GLASS HAMMER – Valkyrie (2016)
There’s not much Rock bands able to claim they are releasing their 16th studio album. GLASS HAMMER, one of the longest running American Prog bands are one such act with their brand new CD “Valkyrie“.
Having weathered a few lineup changes and the essential departure of lead singer Jon Davison (now with Yes) some time ago, the group have overcome the odds and now have created one of the best, if not the best, albums of their career.
Glass Hammer albums are conceptual efforts and “Valkyrie” is no different, telling the story of a soldier’s struggle to return home from the horrors of war, to the girl who loves him and must ultimately find her way to him.
However, there’s something slightly different in this Glass Hammer’s 2016 record.
The band has succeeded here crafting more concise songs, you can feel the work behind this just by listening to the sound of each instrument and the overall arrangements. If the keyboards of Fred Schendel are still playing a big role in the band’s sound, this time, the others musicians have more space to create an album that has a richer and fuller sound.
They took the time to make the compositions more dynamic and varied, and not overlong the proceedings.
The album kicks off with the wonderful throwback “The Fields We Know” which finds Steve Babb singing most of the track, his Chris Squire-esque bass style right up front as well. The middle break presents exquisite keyboard synth melodies not unlike Tony Banks best moments while the guitar / keyboard exchange, a la vintage Asia, is fist-pumping excellence.
But when I listened to “Valkyrie”, I discovered a new sound and a new direction which is obvious since track 2 “Golden Days”. Some heavier guitar parts surprise me and some new keyboards sounds.
The epic “No Man’s Land” is the most complex and dramatic song with some dark atmosphere and avant-garde passages. There’re some recurrent themes bringing the song to some cohesion despite many moods and rhythm changes. I never heard a song like this from the band before.
“Nexus Girl” is an electronic, post-rock interlude that again, is showing another side of Glass Hammer.
Of course there’s classic Prog as well as in the excellent sympho cascades of title track. “Fog of War” showcases some Geddy Lee / Chris Squire bass style with some heavy prog music driven by Alan Shikoh’s guitars which harken back to Steve Hackett’s classic sound.
“Dead and Gone” is another highlight starting as a ballad but the pace picking up in a captivating sonic aura and with some groovy instrumental parts from every musician.
The album ends peacefully with the spacey “Rapturo”, a dreamy track to enjoy lights out.
“Valkyrie” is a terrific progressive rock album from Glass Hammer. There is a lot to like here for any lover of really well played & composed rock music not limited by genres.
Fans of old-school Prog looking for something new, look no further; this might be the album you have been waiting for this year.
If you prefer other rock genres, give it a proper listen anyway, it’s a captivating piece of music.
01 – The Fields We Know
02 – Golden Days
03 – No Man’s Land
04 – Nexus Girl
05 – Valkyrie
06 – Fog Of War
07 – Dead And Gone
08 – Eucatastrophe
09 – Rapturo
Susie Bogdanowicz – lead vocals
Alan Shikoh – guitars, electric sitar
Steve Babb – bass, keyboards, lead vocals
Fred Schendel – keyboards, guitars, lead vocals
Aaron Raulston – drums
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