At The Gate is the third and final chapter/part of Glass Hammer's Skallagrim trilogy, following Dreaming City (2021) and Skallagrim - Into The Breach (2022, see review), the latter being the “weakest” one and I can truly say that At The Gate is their finest one; maybe it even is the ultimate Glass Hammer album ever....
Steve Babb (keyboards, bass guitar), Fred Schendel (keyboards, guitars), Aaron Raulston (drums) and Hannah Pryor (vocals) are obviously highly influenced by classic prog rock bands like Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Genesis, but on this new album Glass Hammer also shows their heavier and darker side, which is kind of to my liking indeed. Take for instance All Alone, which is definitely a “heavy” prog metal song, featuring huge guitar riffs, reminding me of good old Black Sabbath at certain times, while the breath-taking guitar solo almost sounds like Steve Howe in his best Yes days! Snowblind Girl is another dark and heavy one, featuring an outstanding guitar solo by guest player Reece Boyd, while Standing At The Gate is a bit less heavy with their modern metal-like hooks and awesome vocal harmonies, featuring old Glass Hammer vocalist Jon Davison. Another dark and heavy track is called Savage, again with Sabbath-like guitar riffs and even classic hard rock elements that remind me of Led Zeppelin. Sad but true, two songs on this amazing album are not of that high musical level as the rest; North Of North is a rather boring instrumental track filled with Tangerine Dream-like electronics and synthesizers, really, the odd one out here, while In The Shadows is just a little piano and vocal number, which really does not make an impression.... But, Glass Hammer, ends with the absolute highlight of this album, being the epic It's Love, a 100% pure Glass Hammer classic, featuring Pryor's almost immaculate vocals, awesome keyboard walls, melodic guitar melodies and solos and lots of symphonic prog rock musical extravaganza.
So, for me, At The Gate is the best one of this more than extraordinary fantasy trilogy, an all time classic prog rock/metal album and maybe even the ultimate Glass Hammer album if it were not for the rather two “mediocre” songs North Of North and In The Shadows....
**** Martien Koolen (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)
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