GLASS HAMMER – The Breaking Of The World (2015)
American progressive scene may be little dwarfed these days, but there’s a staple always carrying the flag for the genre at its maximum quality: GLASS HAMMER. Their new CD “The Breaking Of The World” released today, March 31, it’s not only the band’s best work of their career, but also their most progressive album thus far.
Commanded by co-founders Steve Babb and Fred Schendel and now with singer Carl Groves confirmed as frontman, “The Breaking Of The World” sees Glass Hammer stronger than ever.
Album number fifteen in their discography, this is not ‘just another Glass Hammer album’. “The Breaking Of The World” is so progressive, that it probably goes beyond progressive rock. It’s not genre-less, but it is probably genre-creating or, at the very least, genre transformational.
Glass Hammer has never shunned or forsaken its loyalties, and one always hears a bit of their loves and admirations in their music; sometimes it’s Yes, sometimes Genesis, sometimes Kansas, and sometimes, ELP.
But, it’s always, also, distinctively Glass Hammer, wonderfully Schendel and Babb.
It’s worth pondering the sheer amount of talent Babb and Schendel have gathered around Glass Hammer and their two-decade plus project. Of course, Babb is one of the best bassists alive, topping Chris Squire and equaling Geddy Lee, and Schendel can plays the keys as well and, frankly, far more tastefully than the standard bearer of prog, Wakeman.
Then, add in Aaron Raulston, one brilliant pounder of skins. And, with Raulston and Babb, you have the single best rhythm section alive. Guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh plays with mighty innovation and verve. Groves gives everything he has in his singing, presenting melodies in a divine fashion.
For this new record, Babb and Schendel have also brought in Michele Lynn to contribute on vocals and Steve Unruh to play violin and flute. Each adds considerably to what is already an incredible album.
The album begins with a re-working of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1931 poem, “Mythopoeia” surrounded by a very melodic music arrangement in classic Glass Hammer fashion, bright and even a little poppy, followed by “Third Floor”, which is equal parts serious intensity and playfully quirky prog.
“Babylon,” the third track, has a Neil Peart-quality in the lyrics, a righteous anger against those who wield a falsely righteous anger. Musically it’s mysterious and with an incredible keyboard solo in the middle.
Melancholic and slow, “Sand” showcases Carl Groves’ velvety vocals with pianos, various keyboards, lovely drums and a subtle guitar work.
“Bandwagon,” is the most traditionally progressive of the songs, on one of the more rocking; pounding, energetic, and hyper, it presents the perfect counterpoint to “Sand”.
“Haunted” is written by guitarist Shikoh, while Babb pens the lyrics. Babb, an accomplished and published poet, offers his best verse here. Musically, it’s a progressive gem varied and captivating.
Penultimate track, “North Wind” is a lush composition driven by bass and keyboards, alternating uptempo / midtempo passages and the addition of female vocal parts, while “Nothing Everything” delivers pure classy prog with a terrific instrument interplay in a Yes style, but sounding million times better than anything Yes have produced in the last twenty years.
Glass Hammer is one of these rare beast of a band that gets better and better with each release, but I think they have reached their climax with “The Breaking Of The World”.
This album is very close to the ‘progressive masterpiece’ denomination, it’s vital, melodic, complex yet never, never hard to digest or boring. The cover art is as gorgeous as the music, exquisitely produced by Schendel and Babb themselves
“The Breaking Of The World” is everything progressive rock should be, and more. A strong candidate for ‘best prog of the year’.
02. Third Floor
04. A Bird When it Sneezes
08. North Wind
09. Nothing, Everything
Steve Babb – bass, keyboards, backing vocals
Fred Schendel – keyboards, guitars, backing vocals
Carl Groves – lead vocals
Kamran Alan Shikoh – guitars, electric sitar
Aaron Raulston – drums
Susie Bogdanowicz – lead and backing vocals
Steve Unruh – violin, flute
Michele Lynn – backing vocals
BUY IT !