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Glass Hammer - 2015 - "The Breaking Of The World"

(64:00; Arion Records)


Since Fred Schendel (keyboards, lead & backing vocals) and Steve Babb (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) formed Glass Hammer in 1992 they have had a line-up which changes quite fluidly, with members leaving and sometimes returning, yet during the last 30 years they have had a prodigious output by modern prog standards, rarely dropping below their own very high standards. Here they are joined by Carl Groves (lead vocals), Susie Bogdanowicz (lead & backing vocals), Kamran Alan Shikoh (electric, acoustic & classical guitars) and Aaron Raulston (drums), which apart from the loss of Jon Davison (Yes) was the same line-up as the previous ‘Ode To Echo’ which had seen both Carl (Salem Hill) and Susie return after some time away and the introduction of Aaron to the band. Fred and Steve are major fans of Yes and they have not hidden those influences over the years, and surely this was one of the reasons Davison got his current role, yet what surprised me most about this album is that while they have stayed true to the symphonic prog style, they are not nearly as Yes-like as they have been on many of their albums in the past. True, they do like male lead singers who perform in a similar fashion to Anderson, yet female vocals are also a key element in their sound, and this album finds them move much more closely to the music of Steve Hackett than I would have thought. Note, I deliberately said Hackett and not Genesis, and his late Seventies albums in particular. Yes, there are some keyboard sounds one recognises from Tony Banks, and others from Wakeman, but they are performing a style of prog which relies on certain keyboards so that is not surprising. Mind you, the introduction to “Nothing, Everything” is classic Gentle Giant and brought a smile to my face. I have always enjoyed the depth and care which goes into their arrangements, and they are never as overtly flashy and “look at me” as some others, as they combine multiple melodies and strands and allow the singer to then find his/her own path over the top. For music as complex as this it is perhaps surprising that space is also a hugely important element which ensures the music has the room to breathe and really live. This is an album which definitely looks back in time and could easily have been released in the heyday of the genre but is also modern and shows that 16 studio albums in the band has a colossal amount to offer, and it is no surprise that 8 years on from this they have released another five. One of the most enjoyable progressive rock bands around, Glass Hammer continue to operate at very high levels indeed.

Progtector: May 2023

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