Glass Hammer - The Inconsolable Secret

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

I am relatively new to the wonderful world of progressive music, as I discovered the genre some 12 years ago. But one of the things I quickly learned is, there is a distinction between "progressive rock" and "neo-progressive rock," which is mainly played by bands from the 80s and onward. The classical progressive rock is credited to the great bands from the 70s, with of course Yes as the absolute standard. Now I really love Yes, but I have found despite the fact they record new songs, even to this day they still play the songs that made them famous. For some reason the newer material will never go on into history as "classics."

Now why do I start a review of a totally different band with this? One simple reason: Classic progressive rock is not reserved for bands that originate from the 70s, but can also be found with bands from the present day. And one such a band is Glass Hammer. For some reason, Glass Hammer does not have the fame that a band such as Yes has, but if you listen to their albums and especially notice how they evolve and grow with each new release, you don't understand why they are not as famous as Yes is. Or maybe more famous, as the latest release by Glass Hammer, The Inconsolable Secret, will definitely enter in the annals of progressive music as a classic!

Glass Hammer is officially Steve Babb and Fred Schendel and they recorded their first album, Journey To The Dunadan, in 1992, and released this independently. The album became a huge success and enabled them to create their own studio and label. In 2002 they released Lex Rex and this was their most successful album. A year later they played NEARfest, a dream come true and they had a great line up there. The following year, 2004, was a very busy one for them, as they released two albums, Live At NEARfest and their eighth studio album Shadowlands, as well as their first DVD: Lex Live.

Despite all this work, they still managed to work on a new album. This album, The Inconsolable Secret, is based on a poem Steve Babb wrote. This poem is included in the multimedia section on the album, as a pdf file. You'd better take your time for this one, as it is 64 pages long!

Disc one contains only two songs, but what kind of songs! Two grand epics, with a total playing time of over 40 minutes, and both songs are true mini symphonies. Everything you wish for in a classic prog song is there: the lush keyboards, the excellent and at times complex compositions, multiple singers and that so recognizable 70s atmosphere. How do they do that? Walter Moore's vocals are really good on "A Maker Of Crowns." On the first disc he mainly dominates the vocal parts, with some backing by Schendel and Babb and Susie Bogdanowicz, who is the second vocalist on the album.

The band here is the same line up as the NEARfest performance and the fact they have already played a lot together, results here is a very good sounding "band." I wouldn't be surprised if this line up is the future of Glass Hammer ? wouldn't be saddened either, more like happy, as they play very well together.

"The Knights Of The North," carry a nice medieval atmosphere and has those familiar harmony vocals, you can hear on previous GH albums as well. This is definitely a part of the trademark sound of Glass Hammer. The amazing synth solos by Schendel are so great; you just can't get enough from them. And they work well in a long track as this one, bringing a lot of variation, although the compositions are so good, you don't have to worry that you will loose your attention or get bored: it won't happen. Both tracks on this disc have lots of instrumental passages, where they keyboards really bloom. Here Eric Parker also plays an important role, as he often adds his soft acoustic guitar sound to the various keyboard solos and breaks. Still, I can't deny it or leave it out: there is a part in "The Knight Of The North" that reminds me of "Long Distance Runaround" ? indeed, by Yes (listen to the part starting at 14:00!). This feeling comes back with the beginning of disc two, which felt similar to Tales From Topographic Oceans.

Now you may find it childish to compare Glass Hammer with Yes so often, but consider this: GH plays on the same scale as Yes does and it is my opinion GH plays on the same level as Yes does ? they are just not that known (yet, I hope). And look at the artwork of The Inconsolable Secret: Roger Dean! So there are similarities. But GH is in no way a Yes clone and they do not copy Yes. The sound is just at times similar. And, where Yes still lives in the past, GH lives in the present and still come with classic compositions.

OK, back to the music. Disc one, with as sub-title, "The Knights," is mainly performed by "just" Glass Hammer, although in the last few minutes of "The Knights Of The North," the inconsolable orchestra and choir make their appearance, emphasizing the symphony element in the music. This sounds really great and fortunately there is more of this orchestra and choir on disc two, "The Lady."

Disc two, consists of several shorter songs, although the first and last track both clock over 10 minutes. It starts off with the familiar Glass Hammer sound, but that changes quickly. "Lirazel" has a different sound and atmosphere to it. Sung by Susan Bogdanowicz, and supported by a girls choir, this is a bit of a sober song, mainly carried by the vocals. And of course this is the direct connection between the music and the poem. A very beautiful song, that stands out. Here the orchestra and choir play a larger role, like in "The High Place," which is almost just orchestra and choir and really change the mood. The song is a sort of duet and again, very beautiful. When listening to these songs, you should close your eyes and the atmosphere of the songs will make you feel you have travelled back in time, to the medieval times. "Morrigan's Song," sung by Laura Lindstrom, could have very well, be sung at the court of some medieval king! I am really impressed how Babb and Schendel composed these tracks! No more Yes influences, no more the familiar GH sound, but a movie like sound, which really captures the listener. The choir really comes out great in this setting, especially with a song title like "Walking Towards Doom," which undoubtedly will remind many to the Lord Of The Rings movies!

The Inconsolable Secret is a true progressive masterpiece! A fantastic concept story, which will definitely appeal to both the poets and the intellectuals. Musically the album is solid as a rock and all contributing musicians and singers have played their parts with skill and feeling. And don't worry, I don't consider myself an intellectual and although I do like poetry, I am not really that eager to read those whole 64 pages, but I have enjoyed this album more that I could dream of! The Inconsolable Secret is absolutely in my top 5 over 2005!!

Do yourself a favour and get this album. I don't think you will find any better album by such a group of devoted musicians. Kudos to Fred Schendel and Steve Babb for bringing us this highlight in music, as they have truly outdone themselves. In the credits they give thanks to God and I can only join in that: Thank God for the gift of such beautiful music. Amen.

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: September 9th 2005
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website:
Hits: 1367
Language: english


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