Glass Hammer - Culture Of Ascent

Year of Release: 2007
Label: Sound Resources
Catalog Number: SR1825
Format: CD
Total Time: 69:12:00

After the incredible 2CD offering The Inconsolable Secret, ten superb albums and two great DVDs, what could our American friends come up with to top it all? Before the new album was released, information was given that none other than Jon Anderson would be a special guest. So next to the Roger Dean connection, the arrival of mighty Jon would cast yet another Yes shadow over Glass Hammer. Seeing Anderson's contributions being described as "vocalizations" instead of pure "vocals" was not at all what I expected, as we thought we'd hear Jon deliver his very best on this new six track album. Although Jon Anderson's voice still remains one of the most unique voices in rock, I still think he could've done much more here, lift the album much higher. Compared to the band's previous output it now looks like Glass Hammer has finally found the ideal band format with vocal duties being shared by Susie Bogdanovicz and Salem Hill vocalist Carl Groves.

Next to the actual band, Glass Hammer has also found true companions in The Adonia String Trio, which adds an extra dimension to the music. In "Sun Song" the mixture of violin, viola and cello blends ever so well with the sound of the mini-Moog, whilst the violin itself introduces a slight Kansas feel, nicely alternating with the incredible guitar solo. The combination of deep bass and pipe organ takes us towards Yes' Going For The One. We probably forgot to mention that the album starts off with the old Yes favourite "South Side Of The Sky," which is given a complete makeover here. And this is not the only makeover here, as it looks like Fred Schendel has lost a lot of weight. Well done Fred! More Yes similarities during the intro to "Life By Light," which contains a fair amount of Steve Howe like arpeggios.

An epic like "Ember Without Name" sounds rather open, creating lots of space for various solo interventions, although without going over the top even once. In fact towards the end it even sounds like a jam session. Arrangements throughout this album are rather tame and mostly acoustic of nature. Take the beginning of "Into Thin Air" as a nice example, with the violin introducing a slight folky feel. There's plenty of piano here backing soft melodic voices, aided by the dramatics of the string trio. Again the chamber music feel of "Rest" calmly passes by without really leaving the kind of impression I was hoping for. However, full marks for the great ending which fuses the violin with the mighty Mellotron.

Culture Of Ascent most certainly is yet another professional result from Babb and Schendel, yet I miss panache, energy. It's as if they wanna play safe by carefully outlining the kind of music they can play without having to use a safety net. Knowing the talent within this band I was waiting for more daring elements, more fireworks escaping from the wealth of instruments they have access to. With progressive rock being exactly the kind of music that has no rules whatsoever, for sure much more unpredictable twists and turns could have been part of the music. It remains a good album, but ?

South Side Of The Sky (9:24) / Sun Song (9:33) / Life By Light (7:29) / Ember Without Name (16:33) / Into Thin Air (19:14) / Rest (6:33)

Fred Schendel - keyboards, acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Steve Babb - bass, bass pedals, keyboards, backing vocals
David Wallmann - guitars
Susie Bogdanowicz - vocals
Carl Groves - vocals
Matt Mendians - drums

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: December 10th 2007
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1922
Language: english


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