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GLASS HAMMER

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Glass Hammer picture
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


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

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

2.04 | 80 ratings
Journey Of The Dunadan
1993
3.06 | 85 ratings
Perelandra
1995
3.06 | 86 ratings
On To Evermore
1998
3.32 | 152 ratings
Chronometree
2000
2.42 | 75 ratings
The Middle Earth Album
2001
3.76 | 188 ratings
Lex Rex
2002
3.71 | 215 ratings
Shadowlands
2004
3.40 | 194 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret
2005
3.54 | 170 ratings
Culture Of Ascent
2007
3.02 | 115 ratings
Three Cheers For The Broken-Hearted
2009
3.88 | 309 ratings
If
2010
2.87 | 50 ratings
One
2010
3.72 | 216 ratings
Cor Cordium
2011
3.83 | 201 ratings
Perilous
2012
3.44 | 157 ratings
Ode To Echo
2014
3.83 | 166 ratings
The Breaking Of The World
2015
3.86 | 158 ratings
Valkyrie
2016
3.83 | 120 ratings
Chronomonaut
2018
4.04 | 61 ratings
Dreaming City
2020

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

3.14 | 16 ratings
Live and Revived
1997
3.67 | 27 ratings
Live At Nearfest
2004
3.97 | 13 ratings
Double Live
2015
4.00 | 2 ratings
Mostly Live in Italy
2018

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

4.26 | 20 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)

3.76 | 17 ratings
The Compilations, 1996 to 2004
2006
4.17 | 18 ratings
The Inconsolable Secret - Deluxe Edition
2013
3.82 | 14 ratings
Untold Tales
2017

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

4.33 | 3 ratings
Cool Air
2016

GLASS HAMMER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Dreaming City by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.04 | 61 ratings

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Dreaming City
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by RFAPROG

5 stars Dreaming City is a masterpiece. What are my rules for determining that? Dreaming City is both music and literature. To REALLY experience Dreaming City I had to look(at the lyrics), listen(to the lyrics and music) and receive it. Basically I had to choose to get myself out of the way and surrender to what Glass Hammer was presenting to determine if this was a masterpiece and again, it is. Allowing my senses and imaginations to be led without my preconceived expectations by the musicians of Glass Hammer allows the freedom of what they want to bring forth have its full impact on me. Glass Hammer has a message in Dreaming City that they want us to receive so we must surrender to receive it or it becomes lost and we don't experience it for the masterpiece it is. When we don't surrender then we use the literature and music to meet our need. Not saying that is wrong. I'm just saying to really see Dreaming City for the masterpiece it is I urge one to look, listen, receive, and surrender to what they want you to experience. I won't share my experience because then it might taint somebody else's. Many thanks to Glass Hammer for continuing to produce what I believe to be masterpieces of prog year after year after year. RFAPROG
 Dreaming City by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.04 | 61 ratings

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Dreaming City
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Heavy / RPI / Symphonic Prog Team

4 stars From the spacey intro vibe of the first song and the heavy guitar part, I was surprised to realize this was an album of Glass Hammer. Then we are treated with a nice bass break that can only come from Steve Babb, but where are Fred's keys, oh yes then I hear them at the end in this fast pace song. This album that can only listen in one take without skipping a song is heavier and less symphonic. The band decided to get back to their early influences of Rush, Jethro Tull, and Tangerine Dream. There are more spacey prog passages and a classic rock feel where the band sticks to a more direct approach with the guitars having a sound that is more on the raw side than usual. The song "Pagarna" has some clear Rush influence with the typical guitar solo at the end. The band uses the flute and some nice acoustic guitar when they want to slow things down. Overall the keyboards on this album have taken a step back with occasional appearance letting the bass and the guitars the lead. The band has taken a chance here with their new direction. but I am glad they did after releasing too many albums of that same genre in the last decade. This a well-balanced album with some driven rock songs, some peacuful ballads and some dreamy electronic interludes.
 Chronomonaut by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.83 | 120 ratings

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Chronomonaut
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by csglinux

4 stars I'm wary of early band/fan/reviewer comments that always proclaim "This is the BEST album this band has ever made!". What are the odds that's true of every album the band has ever made? Glass Hammer's official website highlights this quote from Progradar: "Without a doubt their best album yet." Is it really?!? Well, actually, it almost might be. It's certainly up there with Glass Hammer's best albums, and a huge step-up from what was (for me) a disappointing effort from their previous album (Valkyrie).

I'm still feeling a little bit guilty that I left such a scathing review here for Valkyrie. I'm sure GH have enough confidence, artistic integrity and independence that they'd totally ignore anything I'd say, but the complaints I had about Valkyrie (dirgy sound-effects, total lack of melody, choice of lead vocalist, etc.) have all been addressed and fixed here :-) Chronomonaut is packed full of wonderful tunes; Susie takes a more prominent role in both lead vocal, backing vocal and vocalizations, and the result is a shift from an album that had barely one listenable track on it to an album that doesn't have a weak spot anywhere. The imagination and creativity behind the concept makes the album a lot of fun too (a follow-on to the story of Tom from Chronomotree), but there are also parts that are much more haunting and tug on the heart-strings way more than anything on Valkyrie (which was supposed to have had the more poignant theme). It's not that I don't want Steve or Fred to sing ever again - it's just that I feel their strongest talents lie elsewhere. I didn't mind their lead vocal roles on albums like Lex Rex, but that material was so strong that it would probably have sounded amazing even if I'd taken lead vocals. The songs on Valkyrie just weren't up to that level. Chronomonaut is a much stronger album than Valkyrie, but I like the Glass Hammer flavor that comes through with Steve and Fred on backing vocals.

Musically, the only part of Chronomonaut that reminds me of Chromonotree is the first few opening bars of the piano, in "The Land of Lost Content". Clever title, which I guess we're supposed to be able to read in one of two ways? From the piano introduction, this breaks into some organ chords, pretty lyric-less vocalizations from Susie and some wonderful proggy guitar overlays. This is one of many highlights on this album.

"Roll for Initiative" starts off with the classic Glass Hammer bass/keyboard, with another lead vocalist added to the Glass Hammer collection. (I believe this is Patton Lock here.) He sounds fine. But I still miss Flo Paris (dang, she was awesome). And Jon Davison (surely he's now regretting leaving Glass Hammer? It's quite depressing to hear what has become of his "new" band). In any case, this track sets the narrative for the story, with a good amount of classic Glass Hammer instrumentation supporting the vocals.

"Twilight of the Godz" is one of my favorite tracks. Just gorgeous guitars, vocals, beautifully recorded and performed. There are stand-out, atmospheric performances from Susie all over this track. Just awesome.

"The Past is Past" is a heavily jazz-influenced track. Wonderful saxophone and brass sections make for an interesting diversion from the more typical prog-rock sound. Matthew Parmenter takes lead vocals on this one and hijacks the narrative with an interesting and expressive twist. It's quite a long track, with some curious keyboard and vocal diversions around the 7 minute mark. Lots of imaginative writing here.

"1980 Something" - another cool track title! This one takes a turn for the mellower with acoustic guitar and Susie singing (initially through some kind of vocoder?). Again, Susie does a fantastic job even when she doesn't actually have any words to sing. Look out for the nice spacey keyboards and guitar solo, plus more lyric-less Susie around 3:40. Another great track.

"A Hole in the Sky" is more of a pop/rock-sounding track, with Susie taking a back-seat on vocals.

"Clockwork" is the most amazing instrumental that Alan Parsons Project never wrote. I love the super-atmospheric keyboards. It's only a short track, but it's awesome.

"Melancholy Holiday" seems to have been the one track GH decided to make into a video. I think this was the first track I saw as a teaser for the album. It's a slower track that appears to be featuring Susie on both lead and backing vocals, with a sort of spooky keyboard sound in the background. Very pretty.

"It Always Burns Sideways" is another of my favorite tracks. It's an instrumental featuring heavier guitar riffs that remind me of Porcupine Tree on a good day. Then half-way through, it starts to sound like Camel (also on a good day), before the introduction of some wonderful keyboard tones. This may be a minor point, but if there's one thing I'd change on this album, I'd like to have heard a little more like this from Fred's keyboards. I feel like the heart of Glass Hammer has always been the combination of Steve's bass with those amazing overlaid keyboard tones and tunes. Schendel is one of my all-time favorite keyboard players. He has the technicality of players like Lyle Mays, but also an ability to create amazing tunes and amazing keyboard tones. (As much as I love Rick Wakeman, this is a talent he never had.) Schendel could literally break your heart with the emotional impact he puts into playing one note. What a great track this is.

"Blinding Light" again starts with that jazz influence and (I think) Patton Locke's return to lead vocals. It sounds like a part 2/sequel to "The Past is Past". The brass (trumpet) backing in this track is a highlight for me. (Big Big Train regularly do an awesome job of melding brass band sounds with prog rock. It's something that just really works.)

"Tangerine Meme" is an obvious nod to another famous band. Brilliantly done, very atmospheric with all the sound effects, and surprisingly original, yet clearly in the style of somebody other than Glass Hammer :-) (I recently heard the new Cosmograf album and the last track on that album - Goodbye To All Illusions- has a similar electronica-type vibe. Both Cosmograf and, here, Glass Hammer make it work remarkably well.)

"Fade Away" is the highlight of the album for me. Amazing, epic-sounding track with so much emotion in it. It's built up through several sections, each of which is fantastic. I especially love the symphonic prog sections and the keyboards. All the vocalists are absolutely on top form here. This is as strong as any track Glass Hammer have ever written.

This is definitely a return to form and if not their best album, then certainly the best album they've released in many, many years. Congrats Glass Hammer! :-)

 Chronomonaut by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.83 | 120 ratings

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Chronomonaut
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

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

4 stars Eighteen albums in and showing no signs of slowing down and/or lacking inspiration, American prog-rockers Glass Hammer return in 2018 with `Chronomonaut', something of a sequel to an album in their discography that has become a cult favourite among their fans, 2000's `Chronometree'. It's always welcome when a prog band has a sense of humour about themselves and can laugh at the stereotypes associated with our favourite genre (this latest CD even arrived with a free coupon that states `The bearer of this card is entitled to multiple prog-rock induced time travel excursions'!), and the disc tells the tale of Tom, the `ultimate prog-rock fan' who hears subliminal messages in the lyrics of his favourite Seventies prog-rock band and seeks to travel back to the golden era of the genre! There's much more to it than that, but it's all really just a cue for another colourful and eclectic symphonic-edged album from one of the modern masters of the style, and it's full of all the first-rate musicianship and strong singing that the group always deliver.

There's plenty of changes in Hammer land for this effort, some of which takes a bit of getting used to! Founding members, bassist Steve Babb and keyboard player Fred Schendel, are still the core of the group alongside frequent leading lady Susie Bogdanowicz and powerhouse drummer Aaron Raulston, but with guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh exiting the band, several guests have offered guitar contributions for the album, and stepping in for vocals here is Discipline's lead singer Matthew Parmenter, as well as a local acquaintance of the group, Patton Locke. The band are also determined to avoid repeating themselves, and while much of `Chronomonaut' is instantly recognisable as them, orchestration and brass instruments feature this time around, along with touches of blues, progressive-electronic, ambient and psych rock, making `Chronomonaut' a highly distinctive GH album all its own.

After `The Land of Lost Content's introduction of pretty piano, announcing organ and sighing voice, the strident `Roll for Initiative' kicks in with Steve's chunky upfront bass rumbling, Aaron's punchy n' purposeful drumming and Fred's emerging synth gloss. It's quickly blasted with funky horn blasts, a swaggering lead vocal from Patton carrying a catchy tune and soaring group harmonies that rapidly twist the track in endless directions with buoyant infectiousness. `Twilight of the Godz' initially appears on the surface to be a ballad, but some treated effects on Susie's first lead vocal on the disc brings a lightly psychedelic twist (and listen to the way her voice moves between soft and raw!), there's a tastily shambling drowsiness to much of the instrumental second half and plenty of sun-kissed ragged guitar soloing from guest Brian Brewer that flirts with some reaching Steve Howe-like touches here and there that weaves in and out of the entire piece.

Van der Graaf Generator fans will dig the heck out of `The Past is Past', a ten minute epic in the classic storytelling/character- driven approach of many a vintage prog album. Jamison Smeltz's saxophone that darts through the track reminds of how effectively the instrument was incorporated into Seventies rock albums, the vocal chameleon that is Matthew Parmenter moves through everything from everything from bluesy raspy croon to deranged Peter Hammill-esque theatrical snarl, and Fred's mischievously devilish keyboard runs carry a wink in their eye! `1980 Something' is an reflective Susie-led acoustic ballad that wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Mostly Autumn album, `A Hole in the Sky' is a playful pop-rocker with a punchy chorus, and `Clockwork' is a short atmospheric electronic interlude of shimmering synth programming that could pass for a `Force Majeure'-era Tangerine Dream outtake - more in this manner later too!

The gloomy `Melancholy Holiday' conveys a heavy mood thanks to Susie's impeccably haunting delivery, but light slowly infiltrates with humming keyboard ambiance and ethereal guitar strains that lift the piece to soaring heavens of beauty. Schizophrenic two-part instrumental `It Always Burns Sideways' initially rumbles with grumbling guitar menace, mud-thick distorted bass and plodding aggressive drumming, but trickles of Hammond organ and whirring keyboards quickly turn inviting and dazzling, and there's some tasty Yes-like licks flitting in and out as well.

`Blinding Light' is a rocking Patton-sung saunter powered by energetic pumping horns, the song frequently splintering off into delicious jazz-fusion-esque electric-piano laced runs and Hammond organ soloing that reminds of everything from Atomic Rooster, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple and probably could have shown up of any of the last few Neal Morse discs, and `Tangerine Meme' (you'd never guess which group inspired this one!) starts as a stark ambient synth/organ drift before slinking into moody electronica. Ten-plus minute epic `Fade Away' works sweeping orchestration, delicate piano passages, spiralling Moog solos and regal organ pomp into an unhurried and perfectly executed dramatic closer, with Matthew, Susie and Patton all sharing striking lead vocal moments to close the album in sophisticated fashion.

While it's a shame that Fred and Steve don't handle any of the proper lead vocals this time around (as they're such a strong part of the GH identity overall) and it will remain to be seen if Discipline's Matthew returns for more, Glass Hammer here again nail a vintage symphonic approach that still experiments and always remains contemporary. `Chronomonaut's true strengths won't reveal themselves on a single listen, instead - like all the best prog albums - it takes multiple spins to truly reveal just what makes it so impressive. Take the time to listen to the words of the clever song-writing, marvel at the diverse range of styles the band tackle, enjoy the confident singing, take in the sly humour and appreciate this love-letter to prog's golden era that isn't a mere retro throwback, and you'll be rewarded with a superb album from an ever-talented band.

Equal parts fun and dramatic, vibrant and diverse, `Chronomonaut' is another winner from Glass Hammer, and absolutely one of the prog-rock highlights of 2018.

Four and a half stars.

 Chronomonaut by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.83 | 120 ratings

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Chronomonaut
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by OldSchoolProg

4 stars Glass Hammer releases another solid epic with Chronomonaut. Much more melodic and lyrical, the progressive rock elements may remain a bit muted, but the song writing and orchestration is excellent. Added instrumentation, winds and strings, add another layer to their repertoire. Track 4 "The Past is the Past" stands out as a longer more progressive work that I keep going back to. Enjoy the variety of vocals and guest artists, Matthew Parmenter (vocals) and Chris Herin from Discipline is a pleasant surprise. Glass Hammer led Fred Schendel and Steve Babb continue to craft some great stories with music, excellent tone painting, yet they continue to evolve and change, not settling for old formulas. I may be partial to the Cor Cordium and Perilous era, but sometimes you don't need something that heavy musically, the melodic elements are very strong with this release. Buy it, dissect it, enjoy it!
 Chronomonaut by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2018
3.83 | 120 ratings

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Chronomonaut
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by javajeff

4 stars This is another excellent release from Glass Hammer, and it is recommended for progressive rock fans. They get an A+ for production and musical direction on Chronomonaut, and this may just be the most ambitious release they have ever done. The sax and horns makes this their jazziest release, with a ton or prog and a sliver of blues. I love the direction that Glass Hammer is taking with this release, and feel they should continue on these lines with more of a jazz-rock vibe like a proggier Chicago. There are no bad tracks on Chronomonaut, and it takes the listener on an eclectic adventure with a ton of variety. "1980 Something" is a standout track that features Susie Bogdanowicz on vocals, and starts with some static to take you back in time to your 1980 LP years. It has some excellent guitar strumming and solos, as well as the excellent performance by Susie. The last track is the 10 minute "Fade Away" with Matthew Parmenter on vocals, which is an amazing ending to Chronomonaut. Overall, there is so much to enjoy here, and I have no issue calling this the best Glass Hammer release on ambition alone. 4.5 stars.
 Shadowlands by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.71 | 215 ratings

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Shadowlands
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by WFV

3 stars I want so badly to like these guys. Their prog sound is so pure and I judge their collective hearts are in the right place. All their albums sound professionally done and the instrumentation can be quite engaging. Still, too mainstream and saccharine for my tastes. Their album covers and song titles are so mainstream stereotyped prog rock I'm turned off each time I listen.

Still, "Longer" is a masterpiece rearranging of a soft rock Dan Fogelberg tune that I think wouldn't be out of place on any prog rock compilation and is a must hear. They could make a whole album of soft rock covers in this vein and I would buy it. "Hummingbird" and "Reminiscing" and Paul Davis' "Cool Night" and Steve Winwood's "While You See a Chance" have potential,

 Live at The Tivoli by GLASS HAMMER album cover DVD/Video, 2008
4.24 | 12 ratings

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Live at The Tivoli
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by TenYearsAfter

4 stars "FIRST REVIEW OF THIS ALBUM"

This year it's 25 years ago that USA progrock formation Glasshammer released their first album Journey Of The Dunadan, anno 2018 Glasshammer has released 17 studio-albums, 3 live CD's and 4 live DVD's, along 3 compilations and even 1 single (Cool Air from 2016). They also did a 25th Anniversary tour, including a gig on the Cruise To The Edge. And on May 18th the band will release a new live album entitled Mostly Live In Italy, incredible, what a prolific progrock band! The backbone of Glasshammer is the duo Fred Schendel and Steve Babb (both multi-instrumentalists), after all those years they are the only original members.

I am not familiar with the Double Live DVD from 2015 but I have watched Glasshammer their first two live DVD's Lex Live (2004) and Live At Belmont (2006). If I compare these two with this third live DVD entitled Live At The Tivoli, I conclude that this one is superior: more varied (the band has invited The Adonia String Trio and the massive The Lee University Choral Union and The GPS Girls Choir) and Glass Hammer has matured during the years. Their very melodic sound is drenched into the Seventies symphonic rock tradition (especially Yes, ELP and Kansas) but more accessible and with an important role for the vocals (as usual in the USA progrock), along a male singer also three female vocalists. Fred Schendel delivers lots of strong keyboard work, from dazzling synthesizer flights and powerful Hammond organ runs to some majestic church organ and lush Mellotron waves. Another focal point is the guitarwork featuring lots of powerful and fiery solos and exciting interplay with the keyboards.

The atmospheres in the 10 compositions range from dreamy with violins (even a solo piece by The Adonia String Trio in Longer) and acoustic guitar to bombastic and up-tempo, with splendid work on guitar and keyboards. Especially in the track Knight Of The North and Having Caught A Glimpse, this is Glass Hammer at their best: exciting shifting moods with swirling Emersonian Hammond organ, fat synthesizer flights, powerful interplay between the musicians and compelling final parts with a huge choir and church organ. The final song is the Yes cover South Side Of The Sky (the studio version featured Jon Anderson), Glass Hammer does a decent job with good female vocals and a strong fiery guitar solo.

Excellent work!

 Untold Tales by GLASS HAMMER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2017
3.82 | 14 ratings

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Untold Tales
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

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

4 stars Notable modern American prog-rock band Glass Hammer have decided to mark time in-between their grander symphonic works with `Untold Tales', their second collection of rarities after the little-known `The Compilations' collection from 2006. Covering 1993 through to now, it contains several instrumental sketches, a recent live adaption, all-new exclusive pieces, contributions to various-artist sets and a couple of covers, and it makes for a lovely stop-gap release that will especially hold great appeal to long term fans of the band.

Opener `Shadows of the Past' originally appeared in much sparser form on Glass Hammer's debut album `Journey of the Dunadan' back in 1993, and here keyboardist Fred Schendel has been able to give this short introductory piece a suitably grander orchestral-like makeover, and it lifts the piece closer to something along the lines of the fancy and prancing fanfare pomp of Rick Wakeman's solo work. Further instrumental `Infusion' hails from a rare 1995 solo album that the band contributed to by one of their early singers Tracy Cloud, and a compact and nimble symphonic interlude it is, where some of the whirring keyboards call to mind Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess.

The first lengthy prog workout arrives with the spiritual themed `Identity Principle', a near-thirteen minute epic that was partially recorded in the mid Nineties and recently completed, and it could have easily found a home on the early `Lex Rex' and `Chronometree'-era albums of the band. There's no shortage of crisp ringing electric guitars and softer acoustic strums dancing around strident drumming, and the contemplative lyric is given plenty of vocal variety from the trio of Fred, bassist Steve Babb and frequent Hammer vocalist Walter Moore. A cover of Argent's `Hold Your Head Up' has been given a bombastic rocking makeover in a punchy Neal Morse/Spock's Beard-like manner, instrumental classical reinterpretation `Babb's Bach' is a delightful smorgasbord of ravishing Moog, pretty piano and Steve's murmuring bass, and his `And Then She Sighed' is lovely shorter choir-lifted madrigal folk prettiness in the fairy-tale manner of so many early Glass Hammer pieces.

`Eiger Dreams', used to open Glass Hammer's `Live at the Tivoli' DVD from 2008 starts with moody electronic ambience before launching into electric guitar histrionics, and frequent Glass Hammer leading lady Susie Bogdanowicz takes the lead for the Beatles cover `It's All Too Much' that stands apart from the original and Steve Hillage versions with thick Hammond organ and a strident stomp. The snarling bluesy guitars, dirty harmonica and bashing drums of `Troll' perfectly convey the sly dig at unhelpful and negative internet taunts, and it's one of the heaviest pieces the band have ever delivered with just a hint of dusty plodding stoner rock to it! Dating from 2010 and linked to the `If' sessions, guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh's `A Grain of Sand' is an ethereal guitar rumination that almost serves the same purpose here as those Steve Howe acoustic breaks on so many Yes albums - although Fred and Steve help out with little fancy touches!

The near-ten minute organ and Mellotron dominated dreamy epic `Cool Air' originates from the superb 2012 triple CD set `The Stories of H.P Lovecraft: A Syn-phonic Collection' (also several fine Italian modern prog bands on that box-set, do check it out!) and features future Yes frontman Jon Davison on vocals, and it compliments the darkest Davison-led Glass Hammer album `Perilous' with its ghostly atmosphere and maddening gothic symphonic mood. With connections to Sound of Contact/Mantra Vega's multi-instrumentalist David Kerzner and Rush's Neil Peart, `The Impulsive Type' is sung by frequent Hammer contributor over the years Carl Groves, and it's a sleek metallic harder edged rocker. The disc then concludes with a blistering take on `No Man's Land' off Glass Hammer's recent superb concept disc `Valkyrie', and it's wilder, more jagged and frequently attacked with an aggressive energy, with Aaron Raulston's busy thrashing drumming, Steve's malevolent crooning and Susie's raucous vocal taking plenty of the focus.

While these sort of compilations are rarely essential, `Untold Tales' is a very welcome undemanding set that makes for a welcome breather between the bigger conceptual musical statements that Glass Hammer frequently issue like `The Inconsolable Secret' and `Valkyrie'. It probably didn't need the live piece at the very end (as great as it is!), because solely studio recordings help discs like this serve as a fine standalone album in their own right. But `Untold Tales' is a winning collection of unrelated pieces that also serves as a nice commemorative set to celebrate the quarter century career of one of the leading modern symphonic bands, and it should tide over fans of the group nicely until the next grand Glass Hammer work.

Four stars.

 Valkyrie by GLASS HAMMER album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.86 | 158 ratings

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Valkyrie
Glass Hammer Symphonic Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

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.

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

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