Glass Hammer - The Inconsolable Secret

Year of Release: 2005
Label: Arion Records
Catalog Number: SR 1320
Format: CD
Total Time: 98:37:00

A few decades ago, C.S.Lewis wrote, "All joy (as distinct from mere pleasure, still more amusement) emphasizes our pilgrim status; always reminds, beckons, awakens desire. Our best havings are wantings." What is our heart's longing? What is that inconsolable secret that so binds us and yet is so sweet that we have but to call it nostalgia, and romanticism?

Glass Hammer asks, and for some, will provide the answer to these ponderings in the magnificent and long awaited The Inconsolable Secret. This new release is a veritable feast of progressive joy, with two, count em, two full discs of the finest progressive rock since the seventies. There is so much brilliant music presented here, and so much depth to that music, that it truly staggering to comprehend.

Lyrically inspired from the writings of Lewis and inspired musically by Yes, ELP, Kansas and Genesis, with this double disc set, Glass Hammer ascends into the pantheon of heroes, nearly single handedly holding the world of symphonic progressive rock on their broad shoulders. Epic scope and scale are the watchwords of the day as the band (and, yes, this was recorded by a "band" this time) presents a nearly one hundred minute tale of knights and ladies. Disc one, "Knights" contains only two songs, one about fifteen minutes, the other twenty four-plus minutes. Disc one is all boldness and strength, and an almost athletic musical virtuosity permeates every moment of the music. These behemoth songs are vocally sparse, devoid of the layers of voices that marked Lex Rex and Shadowlands, yet instrumentally challenging and thrilling as never before. Fred Schendel is the musical hero of these two epic journeys, spewing out endlessly twisting and ascending layers of B-3, piano and synths in Herculean fashion. This disc contains the most impressive displays of keyboard prowess to be heard in the last thirty years. Yes, it is that good.

The first of these masterpieces, "A Maker Of Crowns" begins with piano and synths, and will instantly remind the listener of the beginnings of both "Close To The Edge" and "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" at the same time. The second, "The Knight Of The North" gives brief tastes of the amazing vocals and strings that will flow throughout the second disc. Another brilliant, and I do mean brilliant, element to this mammoth work is an amazing little aside that occurs about fourteen and a half minutes into it. There is a sudden shift from the symphonic power battle going on to a herky-jerky little Gentle Giant-ish interlude where Steve Babb asks the musical questions that some listeners will doubtlessly have by this point. Ok, I?m not giving anything away, but this is a very bold touch. By the end of the first disc I am seriously beginning to consider this as the best progressive release of 2005, no ... the best in many years, but there?s still another disc to hear.

The second disc, "Ladies" is set with eleven jewels, nine shortish songs embraced at the beginning and end by two more epic efforts, the first over ten minutes in length, the last over thirteen minutes long. This is the feminine disc, beautiful and nuanced. Here, piano and strings rule and many of these tunes feature Susie Bogdanowicz as the lead vocalist. She is joined in this quest by Sarah Snyder, Bethany Warren and Flo Paris, along with a choir, a symphony and a string trio.

The second disc takes us quickly through the rest of the albums story and culminates in the brilliant "Having Caught A Glimpse." This song will make you just weep with appreciation at the sheer effort that has gone into all of this. Along the way we can pick out the short "Lirazel," which will, in just about four and a half minutes, break your heart with its divine beauty, and "Mog Ruith," where Fred kicks in again with his glorious bank of keys to shake things up just a bit. By the end of the second disc I am starting to think this is worthy of being considered one of the top twenty prog albums ever made, maybe even one of the ten best. Wait, am I going overboard here? I do feel a bit light headed. Is it possible?

It?s possible. This isn?t some nostalgic trip down memory lane with a bunch of Yes and ELP clich?s strung together, no, no, no. This is fresh and alive, inspired and inspirational. This is leaps ahead of Lex Rex, Chronomatree, and Shadowlands, by far the best work yet from Glass Hammer. How they?ll ever, ever top this, I can?t imagine.

To make this all an even bigger deal than it already is, disc one is embedded with the full lyrics plus Steve Babb?s 20,000 word poem "The Lay Of Lirazel," and a short session video, and Roger Dean's album art for your desktop. Oh yeah, I guess the music was so good that I forgot all about the gorgeous packaging, with awesome new art and band logo created by famed artist Roger Dean.

So, let?s review then, shall we? Best release of the year. Best album ever by Glass Hammer. Best keyboard playing you?ve ever heard. Best album in, no ... I don?t even want to think about how many years. It hasn?t rained in thirty years and now that sweet nectar has begun to fall again. It?s glorious, isn?t it?

Disc One: A Maker Of Crowns (15:21) / The Knight Of The North (24:39)

Disc Two: Long And Long Ago (10:23) / The Morning She Awoke (5:36) / Lirazel (4:30) / The High Place (3:33) / Morrigan's Song (3:33) / Walking Towards Doom (2:06) / Mog Ruith (2:03) / Through A Glass Darkly (6:55) / The Lady Waits (5:46) / The Mirror Cracks (2:12) / Having Caught A Glimpse (13:23)

Fred Schendel - keyboards, electric guitar, steel guitar, vocals
Steve Babb - keyboards, bass guitar, vocals
Walter Moore - vocals
Susie Bogdanowicz - vocals
Matt Mendians - drums
Sarah Snyder - featured soprano
Bethany Warren - backing vocals, girls choir
Flo Paris - vocals
Eric Parker - acoustic guitar
The Inconsolable Symphony and Choir, featuring The Adonia String Trio
- Rebecca James - concert master, violin
Susan Hawkins - viola
Rachel Hackenberger - cello
Laura Lindstrom - vocals
Stephanie Rumpza - recorder, choir
Tom Hammett - featured tenor
David Carter - lead guitar
Haley McGuire, Summer Hullender, Emily Hammett, Natalie Pittman - girls choir

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: July 24th 2005
Reviewer: Tom Karr
Artist website:
Hits: 3817
Language: english


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