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Glass Hammer: The Breaking Of The World

The Chattanoogans return in full-on prog mode.

Most Prog readers will automatically link the names of Glass Hammer and Jon Davison, the current voice of Yes. Rightly so – Davison continues to record and tour with Chris Squire and company.

However, for the time being regular co-vocalists Carl Groves and Susie Bogdanowicz are taking up the slack in Glass Hammer while those commitments require him to take a back seat. “Jon hasn’t quit Glass Hammer, and we haven’t split with him,” the band tell us. “We just have to wait till his ‘other band’ takes a break before working with him again.”

It’s a setback for sure, but Glass Hammer are made of stern stuff. Hailing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, they existed well before this latest resurgence of interest in prog. Their debut album, the Lord Of The Rings-themed conceptual piece_ Journey Of The Dunadan_, came out as far back as 1993. Sixteen studio records later and Steve Babb and Fred Schendel have earned the right to be regarded as battle hardened staples of the scene.

A deliciously satisfying neo-prog statement.

Bob Katz, the man responsible for the highly impressive sound mix here, described _The Breaking Of The World _as “Glass Hammer’s most progressive album to date.” Indeed it’s a deliciously satisfying artistic neo-prog statement, one that, despite Davison’s absence, followers of Yes will surely enjoy. Extended song structures abound, the band are first-class musicians, and Carl Groves lends his undeniably Jon Anderson-influences tonsils to a book of lyrics that celebrate madrigal, olde-worlde and spiritual Middle Earth-style obsessions. Inevitably, the album includes some epic pieces – Third Floor lasts for 11 minutes and North Wind a little short of 10. For all their weightiness, the songs often wear a cloak of melodic accessibility, though if the record does have a flaw it’s that most of the material moves at the one same pace.

Sometimes Glass Hammer allow their influences to glare through. Subtitled A Play On One Act, Third Floor begins with an intro that doffs its cap at Watcher Of The Skies by Genesis, though when it kicks in the wistful interplay between Groves and the nightingale-like Bogdanowicz is a delight – and that’s before the band seize the listener’s attention to take them on a colourful, multi-tempoed musical journey. In a lyrical sense there’s much to absorb, from Bandwagon, which appears to mock political hypocrisy (‘“We care!” Isn’t that what you said from your ocean-front home?’) to the spectre-inspired tale of Haunted (‘One last kiss ’pon her fair cheek/They turn to leave, though haunted they will be’).

You’ve meant to give Glass Hammer a try? Now might be a very good time.