Glass Hammer’s musical charcuterie includes a lot more flavors than it used to...

   Skallagrim - Into the Breach 

   Artist: Glass Hammer 

www.glasshammer.com   

Label: Sound Resources 

9 tracks / 61:22    

 

Leaving Dreamimg City and venturing Into the Breach, Glass Hammer is now At The Gate, delivering the third of a trilogy of albums following the exploits of Steve Babb’s romantic barbarian, Skallagrim. While the albums are not literally tied to the narrative of Babb’s recently-released novel, Skallagrim - In the Vales of Pagarna, the spirit of the story is reflected in the music and lyrics - evoking danger, sacrifice, mystery, love (especially love), and more than just a hint of the horrific. You never know what lies just beyond a gate...

 

Followers of Glass Hammer will be treated to the band’s current skillful combination of the grandness of what I would call forest-prog and the crunchy edge of the more metallic side of the genre. With the elegant vocals of Hanna Pryor lending a classic Glass Hammer feeling to the proceedings right off the bat {“The Years Roll By”) and Aaron Raulston’s drums sounding more powerful and impressive than ever, Babb’s keyboards and articulate bass work and Fred Schendel’s keyboards are still the core of the powerful, big sound. Of course the multitalented Babb and Schendel each contribute vocals and guitars as well, and manage to sound more ‘live in studio’ than they ever have before, rendering the harder side of the music potent enough for a good, heavy sound when needed - witness the ‘savage’ organ / guitar work on the second track (“Savage”), complete with its memorable hard rock riff, harmony solos, and powerful drum breaks. Along with the aforementioned crew are guest vocalists (used sparingly, one track each), John Beagley and Jon Davison.

 

Aside from the heavy, almost-metal moments of songs like “All Alone,” the band dips into a bit of electronica with the pulsing instrumental “North of North,” and pays respect to their heavy prog side with the ominous, heavy sound of “All For Love,” which is one of the two songs featuring stirring guitar work by guest artist Reese Boyd. Boyd is also on the following track, “Snowblind Girl,” with Babb’s bass work really standing out, more great guitar and organ riffs, nice staccato breaks and some funky, distorted beats toward the end of the song.

 

 Trying to describe the individual songs would be a futile and frustrating effort, but I would simply say that Glass Hammer’s musical charcuterie includes a lot more flavors than it used to. Shifting time signatures, unique rhythms, and adventurous melodies (“Standing at the Gate (of Zagzarel)”) are used effectively. Influences? Intentional or not, perhaps an unconscious nod to Procol Harum’s “The Worm and the Tree” seems to haunt the descending chords and keyboard motif at the end of the previously mentioned song. Some guitar harmony in the epic closer, “It’s Love,” is structurally reminiscent of Brian May’s work in Queen.

 

Speaking of the album’s end-track, the multi-faceted piece follows seamlessly from the introspective “In the Shadows,” which features mostly piano and the voice of Pryor. It’s a song of resignation and determination, ideas that sound like they would normally oppose one another -- but after all, the band’s name is Glass Hammer, an intriguing oxymoron if ever there was one.

 

As usual, the packaging is beautiful, with an intriguing fantasy-painting on the cover and wonderful line-art in the generous booklet.

 

My advice? Enter the gate.

- Bert Saraco

4 1/2 tocks

 

You can see concert photography by Bert Saraco at the link below.

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