Three years ago, I called Glass Hammer Americaís leading prog rock band, because they delivered three masterpieces in a row with Lex Rex (2002), Shadowlands (2004) and The Inconsolable Secret (2005). Can you imagine any other band that did the same trick in the previous decennium? Therefore, I would like to call them not only Americaís leading prog rock band, but also the best prog band on the globe. Live At Belmont, their second DVD after Lex Live, proves that they fully deserve this qualification. Live At Belmont is again a great achievement showing their capabilities to perform rather complex music on a live stage in front of an audience. Itís certainly not easy to get twelve musicians on stage to perform Glass Hammerís unique sound. Three female singers, a three-piece string orchestra, two guitar players, a drummer, a bassist, a keyboardist and an extra male lead singer manage to get pretty close to the original album versions. Nevertheless, thereís still room for improvisations and solos of which the short drum solo is a good example.
Glass Hammer is not only powerful and convincing with a twelve-piece band on stage. They also prove to be very solid in a minor line-up consisting of four musicians. A good example is the performance of several parts of The Knight Of The North from The Inconsolable Secret. Steve Babb (bass), Fred Schendel (keyboards), David Walliman (electric guitars) and Matt Mendians (drums) donít need the extra musicians on stage. They really rock like Emerson, Lake & Palmer in their glorious days. Both lead singers Carl Groves (Salem Hill) and Susie Bogdanowicz sing very emotional wherever the songs demand emotion. Itís just a pity that they didnít use a slide show or some background images to illustrate the story of The Inconsolable Secret. The lightshow looks very sober using only a few technical effects. The most amazing part on this DVD is the high level of the 5.1 surround sound. Above all, this can be heard when the large choir from Belmont gets on stage to sing along with the last three songs. The sight of all those people looks very impressive and that goes also for the nine songs on this DVD. I wonít mention all tracks, but they are taken from their three masterpieces. Unfortunately, they didnít include some older material. I certainly would have enjoyed songs as Somethingís Coming from Journey Of The Dunadan (1993) or Time Marches On from Perelandra (1995).
On the other hand, this DVD includes new surround versions of two classic Glass Hammer tracks along with a slide show and a special slide show of the Belmont-rehearsals. The concert also features some funny commentary from the band members. The Ďbehind the scenesí footage and the rehearsals are special as well. They show our heroes to be just ordinary people like you and me. For the die-hard fans the band included several home-made tapes of concerts they gave in 2003. Finally, we can enjoy a trailer from this fantastic double DVD which deserves the highest rating possible. Only five stars will do for the worldís leading prog band, because even the features on the bonus disc contain enough excellent material to enjoy.
***** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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