I never really enjoyed listening to Yes. Simply because I didn't like the voice of Jon Anderon. A while ago, I did buy a number of old Yes vinyl records, and stepped over that problem. I still don't like the sound of the man's voice, but the music around it (which I knew, but still...) more than makes up for that. And then, there's this much, much newer band, called Glass Hammer, who have been compared to Yes many times. Not really surprising, if you listen to their music, and to the voice of Carl Groves. There are resemblances there, but Carl does not have that annoying little edge that I don't like, and the music is certainly not a copy of Yes. So, what I won't try here is compare the music on Glass Hammer's latest release The Breaking Of The World to Yes - this band deserves to be judged on their own merits.
When listening to this album, two things caught my eye and ear. First, although the band consists of six musicians, not everyone is present on every track. If an instrument does not have a role in the music, it's simply not there - which means there are variations in sound on this album that prove the art of omission really is an art. Second, different tracks are composed by different band members, and their differences in taste and influences can really be heard in their compositions. Two ingredients for a vary varied album, I can assure you.
On The Breaking Of The World, we find three tracks that are obviously rooted in 70s symphonic prog, but each with a nice modern interpretation added. Credits for composing these go to bass player Steve Babb.
On the opening track, Mythopeia, he worked together with guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh - who seems responsible for the jazz and fusion influences in the instrumentals. A nice eight minute track, in three parts, with a pumping, rattling bass, nice keyboard layers and a short acoustic guitar and vocal part in the middle. The voice of Carl Groves does remind slightly of Jon Anderson, but to me seems a lot warmer.
Babylon has similar characteristics, but the keyboards play a much heavier role on this one. After the intro, the guitar even seems to disappear completely… Northwind, the third of Babb's compositions starts with a bass melody and an organ, with great accentuation by drummer Aaron Raulston. The verses on this one are carried by the bass and early Marillion like keyboards, while in the instrumentals a lot of things happen that a shallow listener may either miss or dislike. An adventure for the attentive listener on the other hand.
Keyboard player Fred Schendel took responsibility for composing four tracks, accompanied by Shikoh on one of them: Third Floor, subtitled A Play In One Act. A track with a bombastic opening, and - not surprisingly - a lead role for the keyboards and organ. A track that is cinematic in parts, as the subtitle suggests, with male and female vocals taking turns.
Sand lays down a quite relaxed atmosphere, with beautiful piano work and a friend ly male vocal. Only in the end, a guitar comes in to bring a bit of a bite.
On Bandwagon the band takes a slightly more rocky course, once again with a pulsing bass, but also a very beautiful, jazzy guitar lead half way - and whirling keyboards at the end.
My favourite track on the album is closing track Nothing, Everything, which, is a real symphonic rock track, with a slight jazz rock influence in the intro and instrumentals, eventually culminating in a bombastic, keyboard laden final verse.
Third composer Shikoh, next to his two co-operations with Schendel and Babb, adds two compositions to complete the track list. A Bird When It Sneezes, by far the funniest song title so far this year, is a 30 second jazz piece, with nice guitar work, fast keyboard fing ering and a supporting bass.
Haunted is a different track altogether: the music is haunting, mainly due to bass and keyb oards, but also the melancholic female vocals of Susie Bogdanowicz, and the beautiful voice of guest singer Michelle Lynn in the bridge. The dark keyboard work and classical guitar make the final verse.
This album is one that has a lot to offer, but it's also somewhat demanding: on first listen, I didn't like it at all, except for the bass playing (which, as a bass player is my weak spot). However, after a few listens, the album appears to open up and give away its many secrets. A true prog album in that sense, and one that will hopefully find its way to many listeners.
**** Angelo Hulshout (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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