One of the ironies that pervades prog is that so many bands hark back to the genre’s 1970s heyday and, in the most pedantic sense possible, it’s tricky to be progressive when you’re trying to sound like it’s 1978. Prog bands love to describe their sound as ‘cinematic’ and that’s clearly what Glass Hammer are going for in the sweep and scope of Valkyrie, a concept album about a soldier traumatised by war.
The instrumental section of No Man’s Land is particularly impressive on that front, exceeded only by the album closer Rapturo, which builds from a sparse piano melody to a crescendo that fairly warrants the word ‘epic’. The track also offers a moment where the band touch on a more contemporary, heavily layered sound moving towards Mogwai. The other concession to the modern world is the drum loop of Nexus Girl, but otherwise Glass Hammer embrace their retro proclivities, putting the keyboards at the front of the mix, much like Yes (who poached vocalist Jon Davison from the band) or Kansas. With its dark subject, Valkyrie is a melancholy listen, but the playing and composition are top-class, while the vintage approach feels comfortingly familiar.