: "2 stars" for the first -a bit uninspiring- side;"4 stars" for the second more convincing it's difficult to rate the new effort of G.H., because of the discontinuity of disc one as well as of their usual great approach within the second and final section of the concept, which is much more than simply "comfortable" from the artistic point of view. Besides, after listening to it for several times I can recognize some defects within, above all talking about the production, as it sounds very old in some circumstances.

But proceeding by order from the beginning, the "masterminds" of the band- Fred Schendel and Steve Babb- have chosen to play their usual analogical instrumentation such as Mini Moog, Mellotron, Hammond and Pipe Organ, within a strange contest for them,similar to the medieval set established by Rick Wakeman at the time of "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table", but showing a different output...the story is about a King and his loyal knights: the so called "Evil Knight" plots to fight the king, passing through so many vicissitudes of jealousy,epic battles as well as a restless love...ok, his noble purpose of setting the beauty princess free is the key of the whole concept. The female contribution to the plot by Sarah Snyder (but also by Susie Bogdanowicz) is important: they perform a few remarkable vocal parts, but they are not the unique singers of the present concept...the opener "A Maker of Crowns'" is a powerful epic number, enriched with a good piano, but also the Pipe Organ and their classical analogical sound (reminding me of the symphonic job performed by Camel), are remarkable. A lot of riffs at the synths and their powerful solutions at the Hammond Organ, represent the main features, but honestly the output is uneven: for example the harmonic guitar work is not bad, but the music development inside disc two is more interesting and original too.

Talking about disc two, "The Lady," is a diverse work, being more compact and cohesive, regarding of some different stories and vicissitudes...such "music" tale, enriched by means of excellent singers (otherwise showing the incredible talents of a few "guests" and session-women as important vocalists) finds its own top inspiration within track #3- 'Lirazel' -probably the best song of the concept; it reminds me of some Tolkenian tales, such as The Lord of The Rings. Moreover you find some explosive solos during the development of the story, like for example those ones at the drum and the keyboards, inside 'Mog Ruith': here the battle scene is really anthralling!!At the end the "catharsis" of the whole epic number is characterized by melodic songs, evoking a few but great emotions, such as those ones brought about the soft ballad 'Through a Glass Darkly' ;while 'Having Caught a Glimpse', always with the same tone, is finding its best way in the last part with its very captivating conclusion...

I don't understand what's all the fuss for their never-ending emulation of the seventies,especially in their approach at the instrumentation (by means of the old synths and a classic sound too, as well as through the guitar and "70's" bass pedals already used);nevertheless, by adding my esteem for their excellent lyrics, through a modern rereading of the "celtic" medieval legends, I like to make a special mention also for the orchestrations and the cover picture by Roger Dean. At the end I don't regard the whole concept album as much essential as "Lex Rex" or their previous "Shadowlands", but I could also change idea especially when I get involved with every detail...make your own choice!!

Report this review (#39590)
Posted Saturday, July 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars A 2-CD set including a fold out cover by Roger Dean (a member of the Prog Archives family), what a prosperous symphonic rock event! The music on CD1 (entitled "The knight") is a tribute to the Seventies prog sound from the symphonic rock dinosaurs, THE link between Glass Hammer and Roger Dean. First "A maker of crowns" (more than 15 minutes) that starts with classical piano, then a slow rhythm featuring pleasant interplay between vintage keyboards like the Mellotron, Hammond organ (strong echoes from Keith Emerson) and Minimoog synthesizer, supported by a dynamic rhythm- section and some howling guitar licks. To me the vocals sound a bit mediocre but not disturbing. The second track entitled "The knight of the north" (almost 25 minutes) is a 24-carat symphonic rock composition delivering many changing climates and rhythms, breaks and soli on guitar and keyboards. Enjoy the mid-tempo pieces with powerful Hammond organ runs, classical orchestrations, some Steve Howe-inspired steel-guitar play, violin-Mellotron eruptions, Minimoog flights and a sumptuous conclusion featuring marvellous choir-Mellotron floods, GREAT!! Although at some moments my attention slips a bit away, most of the two long tracks sound very pleasant and contain lots of captivating progrock parts. CD2 (entitled "The lady") starts with "Long and long ago" (almost 10 minutes), after a classical piano intro a mid-tempo follows including organ and fiery electric guitar, again some exciting Steve Howe-inspired steel-guitar soli, a flashing organ solo, harder-edged electric guitar escapades and lots of sumptuous keyboards, supported by powerful drums and bass. In "The morning she woke" we can enjoy great keyboards and a wonderful duet between the great female vocals and majestic violin-Mellotron and fragile piano, unique! Perhaps the best and most compelling composition on this 2-CD is "Lirazel": first a melancholic climate with serene vocals, mellow organ, wailing violins and then church-organ, piano and classical guitar runs, very beautiful and moving! The other tracks sound very alternating: a choir, violins and high voices in the melancholical "The high place", a folky atmosphere in "Morrigan's song", ominous and bombastic sounds featuring organ and violins in "Walking toward doom", a fluent rhythm with powerful Hammond organ and sparkling piano in "Mog Ruth" and a dreamy climate with piano, violins and again that wonderful female voice in "Through a glass darkly". The next two songs "The lady waits" and "The mirror cracks" contain classical orchestrations, evoking The Enid at some moments. The final track is "Having caught a glimpse" featuring a classical intro, then a bombastic climate with Chris Squire-like bass, organ and violin-Mellotron along dreamy parts with piano and high vocals. In my opinion CD1 sound wonderful in the 'classical symphonic rock tradition' but CD2 is more refined, adventurous and captivating so three stars for CD1 and four stars for CD2. By the way, CD1 contains an 'enhanced' CD for the computer with bonus material. ENJOY IT!!
Report this review (#40772)
Posted Friday, July 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars "The Inconsolable Secret" is a two-disc set; disc one is titled "The Knights" disc two "The Lady". ELP, Yes, and Spock's Beard influences can be heard throughout the first disc. Plenty of time changes, dynamics, interesting compositions and musicianship abounds. The male vocals aren't great and may take time to warm up to. The epic 24:39 minute "The Knight of the North" stands out as the highlight of the CD. The Knights is amazing and gets five stars.

The second disc sounds like a completely different band. It's nice to be diverse, but what happened? Minus the first two tracks and the classical sounding pieces, most of the music is very atmospheric fluffy background stuff. The female vocals are nice but the music is very dull at times. The Lady gets two stars.

If the entire CD was comparable to The Knights it would surpass "Shadowlands", but unfortunately it fails to do so.

Report this review (#41752)
Posted Friday, August 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars I will keep this short. I won't pretend I know this band well, coz I don't...but I have heard their last 3 albums. I loved Lex Rex, but was a bit disappointed that Shadowlands didn't grab me in the same way (good though it is). But now we have "The Inconsolable Secret" which is made up of 2 CD's. For me, the best parts of the 2nd CD are the 2 10 minute plus tracks, "Long And Long Ago" at the start and "Having Caught A Glimpse" at the end, that highlight this disk, and the rest (although pleasant) have a touch of filler to them. I rate this as 3 out of 5.

But CD1, which has only 2 tracks "A Maker Of Clowns" at 15 minutes plus and "The Knight Of The North" at 24 mins are a delight. "A Maker Of Clowns" is a beautiful piece of Progressive music. The way the melody just stays with you and you almost float away. The very reason I continue to listen to this fascinating genre over the years is to hear classics such as this. Keyboarding is masterful and general musicianship is excellent throughout. Hang On!! Only 15 minutes in and we're in heaven!! How can they follow this? Well, "The Knight Of The North" is a diffferent feel in many ways. It starts with a almost medieval classical melody which brightens to an opening vocal + piano that's reminiscent of Gentle Giant (who are a big influence in other parts of the track). Then and ELP keyboard section through to a YES pastoral section and then a great vocal melody (vocals aren't great but not bad either). Now, how far are we in? 7 minutes 50 seconds, and it's been a gas. After 11minutes we get a GG or even Spock's Beard vocal harmony, then a flute and guitar melody. I will not go on from here as it would take me all night to type it, but needless to say that the remainder of this track sparkles with greatness, although I deduct a star for the overlong repetitive ending (a small gripe). I know I've mentioned the influences above, but that does not mean to say that this is completely derivitive as that would be wrong. The iffluences are there, but they still retain their own style.

This 1st Disk is an epic and completely essential, so what a bonus that you get the second CD too. Track 1 5 stars, Track 2 4 stars, CD1 5 out of 5 WOW!!

Report this review (#43854)
Posted Monday, August 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The final step before the big leagues.

Will Glass Hammer finally leave the ungrateful minor leagues of progressive music?

Well, if the tour is successful, I think this is it! Glass Hammer' s music proved it can rock the world and even move it. The progression of the 3 last albums: Lex Rex was great story telling and rocked harder like Triumvirat. Shadowlands was less storyteller but the songs were more crafted and somewhat love oriented, using a string section and church organ.

The Inconsolable Secret is a blend of the best of the 2 last albums. Triumvirat/ Pr Lindh lovers will find their share in the cd 1. We find here what Glass Hammer loves to do: keyboard oriented music. Hammond, mellotron, and more hammond. Honestly, I feel I hear more of the same again. I feared that when I heard Shadowlands for the first time. I shouldn't be so drastic...some new elements has been added to the blend. Schendel is giving more space to little interludes of honky tonk piano and other cool synths sounds. Glass Hammer is doing extremely well their style, I wish only more diversity in the vocal departement especially. The most talented singer is of course the jack of all trades that is Walter Moore. With such a warm and poweful voice, Babb and Schendel should back up sing and let Moore do the main stuff (personnal taste of course).

On the performance side, Babb is showing again that following his bass is a fast pace exercise. I saw him playing and he masterized the bass in his own departement. He's not playing Geddy Lee's style, though. He plays with a pick and sports a more hard rock approach...and puts his bass lower than the traditional bassman look we're used too. The main prize is (once again) honored to Fred Schendel with a panoply of synthetisers reminding the great Jurgen Fritz or Pr Lindh. Close is Matt Mendians who is constantly in movement. Not a second is wasted, his talent is putted in front throughout cd 1.

Cd 2 is dominated by the girls. Glass Hammer would not be as awesome without the support of Bogdanowicz, Paris, Snyder and Warren. The feel on the second cd is completely different, except for the 2 first songs.

When you hit the third track, you're in a completely different universe. A great magical aura is surrounding the songs. A real choir is wrapping up the song Lirazel, propulsing you a world of winter and ladies in distress, waiting for their knights to show. Lirazel actually feels like Bjrk's Vespertine crossed with a soundtrack of Final Fantasy. I was shocked to hear such a change of pace in a Glass Hammer album. This has nothing to do with what they gaved us before. I'm smiling about it and you will!

With the beautiful choirs, the Bjrk influences and the emphasis on female vocals, the interest of the Incosolable Secret lies in cd 2, you guessed it. The first cd is still good, but The Lady is truly a great record with a soul on it's own.

Could it be the prime time of 2005 ?

Report this review (#47594)
Posted Tuesday, September 20, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another superb offering from America's best prog band, (IMO). This has all the classic elements of Glass Hammer music - the brilliant keyboards, from maybe the most underrated keyboardist in prog, Fred Schendel, and the wonderful Squire-like driving bass lines from Steve Babb. The guitar is less on show here, but, nevertheless, an integral part of the mix and very well played. The first disc has two long compositions, 'A Maker Of Crowns', and 'The Knight Of The North'. Both are excellent, with strong melodies, and both continue in the tradition of 'Chronometree' and 'Lex Rex'. The second disc is somewhat different, with eleven shorter pieces on it, some of which sound almost like film sound tracks. All are good however, with the best being 'The Morning She Woke', 'Lirazel', 'The High Place' and 'Through A Glass Darkly'. Surprisingly, my least favourites on this disc are the first and last tracks, the two longest in fact. 'Having Caught A Glimpse' especially, whilst being pleasant throughout its duration, ends rather lamely and repetitively, a tad disappointing for the album's ending. Nevertheless, that is a minor gripe, and the track is far from being bad. All in all, this is in my top three Glass Hammer albums, probably coming between my favourite, 'Shadowlands' and my third fave, 'Chronometree'. A good double album and a worthy acquisition for any prog fan's collection. Guaranteed not to disappoint!
Report this review (#51175)
Posted Monday, October 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars A double-CD concept album with a Roger Dean cover - prog rock heaven! For me, Glass Hammer have been on the verge of greatness with their previous albums but were let down by poor production (e.g. Run Lisette, where the keyboards drown out the vocals), but this time they have cracked it. The production is clear and the separation between the instruments is good.

The album consists of 2 CDs, CD 1 has two long tracks, highlighting the keyboards on which the Glass Hammer sound is based. At times, the organ sound is reminiscent of ELP and sometimes the synth breaks remind me of Yes.This CD will appeal to fans of either band.

The second CD has more tracks and, after the first one or two, changes to a more orchestral, Elizabethan feel. The (slightly underused) female vocals come more to the fore here. Opinion is divided here as to which CD is the best and I guess it depends on individual taste.

The CD itself is beautifully packaged with the fold out cover and there are additional features such as a video and the full lyrics (which are a bit cringe-worthy in place) as the concept of the album is based on a epic poem by Steve Babb (one of the keyboard players).

For me, this is a future prog classic and worthy of 4 stars.

Report this review (#58947)
Posted Friday, December 2, 2005 | Review Permalink
1 stars I don't get it....I tried, but really, it's new but it sound old. Don't get me wrong, there are some old record I love. All the STARCASTLE albums are in my collection. But this is something else. I sat true the first cd and didn't know what to think. But the reviews were promising so I tried the second cd. I'm sorry to say that after the first two numbers I ran to my cd-player and chucked it. Never again will this one see the inside of my stereo. As I type this I am listening to Shadowlands, and I don't get it. That one sound so much better. Old sounds, but modern. Let's just say that The Inconsolable Secret is put together with leftovers from the old days.
Report this review (#60557)
Posted Saturday, December 17, 2005 | Review Permalink
2 stars The Inconsolable Weakness of Double Albums: the holy grail of prog that leads believers astray like a false prophet.

On the plus side, Glass Hammer - at its best - sounds straight up like Yes' "Going for the One" - and that's a very good thing. Lots of big organs, tasty pedal steel guitar, thick bass, etc. The main difference between mid-70s Yes and GH is the singer is more like Trevor Rabin, and the lyrics - to an excess - focus on medieval tales of knights and dragons, etc. However, these are small flaws for keeping 70s-style prog alive and well in the 21st century.

The main problem with this release is the double CD format. Like Yes (Topographic Oceans), Genesis (Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), and ELP (Works), the double album never brings out the best in a prog band. Sadly, many prog fans fall for this trick and think these albums are the artists' best works. I would vote, instead, for "Close to the Edge," "Selling England by the Pound," and "Brain Salad Surgery," respectively. And lest we forget, band members themselves often regret doubles - Topo caused Rick Wakeman to quit Yes, frustrated Chris Squire, etc.

Like their 70s gurus, one can only assume GH sat down and decided "let's make a double," as opposed to "let's make the best music we can." He who does not learn from the past is condemned to repeat it, and filler abounds on "The Inconsolable Secret."

And the result: more puff and filler than the Pillsbury dough boy, in particular on disc one, which consists of two "epics" of inconsolable and unending length. I can barely remember a melody or flashy chop - and I don't know if I can sit through it again.

If you're new to GH, I would start with Lex Rex - truly amazing. You might enjoy some of this album if - like Topo, Lamb and Works - you're willing to expect one album's worth of good material spread out over two discs.

Report this review (#72082)
Posted Thursday, March 16, 2006 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
2 stars This is a band that just hasn't clicked with me. I like the male and female vocals but when it comes to listening to one of their albums I get bored really fast.

The first disc of "The Inconsolable Secret" is a good example of this. I start out really enjoying the piano and vocals, and the guitar is great but then I lose interest. It may be that the telling of the story takes precedence over the instrumental passages, I don't know. I think it's just me.

Disc 2 has more songs and more variety. I like the first song "Long And Long Ago" the best on the whole record. Some good guitar work and violin. There is a choir that sings on "The High Place" and some orchestral movements on the "The Lady Waits" and "The Mirror Cracks". Did I mention that i'm not a big fan of choirs and orchestral type music.

Anyway this is clearly a talented band who know what they are doing when it comes to Symphonic prog, i'm just not a fan.

Report this review (#100174)
Posted Thursday, November 23, 2006 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Well, I'm sorry, I tried really hard.

This will be my shortest review ever, not because the album is short or because it doesn't have enough substance to deserve more words from me (not that I hold my words in such high regard, anyway.) No, the reason for my review being short is, put simply, I've not much to say about this album. Why? Because it sounds as somebody else's.

I won't lie to you. You will find quite a few interesting instrumental passages and solos, you'll find more-than-decent musicianship in here. All in all, you won't be dissapointed due to lack of skills or to music beeing too simplistic, oh no you won't. The guys is this band can surely play their intruments and they can clearly write long, epic songs. You;ll find a good female singer, too, whose voice will bring charm to the second half of this quite monumental (in scope, not in quality) release.

I have two problems, and both big enough to make me give this album the rating I'm giving it:

1) You have to listen to it like 100 times before you grasp some structure, some coherence in it. I've only heard it 5 times, I have to say (5 should be enough at least for some idea to satick in my head) but I still can't decipher the map that is supposed to lead me to Glass hammer's musical treasure. I'm so lost in this over-soloed (my new word) album that I can't hardly get any musical theme to stay in my head for longer than 3 minutes. Don't get me wrong: it's not that I haven't heard more complex music that this, but even the most complex music has some resemblance of direction. In Glass Hammer, we hear solos at the start, some indistinguishable, not memorable themes down the middle, and more soloing, then some more themes (all not good enough to last in my mind) and then more soloing or instrumental waste. So that's my first problem with GH.

But hey! Even with this problem, I'd still give the album at least 2 or maybe 3 stars, because the musicianship is very good! The real problem for me is the second one.

2) You know, many people say The Flower Kings sounds like other earlier bands. I love the band (my second favorite actually) but I agree that their music clearly shows influences from, mostly, Genesis, Yes and King Crimson. TFK's music sounds like if Stolt and Co. put all of those musical lessons on the mixer, add their own unique ingredients, and the result is a largely retro-oriented prog but that sounds UNIQUE, 100% The Flower Kings'. You can smell, you can even see the influences, but you would NEVER say "TFK sounds EXACTLY like X or Y". Glass Hammer, on the other hand, sounds almost 100% EXACTLY like... The Flower Kings! Even the sound production is very similar! Of course, they sound like TFK but at its most weak: nowhere in the album can we find any of the beautiful themes, soul-lifting melodies, hope-inducing choruses that Stolt can so easily write. But the sound, the playing, everything owes a lot, if not ALL to the Swedish band.

That's my biggest problem with GH: as hard as I tried to like them, I couldn't help but say "man, these guys are ripping TFK off!" No offense meant, but I'd love to see what these talented musicians could do if they actually create music that sounded THEIR OWN.

Sorry, I don't like covers. And at times this albums sounds like a 80 minute cover of a medley of another band.

Recommended for: Fans of retro-prog, symphonic-prog.

Not reccomended for: fans of innovative prog, fans of music with more substance rather than scales; but most of all, fans of The Flower Kings...

... This is like the "generic" version of a brand-name musical medicine. Not only the active ingredients, but the inactive ones, too!

For better results, try this command: CTRL+C, CTRL+V.

Report this review (#116894)
Posted Friday, March 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Hmmmm! 2 cd's! 3 times listening! And still I don't know what I can say about this one! Good cover maybe (created by Roger Dean).

1 cd. : Two long songs! A Maker of crowns and The Knight of the north, very good lyric's on both, deep; thoughtful... Standard mind-blowing symphonic prog, pretty rhythmical and sound like some Yes and maybe ELP works. But only a little. Don't misunderstand me this is fresh, clean and not cloned music. 2 cd : Bunch of short songs but much better . Voice of Susie Bogdanowicz (become very fond on him- have a problem with female vocals) is more represented and makes Walter Moore sound better. Music on this one is in least strange, some new moment added; much folk influences (sound of harp is good one). In "The High Place" you can also hear some chores; all songs are with orchestral arrangements (for melt away).

The end is very beautiful. Having Caught A Glimpse is a song for it's self, this is the Glass Hammer at their best (shared vocals and organ -piano beginning are just delicious).

Double albums-double pleasure! Tennessee rockssssss !!!

Report this review (#117377)
Posted Thursday, April 5, 2007 | Review Permalink
Man With Hat
Jazz-Rock/Fusion/Canterbury Team
3 stars But is it a secret worth knowing?

Glass Hammer's eight album is a bit of a mystery. There is some great music hidden deep in these discs. However, there is alot of other things as well. First of all, this is a bit of a departure from their previous albums. There is much less symphonic and less rock; classical and folk influences really take center stage here. This is by no means a bad thing. Experimentation is always a plus for a band, especially in a progressive genre. But, for me, a lot of it goes nowhere, which really drags the second disc in particular down. The first disc is excellent symphonic rock a la the seventies. All the stuff that made the hammer great in the past is here, albeit lighter, not so much emphasis on the rock side of the equation, and still managing to squeeze a few folky/classical influence in there. The second disc starts the same, but quickly turns away from that style. It starts off very well with Lirazel, The High Place, and Morrigan's Song. These songs in particular show that GH is much more than a "regressive" rock band. Walking Towards Doom is also a very nice piece (and aptly named), with its classical behavior, uneasiness, and tense feelings. Mog Ruith is also a nice track, that desevers to be mentioned above the rest. In my opinoin, the record should have ended with one more final song. Instead, there is almost 30 minuets of filler. Music that is somewhat interesting on the first go around (if almost pure classical music is your thing [this excludes the final track]), but really falls short on repeated listens. And really that is the other major problem. The replay value of this is limited, at least as a whole. There are some tracks (mostly the ones I've mentioned) that stick in your mind, and that make you want to play them again, but sadly that doesn't happen too often.

All in all, this is a decent disk. Highs and lows abound on this record. I think its a good stepping stone to stepping out of the shadows of the seventies progressive rock scene, but there is work to do. Fans of Glass Hammer will probably find something in here to enjoy, and fans of folky, classical music will also find a few footholes, but for the rest of us it would most likely be a little more hit or miss.

Report this review (#142338)
Posted Saturday, October 6, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Glass Hammer is one of the bands I discovered through progarchives. I was pretty impressed about the three songs I downloaded but not about all songs equally. And that's exactly how I feel about this album too. There's no doubt about the class and quality of Glass Hammer but it's one of those bands that are made to do the longer compositions, both the composing itself as also the execution of the epics by Glass Hammer are more than excellent. They have the ability to activate ones imagination through their music. Not every band has that quality but GH does and it's a great asset to their already enormous reputation.

This is also apparent in their first disk of this double album: The Knights. Knight of the North is one of the best epical compositions ever. It contains every element you may expect from a track of this length. The composition is varied and complex, has great vocals and marvellous instrumental passages. The execution is perfect and shows the enormous potential of this band. I can tell you, if you are a lover and collector of epical songs (like me) you can't miss out on this one. This track only is enough to buy the album, it's that good. The other track of the first disk, A maker of crowns is also of a very high level, second best of both disks which makes this one obviously the better of the two.

The other disk starts off with another very good epical track, Long and long ago. After this one the rest of the songs aren't really getting better. The disk is called The Lady and, coincidence or not, many of the songs are sung by Susie Bogdanowicz doing a very good job especially on Lirazel showing a beautiful way of singing. But the next few tracks also show that Glass Hammer is not coming up to expectations with the shorter ones. It will also have to do with my personal preference for longer tracks although I try to be as objective as possible on this aspect. The 9th and 10th track by the way are classical influenced, a feature of Glass Hammers music also shown on other albums. It proves they are performers of the symphonic prog in the truest sense of the word. The last song, Having caught a glimpse is not my favourite epical effort of this album but that is mainly because the other three are of an unbelievable standard. This track contents a very nice harp passage by the way, one of the many proofs that this band has almost limitless possibilities.

I actually had a quick glance at all GH-releases and their ratingaverages on progarchives and was really surprised. This is supposed to be just an average album according to the ratings so far. I don't agree, I believe this is their best ever. If it weren't for the lesser shorter tracks this album even could have scored the masterpiece rating for me but since it's also a part of this double CD and makes the whole thing somewhat less I will leave it at 4 stars but to be more exact it deserves a 4.3 or something. By the way: the special edition has some nice extra's a.o. a short film about their recording sessions.

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Posted Thursday, January 3, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars To cut to the chase early in the review I will say that this album was a HUGE dissapointment.

This is my first and only Glass Hammer CD, so I can't speak of their other releases(which may be better). But from this one I can clearly see why many have said that the band thrives on mimicking the works of classic symphonic proggers; namely, Yes and ELP.

Trailblazers, GH are certainly not. In fact, there are some Hammond B3 passages that make me cringe because they flat-out plagarize some of Emerson's lines and style. I completely understand that it's difficult to be 100% original in this day and age with so many great artists behind us and in our midst. However, there must be some attempt at adding SOME originality, otherwise, the band should just consider being a cover act for the other artists!

I can't overstate my dissapointment enough, so I'll stay on my soap box a bit longer.

The first CD consists of two long pieces: A Maker Of Crowns (15:21) and The Knight Of The North (24:39).

The most difficult aspect of these two pieces are the vocals. They are about as bad as anything I've heard in recent memory. There is no LIFE, no spirit, no drama in Walter Moore's voice. It literally sounds like he's reading the lyrics off some sheet for the first time.

The second most disappointing aspect of these pieces are the lyrics. Way too many words that are completely superficial and overly contrived. It's not that I dislike fantasy or sci-fi inspired lyrics, since Neil Pert is one of my favorite lyricists, but these GH lyrics are absolutely ridiculous. Maybe, and I'm being lenient, if they had a better vocalist the words would be more transpartent and tolerable. But that's just a wild guess.

My third beef with the firs CD is the drumming. The guy is all over the place. Is he trying to play jazz? Is he trying to be Bruford on Close To The Edge? What's he doing? He is SO BUSY that he dominates most of the first track leaving very little room for anyone else to add anything significant to the mix. I can see why Walter Moore sounds like he's reading. He's probably trying to find a groove of some sort to sing to, but none exists. So, he just throws words in wherever he sees fit.

That is not to say that the drummer is not talented; he is VERY talented. The problem is with the compositions and arrangement of the music. Whomever is driving this GH ship needs to sit back and listen closely to the mix and realize that it doesn't groove. There's NO EMOTION in the music. It doesn't breathe, it has NO LIFE! In fact, LIFELESS MUSIC is probably the best description of the first CD.

Fred Schendel is a fine keyboardist, without a doubt. He has chops. But, he needs to stop playing it safe and start taking some chances. To rely on worn out lines over and over and over again gets old; very old. And where is his keyboard arsenal? They guy(according to their web site) has a keyboard museum to work with. Why doesn't he use it and use it well? Instead, he relies on the B3 for most of his lines with some minimal synths thrown in for sugar coating. Dissapointing.

If there's a bright spot on this CD is Steve Babb. The guy can play the bass. He's got the Chris Squire thing mastered and adds a lot of his own flavor to the music. I think there's hope for GH.

As for the second CD; it's OK. I like it more than the first, but it's not very strong. Susie Bogdanowicz has a weak voice and the music is too large for her range. It sounds like a child singing with a bombastic symphony. A better fit for the concept of the second CD would have been Lana Lane; or a similar larger voice.

I can go on, but I won't. I try very hard to not review CD's which I think I'm going to bash. I respect the hard work that musicians put into their craft and don't want to ridicule or minimize their efforts. However, in the case of GH I think that they have the talent base to do MUCH better than what they have produced on this release. Granted, I haven't heard any other CDs, but this one has turned me off so heavily that I may never listen to another GH recording after this one.

When I learned about GH I was hopeful that I'd found an American band doing some serious progressive symphonic prog. A band creating some original material and moving the genre forward. But I didn't find that in Glass Hammer; certainly not on this CD.

I don't think I can listen to either CD straight through, ever again. I can only give it TWO STARS and that's a stretch.

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Posted Sunday, April 6, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars One that disappointed me greatly. I had high hopes that I would love this disk by Glass Hammer but it just doesn't grab me. Certainly the first disk, entitled The Knight, contains some really great moments especially with keyboards but it lacks depth specifically in the vocals and never really deliver an great melody that is memorable. I reminds my of trying to take Keith Emerson and sticking him in Genesis. I don't really understand the concept the are trying to put forth but this kind of Tolkien fantasy is not well formed. After nearly 30 minutes of this for no particular reason in The Knight of the North we move into some kind of Gentle Giant counterpoint thing. Stick some vocal effects on a very average voice doesn't add much. Then we move into some kind of Tarkus movement into a 4 minute Grand Finale.

Disk Two, entitled the Lady, starts off with the best song on the CD Long and Long ago. Decent song with a decent vocal line and good musical harmony as well. Unfortunate we move into another song called the Morning She Woke and to tell the truth I don't remember much about it except that it seemed like it was 15 minutes long when it was just a hair over 5. I think that the word for this CD is tedious. It just gets tyring so quickly. The rest of the CD with the exception of Walking toward Doom and Mog Ruth are equally unmemorable. S

There is some definite musicianship and composition here but it isn't put together in a good package. I won't give up on this band (see my review of Live at Nearfest) but this one is not for me. 2 Stars

Report this review (#171040)
Posted Wednesday, May 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars After having released some seven YesAlbums, Glass Hammer is even striking harder in the similarity. For this one, they just asked Roger Dean to design the cover of their album.

I guess that for the next one, they just will ask one of the YesGiant to join. Let's have a bet upon this...

"The Inconsolable Secret". I bet you! I'm Inconsolable indeed when I listen to this album.

Overlong and dull music during the first part of this double CD set. As if those clones would have liked to reproduced some double album of whom you might know.

One gets all the YesIngredients we all know, except the vocals which are extremely poor. To digest such long pieces as "A Maker Of Crowns" and "The Knight Of The North" is quite a difficult job. Not a single moment of inventiveness nor passion. Flatness all the way through. And nothing else. "Maker." is particularly hard to listen to.

Thinking that there are people mentioning that this band is one of the best US prog band is quite amazing. Quite shocking actually. While listening to the bloody long "The Knight." and its ELP sounds I am just bored. An extremely pale copy of an original. Musically it is not so bad, but the vocals! Oh boy. So miserable! There are no other words. I can't understand how such a mediocre band can get so many high ratings and consideration.

IMHHO, they are just a very, very pale copy of some prog giants. And unlike some others of the genre, they just can't thrill me. To listen to this double CD set is not a gorgeous experience. Some fine keys during very brief moments, some Howe oriented guitar parts. And that's it.

The first section of this double album is REALLY painful. Talking about great epics is nonsense as far as I am concerned. Just a long and dull musical experience, unfortunately. Almost as weak as their two "Tolkien" oriented albums.

If wasting time doesn't bother you, you might do as I have done. Listen to this album from start to finish a couple of times and call it definitely quit. Because the second CD is not very much more enjoyable than the first one. It's just half longer.

Thanks to some instrumental pieces or some lead vocals oriented songs (thanks Susie), this second leg is still more listenable. Like the truly symphonic "The High Place" for instance. But don't expect any masterpiece. These are completely alien to this work. The epic and closing number "Having Caught A Glimpse" being another long and dull moment. One out of many...

Two stars is a very favourable rating.

Report this review (#172804)
Posted Sunday, June 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another night, and while the other half watches Emmerdale, I lend an ear to the last of my four Glass Hammer purchases. CD1 is waht you expect from GH, ELP hammond interspersed with Wakeman like synth bursts and Howe like slide guitar. Very accomplished and VERY much in the arena of 70's epic prog rock, If you like ELP/Genesis/Yes then how can you fail with GH?? Don't be one of those people who detests derivative or maybe they would say copyists of plagierists, just accept that GH are giving those of us (who have listened to the classic prog of the mid 70's hundreds of times) more of WHAT WE WANT. hats off to IQ and GH for keeping faith in technical, long and satisfyingly traditional symphonic prog rock. CD2, h'mmm, starts well, but then loses a bit of cohesion, but is redeemed by a masterful last track which is arguably the best on this Double CD. The middle bit is, (like someone has said), attempting a bit of The Enid, and unfortunately, however good GH are at merging the ELP/YES/GENESIS sounds, this attempt falls woefully short of Robert John Godfreys efforts. The middle 20 minutes is the weakest GH that I have listened to to-date, but is saved by a truly marvellous last lengthy and epic track (Having Caught A Glimpse (13:23)). All in all a VERY good CD, I would give it 4.25, but again rounded down to a FOUR.
Report this review (#175868)
Posted Wednesday, July 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I really wished this was a simple album instead of a double album

So, this is Glass Hammer first double album an i say this could have been a lot better, knowing what they did before and their new album. However, i don't say that because i think this album sounds like somebody else's nor because of its retro sounding, since i like the 70's prog sound and like very much bands like Genesis an Yes (if i can't notice VERY CLEAR signs of emulation, like listening exactly the same melody being reproduced, i am happy).

The real problem here is really the unnecessarily long, even sounding as if it has fillers, but i think that they only got uninspired half way through the second disc, since both its opening and closing tracks are amazing. With few notable exceptions, the middle of the second disc is mostly dull and, i hate to admit it, quite boring. Because of that, if the album were just a simple album divided in two parts (part 1: the knights and part 2: the lady) it would be much, MUCH better. Maybe the concept would have been ruined if they did that, but at least the music would have been better.

However, besides the obvious issues of disc two, it is not completely worthless, being a good decent disc. Disc one here have the highlights: both tracks are a absolutely sensational display of traditional symphonic progressive rock. Some say that Glass Hammer's fixation on sounding like a 70's band is a bad thing, but i say that its their strength: like it or not, it was during the 70's that prog reached the top, being that top the album sales, popularity and the very foundations of progressive rock (since the most important pieces of music were produced and recorded during the 70's), and emulating the 70's sounding, with a generous dosage of originality, was what drew some bands from the anonymity into the mainstream media (like Marillion for example) and that is exactly what they are doing in most of their albums, including this one right here.

Another interesting thing in Glass Hammer is that the clearest influence they have, at least in my opinion, is the ELP influence. Their music, including the music made for this album, is keyboard oriented music, with ever present bass and drums, much like ELP and Triumvirat did back in the days.

So, before bashing this album (or any other Glass Hammer album), remember that still today many people say that Marillion's Script for a Jester's Tear was the last Genesis masterpiece with Peter Gabriel and that Eloy's Ocean is just another Pink Floyd album with ridiculously funny vocals.

Grade and Final Thoughts

So, besides disc 2 being clearly inferior to disc 1, this is still a pretty damn good and enjoyable album. Who cares if it is derivative or emulative? Just because they sound like Yes and even got a Roger Dean cover it does not means that their music is worthless. It is damn good music and should get a good grade for it. 4 stars and end of story.

Report this review (#176933)
Posted Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars OK, this is my first Glass Hammer album and also probably my last. If it were an instrumental only album I might give it four stars. There is some very good keyboard driven prog here that reminds you a little of ELP but is original enough. The problem comes for me when the vocals come in. The flow of the songs change and then they tell a story. I am not sure if it is the singer's voice or the lyrics themselves or what, but the vocals really sound cheesy, corny, sappy or all of the above. If there is an instrumental only Glass Hammer album out there I would be interested, but that's it for me.
Report this review (#180642)
Posted Saturday, August 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars the law of this cd is the addition of violins, the group headed by Fred Schendel still maintaining the high level. Banners with "The Knight Of The North" with a beautiful introduction of violin and also to highlight the melody of the song enrriquecida the voice of Steve Babb. The ballad "Through A Glass Darkly" sounds perfectly for the most "pop's". "Having Caught A Glimpse" shows that not only stands out but Susie Bogdanowicz Flo Paris gives its word. I recognize that some disk you their "high and low" but the Inconsable The Secret progsymphony shows what an album should have: complexity, great music and lyrics of high quality
Report this review (#211646)
Posted Saturday, April 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
4 stars American Glass Hammer was never a group that captured my imagination. I tried two or three albums and I just gave up. Too derivative material and too weak songwriting. Small wonder they never made the major league even if they were excellent musicians themselves. I guess I wouldnt even bother to hear this one if it was not for my dear PA colleague and friend Progrules who defied me to hear their Knight of The North song. I ended up getting the Inconsolable Secret and I must say I was quite surprised by it. It is by far the best thing I ever heard of them so far.

This is a double CD and the first one has only two tracks, 15+ minute The Maker Of Crowns and the aforementioned The Knight Of the North (23:39 of duration). Both are excellent prog epics with a very retro sound: a kind of Genesis meets Yes meets Keith Emerson, plus a few Gentle Giant-like passages on the way. Still derivative? Definitly (the Roger Dean cover tells it all, doesnt it?), but good stuff anyway. Lots of variety, shifting moods, changing time signatures, long Hammond runs, mini moog solos, Chris Squire-like bass parts and so on. Not perfect (some parts are more well structured than others), but really good keyboard driven prog rock that I love to hear. I wish they could play a little more guitar and the vocals were stronger, but those are minor details. Overall CD 1 is very strong and well craft, specially if you like 70s bombastic symphonic prog.

Second CD starts very well, but begins losing steam halfway through. Some heavy orchestrated, instrumental tracks get in the way and they really dont add anything to the other much more powerful tracks. The final epic, Having Caught A Glimpse is a little too long and bit corny too. However, the first three tunes are really good and the others non-orchestrated tunes arent bad at all either. The alternating male and female vocals are a good idea and were more well explored on disc 2 (meaning the female singer does a better job here). Production is very good.

In the end the sensation is that if Glass Hammer had trimmed this record to a single CD theyd have a killer one in their hands, even at, say, 78 minutes of music (they could have easily ditched some 15 least). As it is my rating keeps shifting from 3.5 to 4 stars. I decided to round up to four since most of the songs are really good and this is surely their best so far in terms of songwriting. Ill probably try to hear more of their CDs since they finally proved they could come up with some really strong and daring songs this time.

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Posted Monday, July 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars "They bit off more than they could chew."

And to some extent, they did. To some extent. Coming off the highly regarded Shadowlands, Glass Hammer went for it all, looking to create their magnum opus. Getting Roger Dean to do the cover. Doing the whole double album thing. They shot for the moon, but ran out of gas about 3/4 of the way there.

People often deride this album. I don't and I won't. I wholly appreciate what they tried to do, even if it is not my favorite from them. They took a chance and since it wasn't a major success, people gave them grief for it. I think it is great that they rolled the dice and I find a lot of good things to say about TIS. Based around an epic poem that Steve Babb wrote (and is available as a .pdf on the first cd), GH goes about putting that poem to music. The first disc is great if you give it several listens. It is not accessible but grows. This is really the last cd from them that shuns the guitar almost all the time. They brought in a guitarist for Culture of Ascent and it has been featured much more prominently since then. This is mostly keyboards with big time bass provided by Babb. They brought in an outside drummer for this one too after Fred Schendel played it for their albums up until this point. So big keys, big throbbing bass and a real nice drummer makes for some great prog. Sound like anyone you know? (cough, cough, ELP). Walter Moore is a good prog singer(his last album with the band) and the female vocals are used as a counterpoint really nicely. I can't speak of Babb's bass enough. It really provides a nice groove. And there is no shortage of wonderful keyboard runs. There is loads of melody if you give it a chance.

So what's the problem? It should have been one CD with 5 songs on it. The two on CD one, the first two and the last one on CD 2. That is about 70 minutes of music and the pruning may indeed have made this their magnum opus. The eight songs in the middle of cd 2, (with the exception of Mog Ruith, a 2-minute instrumental) are pretty dull. A lot of it is more toward classical music and some might find some beautiful stuff in there. But it kind of drags down the rest of the prog feel that they hit you heavy with on the first 4 songs. There aren't a lot of vocals, so they are trying to propel the story through the music. A tall order. I can't say the story is one I am really interested in but it has a medeivel feel to it, as you can tell by the song titles.

I have waffled between 3 and 4 stars but will go with 4 because the good stuff on here is really good and I have the utmost respect for these guys and what they tried to do. Appreciate this album for what it is and forgive them for a couple of tactical errors they made in their effort to make something truly special. There is special stuff here if you give it a fair chance.

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Posted Friday, December 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Glass Hammer, often accused of being a Yes imitation (sometimes with good reason), reached for the stars with this double album. It may be an indication of their ambition that they hired the legendary Roger Dean to create the album cover.

While a bit inconsistent, I think they succeeded here.

The album is split into two parts. The first disk, titled "The Knights", is the better of the two. It is comprised of two long pieces. The Maker Of Crowns is a majestic song, with hints, but not imitation of classic Genesis. It works well as an opener to the album. The second, The Knight Of The North, has some Yes tones, some Keith Emerson inspired Hammond organ, and even some hints of Kansas. But Glass Hammer's own style comes through on top. It may be the best track this band had recorded to this point.

The second album, titled "The Lady", is mostly more subdued. The styles jump from medieval to classical orchestral to prog folk and symphonic prog. While the songs are not as good as the epics on the first disk, they are not bad, and the production is spectacular. And Mog Ruith does stand out on this disk.

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Posted Tuesday, April 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars This seems to have got a bit of a bad rap. GH were always a very consistent symph prog band if a little 'safe' in their approach but here they decide to extend their music over a two CD format.THe first CD is the 'safe' approach with 2 tracks and crowd pleasing keyboard based prog. However there is one big important difference - Matt Mendians behind the drum kit. Previously Fred Schendel has doubled up on keyboards and drums but here he concentrates just on keyboards. This is a very positive thing as Mendians is an absolute beast behind the kit and extends GH into areas of symph prog that few are capable of. All the hooks are there and this is an absolute treat for those brought up on ELP and Yes. Faultless 40 minutes.

The 'problem' quite clearly lies with CD2. Here the music goes off in all sorts of mad wanderings to medieval folk wimsy and orchestrated sections. This could be interprted as padding but the beauty of this is the mood created. You are transported to some dark fairy tale where knights jowst and pretty maidens are in abundance. Stunningly different from anything GH have done before (or since for that matter). A bold move that deserves praise and I feel it pays off. Your imagination is allowed to wander. OK its not symph prog at times but that doesn't concern those who wax lyrical about Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. This is similar conceptually in a way although musically very different.The second disc represents an adventure and for me is just as beautifull as anything GH have ever done.

I am happy to award 5 stars for this. Just needs a little time to appreciate and I am so glad I didn't just jump in and review it on release but waited an appropriate amount of time.

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Posted Sunday, May 20, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars The follow up from 2005 named The inconsolable secret is to my ears a step down from previous work, even is overall not bad, the passages are not consistent , are progressive, musicianship is more then ok, but is a pale release in contrast with other albums from that period. Double album, first with only 2 pieces clocking around 40 min is the best from the two, again Yes oriented symphonic prog with keyboards a la ELP and pleasent vocal parts, but that it. Also the symphonic parts are melted in places with some folky medieval themes that goes quite good in places but to thin in overall context. So, I can say is an ok rlease, 3 stars is best I can give to this album, is less great then Shadowlands for sure.
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Posted Thursday, October 25, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I left a pretty scathing review of Valkyrie on progarchives a few weeks ago, which prompted a response questioning where my positive reviews of my favorite Glass Hammer albums were. Whoops. My bad. I do seem to have more of a tendency to complain than praise and I realized I don't have any positive reviews of GH on this site. So let me try and make amends, starting with my favorite GH album, The Inconsolable Secret.

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

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


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

Report this review (#1649766)
Posted Sunday, November 27, 2016 | Review Permalink

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