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Glass Hammer

Ode to Echo

Review by Gary Hill

What an amazing set this is! It’s definitely thinking person’s prog. It’s the kind of thing that gets better with every spin, every additional bit of familiarity. It’s the kind of progressive rock that’s both modern and classic in texture. It has sections that call to mind this act or that, but it never really feels like anything but original. This might be Glass Hammer’s best album. Given the quality of their catalog, that says a lot. It’s also a contender for best of 2014.

The lineup here boasts three lead singers (two male and one female): Carl Groves, Jon Davison (best known these days as the lead singer in Yes) and Susie Bogdanowicz. The rest of the band is Fred Schendel (keyboards, guitars and backing vocals), Steve Babb (bass guitar, keyboards and backing vocals), Kamran Alan Shikoh (guitars and sitar) and Aaron Raulston (drums). If that wasn’t enough, they are joined by a number of guests including: Randy Jackson (Zebra),  David Ragsdale (Kansas) and Rob Reed (Magenta).

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
Garden of Hedon

The extended introduction to this piece features some incredible fast paced progressive rock instrumental work. I love the guitar soloing on it. The vocals join and we’re off on a great ride. They take this through quite a few changes over the course of the cut. There is a great hard edged riff driven section that I absolutely love. Melodic, mellower movements are included in the middle of this thing, too. It’s really quite complex and yet it flows from section to section very well. There is even a false ending that gives way to an almost fusion jam that eventually shifts back to the song proper. We get a noisier, rather chaotic movement later, too, that’s very cool. After the six minute mark they take it into an almost King Crimson like section that eventually resolves to a melodic bit to end.

Layers of vocals start this and then there’s a quick stop before they move out into another melodic prog jam. In some ways this is a more mainstream cut. At least it has a more straightforward progression that has more hook type sections. It’s got plenty of modern prog in the mix, but there are also retro things here. In some ways, this really makes me think of Kansas at times. There is a cool faster paced section later in the piece that makes me think of The Dregs a bit. I love the keyboard dominated movement later, too. This piece is still pretty dynamic. It’s just a bit easier to latch onto than the opener is.
Coming in melodic and magical, there is a lot of fusion in this early on. It reminds me of Renaissance in some ways. I love the violin on this thing, too. As this piece evolves it works through some great melodic sections. Then a hard edged movement that feels a bit like early Rush takes it. As the keyboards soar over the top of that it’s a bit like Dream Theater meets fusion. It’s heavy and very cool. Eventually we’re brought back out into more melodic progressive rock for the return to the song proper.
I Am I
The introduction on this uses sound effects and dramatic music to create an otherworldly feeling of menace and power. It resolves out into a more melodic prog section for the verse. After that first verse, though, we get more hard rocking, almost dark music. This section is quite theatrical and it’s counterbalanced with more of that melodic sound. There is a bridge that starts with instrumental music that’s a bit mysterious and then twists to more hard edged prog not far removed from something like Dream Theater. The piece just keeps evolving, though, working back to the melodic section before veering out into a hard rocking, powerhouse jam that’s mysterious and awesome. There’s a left turn to something almost like ELP for a time. Fusion is merged into the mix as it moves forward. They continue with the changes as this works forward. It’s got some incredible twists and turns and yet is always compelling and evocative.
The Grey Hills
Although the guitar that prowls overhead doesn’t always lend itself to the comparison, the introduction to this makes me think of Yes. As it works into the verse section that comparison is reinforced. They take it through several changes as it continues. This becomes closer related to modern progressive rock (but informed by the classic variety) as it works forward. There are some great soaring melodic moments here.
Porpoise Song
I love the rather Beatles-like sound that we get on this piece. It’s still definitely progressive rock, but it has a definite Beatlesesque sound to it. Of course, that Beatles element comes through the filter of The Monkees as this is a cover of one of their songs.It is a short number, but also a strong one. It’s easily the most accessible song on the disc.
Keyboards start this in very classical ways. It grows out from there in an almost ominous progression as other instrumentation is added. That works through to a stop and then mellower, melodic sounds serve as the backdrop for the vocals. It continues in that sort of mode, feeling very classical in a lot of ways, until around the three minute mark. Then it powers out into some killer progressive rock instrumental music. It’s dramatic, soaring and yet heavy. It drops down after that for some playful electronically based sounds that are rather clasaical. The music grows out from there for the next vocal section. It gets heavier further down the road and we get a killer instrumental section after a while with some great organ. From there it’s back to more melodic progressive rock for the next vocals. They keep changing this thing. It grows by going through a lot of changes. They take us to an extremely satisfying conclusion. Once it’s done, all you can do is sit back and say “wow, what a ride!”


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