Glass Hammer - Shadowlands

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Arion Records
Catalog Number: SR1122
Format: CD
Total Time: 58:08:00

It's strange how people tend to only look at bands such as Spock's Beard, Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree or Dream Theater in order to stick on the label of "productive band" when it concerns to revival of progressive rock. For sure most "other" artists tend to deliver only a handful CDs during their existence, but in the case of the American band Glass Hammer things most certainly look much different. By releasing their brand new album Shadowlands, our US friends deliver their eighth album under the moniker of Glass Hammer, and once again it has become a collection of authentic vintage prog sounds the way we like ?em best!

Prior to Glass Hammer, Steve Babb released the album The Final Catastrophe as Wyzard with Fred Schendel helping him out on keyboards. Around the same time they put their respective ideas and talent together to help singer Tracy Cloud on her album Love Changes. Cloud later on repaid the favour by singing on Glass Hammer?s Perelandra album. Maybe those early days really cemented the partnership between Babb and Schendel, no doubt admiring the same seventies icons. From their debut as Glass Hammer (Journey To The Dunadan) onwards right until the recent Shadowlands, the band has melded all the right symphonic moves into a waterfall of progressive delight. For their latest collection of epics, Steve and Fred have used, amongst others, the talents of singers Susie Bogdanowicz and Walter Moore; plus using the latest modern recording technology to record both digital and (mainly) analogue equipment as crystal-clear as possible. The duo is most certainly ace producers in their favourite musical field, having produced albums by Volare and Somnambulist under the name of Sound Resources. The perfect proof that these guys? interest in music reaches far wider than solely prog is that the duo also releases trancelike ambient-techno-dance music as TMA-2, who have issued two albums so far. But what about Shadowlands then? Well, you can really tell that it?s Glass Hammer, as most of the influences remain. No doubt Yes has been very influential in both their lives, which sounds very transparent through the Glass Hammer compositions.

With no fewer than seven different voices present on this album, a string trio, and both Schendel and Babb playing the mighty mellotron, Shadowlands has indeed become a much richer album, fuller where arrangements are concerned, and by using a decent number of acoustic instruments, also much more detailed. For some strange reason the opening section for "So Close, So Far" reminds me of Point Of Know Return-era Kansas, accessible yet wonderfully arranged. Once the vocals enter, however, I immediately think of Starcastle. Fact is, I also hear synth solos through the vocal passages, something that I also detect when listening to Terry Lutrell singing whilst Herb Schildt delivers his Moog solos, as during Starcastle?s Fountains Of Light album. A couple of authentic Steve Howe-like chords suddenly change the rhythm of the song completely, making way for Flo Paris? vocals. Fred Schendel?s adoration for Steve Howe goes a long way when he delivers some ace steel guitar, making certain parts sound as if they were lifted from Close To The Edge! The love for Yes continues when the intro for "Run Lisette" unleashes some powerful Rickenbacker. Combined with pipe organ, the song gets close to the feel of "Awaken." No samples have been used, as this pipe organ has been recorded at the First United Methodist Church in Waynesville, NC. In fact, all of "Run Lisette" is a feast if you?re into melodic keyboard parts. Towards the end of the song all attention goes towards the male and female vocals, which sadly are not of the same caliber as the perfect instrumentation. Similarities with Kansas become even clearer when violin is introduced.

After a rather long and uninspired introduction, I nevertheless detect tiny Kit Watkins interventions on keyboards and even some Relayer-era Patrick Moraz during "Farewell To Shadowlands." The main attraction here however is once again the pipe organ. Again "Longer" takes a lot of time before it finally kicks off. As I didn?t read the accompanying booklet before, I thought it concerned an original Glass Hammer composition where I heard a sped up version of the melody from Dan Fogelberg?s hit "Longer." But when the singing started, there was no more doubt: this was the Dan Fogelberg classic but delivered in true progressive style! I?m sure the original composer will be pleased!

The album closes with what Neal Morse would describe "an epic to end all epics." "Behind The Great Beyond" begins with classical, Baroque-like acoustic guitar before it evolves towards a mixture of Transatlantic moves and Yes from the Magnification and YesSymphonic era. The latter is mainly the case due to the integration of an authentic strings trio. As this lengthy song develops, another pure classical intermezzo is introduced by means of a Moorish acoustic guitar solo. The synth follows the vocal lines whilst electric piano once again delivers some of the experimental nature of Kit Watkins, and once that violin comes to the fore, there?s no escape from the Kansas mould! After some rhythmic changes, the Baroque feel is once again introduced, yet this time around firmly integrated into the Glass Hammer music. The roaring organ contains some Ekseption (Rick van der Linden) magic whilst the classical nature of some of the arrangements rubs shoulders with Minimum Vital. The song ends with some mellotron and bass sounds that in a way contain a similar atmosphere as the outro for Close To The Edge. So once again Glass Hammer has delivered a wonderful album that all lovers of superb, melodic symphonic rock will enjoy to the fullest. Listening to all the material on Shadowlands, it?s like listening to Yes and Kansas in one studio, so if you?re a fan of one of them or, better still, both of these icons, then you?re in for a real treat! This incredible leap-year couldn?t begin any better!

So Close, So Far (9:50) / Run Lisette (10:30) / Farewell To Shadowlands (7:30) / Longer (9:55) / Behind The Great Beyond (20:26)

Steve Babb - vocals, four and eight string bass, synthesizers, keyboards, pipe organ, Mellotron, Taurus pedals, percussion
Fred Schendel - vocals, steel guitar, electric and acoustic guitars, Hammond organ, piano, pipe organ, keyboards, synthesizers, Mellotron, drums, percussion


Walter Moore - vocals
Susie Bogdanowicz - vocals
Sarah Snyder - backing vocals
Flo Paris - vocals
Bethany Warren - backing vocals

The Adonia string trio:

Rebecca James - violin
Susan Hawkins - viola
Rachel Hackenburger - cello

Journey To The Dunadan (1994)
Perelandra (1996)
Live And Revived (1997)
On To Evermore (1997)
Chronometree (2000)
The Middle Earth Album (2001)
Lex Rex (2002)
Shadowlands (2004)
Live At NEARFest (2004)
The Inconsolable Secret (2005)
Culture Of Ascent (2007)
Three Cheers For The Broken-hearted (2009)
If (2010)
One (via GH only) (2010)
Cor Cordium (2011)
Perilous (2012)
The Inconsolable Secret (Deluxe Edition) (2013)
Ode To Echo (2014)
Breaking Of The World (2015)
Double Live (2015)
Valkyrie (2016)
Untold Tales (2017)
Mostly Live In Italy (2018)
Chronomonaut (2018)

Lex Live (DVD) (2004)
Live At Belmont (DVD) (2006)
Live At The Tivoli (DVD) (2008)

Genre: Symphonic Prog

Origin US

Added: January 11th 2004
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1651
Language: english


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