Glass Hammer have been producing records since 1993, and have always been leaning on 1970’s symphonic rock. There’s a risk in that, in the sense that new material may sound out dated or repetitive, but Glass Hammers seems to work around that by rolling in the necessary jazz (rock) and not letting the keyboards cover everything as happens so often. [acfw id=2]
That, plus the fact that three band members each contribute separate tracks leads to sufficient variation and freshness, to my ears at least. One thing I do notice though – the band has been said to sound like Yes, and that is true in places. The voice of Carl Groves sometimes resembles that of Jon Anderson, and the tracks written by bass player Steve Babb sometimes show a Squire-esque bass presence. That only adds nicely to the mix, I’d say.
The opening track of the album Mythopoeia (written by Babb) is a good example of the above: the guitar and drum opening is indeed an intro to a bass heavy track, with Yes-like vocals, but after about a minute it becomes more jazzy, only to return to the previous mode when the vocals start. The second par of this 3-part song is only acoustic guitar and vocals, and in part three the keyboards finally get a chance to whirl it to an end. Variation and a thought out structure go hand-in-hand there.
Equally (or even more) varied is Third Floor, subtitled A Play in One Act, which is a mini-opera about a relationship between an man and a woman – forming and destruction of it, with the ‘Voice of Reason’ joining in to talk sense into them. Slightly bombastic at first, then heavy on guitar, a sweet melody – even a flute, it’s all there.
The following Babylon is once again a Babb composition, so heavy on bass and keyboards, with nice guitar work in the opening. The keyboards really do play a big role this time though, which makes it stand out nicely against the opening track.
And then A Bird When it Sneezes explains where the jazz influences come from – written by guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh, it is a really jazzy guitar and keyboard piece. Pity it lasts only 34 seconds, I’d love to hear more of this.
More peace is brought to the listener by Sand, which features a piano, only later on joined by keyboards, drums and a little bit of electric guitar at the end. Carl does sound like Jon here, but I can stand his voice better than Jon’s, so no way is this copy cat work.
Bandwagon is perhaps my second favourite track of the album – it’s jazzy but still rocks, with a strong bass and a slightly ‘hopping’ feel to it. The guitar lead half way makes the song for me, and marks a switch to acoustic guitar, which in the end gives way to whirling keyboards again.
This is followed by Haunted, which is all the title suggests – slow, dark, with melancholic female vocals by Susan Bogdanowicz. The classical guitar in the closing verse complete the feeling.
Northwind then explains why the band is marked as symphonic rock. A bass melody, follow by an organ and a guitar lead – accompanied by great drum accents. The vocals are put over a bass melody and short guitar and keyboard riffs, reminding of early Marillion. There is a lot going on in this one that makes it worth listening without distraction.
But, my favourite track is the closing Nothing, Everything, with a jazzy piano and guitar opening, and then that now familiar pulsing bass again. The vocal parts are 70s symphonic completely, but the instrumentals return to the jazz feel of the intro. Then, the end is full on symphonic, no holding back – a crescendo ending of a great album.