Image © Sound Resources 2002
(03 October 2002) The latest full length album from the American progressive rock band Glass Hammer is entitled Lex Rex (Arion Records (USA) SR1123, 2002). Comprised of eleven tracks, several of them being truly epic length, the album is certain to delight both prior and new fans. The album is principally the work of Steve Babb (lead and backing vocals, four and eight string bass guitars, synthesizers, keyboards, pipe organ, Hammond organ, Mellotron) and Fred Schendel (lead and backing vocals, steel guitars, Hammond organ and all Hammond leads, piano, pipe organ, keyboards, sunthesizers, Mellotron, mandolin, recorderdrums and percussion.
Solo vocals and backing vocals are also contributed by Susie Bogdanowicz, Walter Moore, Sarah Lovell, Haley McGuire, Robert Streets and Carrie Streets. Additional guitar leads are provided by David Carter, Charlie Shelton and Bjorn Lynne.
Musical Discoveries visitors will be especially intrigued with the female vocal parts in a small number of the tracks. Remaining male vocals are well performed and are balanced with the progressive instrumental arrangements. The overall texture has developed beyond the Yes-sound of Chronometree and one will hear elements of earlier Glass Hammer, Yes as well as Ambrosia in the final mix.
Lex Rex is modern day progressive rock classic. Like earlier Glass Hammer releases, it is highly thematic in lyrical content and story telling; but the departure comes in the overall cohesiveness of the pieces. While we would have certainly appreciated more female vocal passages, the vast keyboard rich instrumentals that doeminate the epics are certain to please the most committed progressive rock enthusiats. Melodies are deep rooted in the individual numbers and recur throughout the project. Guitar solos perfectly compliment the rich orchestral sound.
A brief opening statement introduces the first epic number "Tales of the Great Wars," which opens with a orchestrally lush keyboard and combined guitar passage. Crisp percussion underscores the number as the musical theme and vocal harmonies develop. A taste of the female singers includes a stunning lead vocal passage by Susie Bogdanowicz--oh, how we would like to hear more from her. Further epics on the album include "Further Up and Further In" and "When We Were Young" and feature vast keyboard and guitar excursions, lovely choir parts, numerous tempo changes and ambitious orchestral-style passages.
"One King" and "A Cup Of Trembling" are a very Yes-like tracks with both guitar and keyboard sounds reminscent of the band's classic period. They is vocally and instrumentally lush with female backing parts shining through appropriately. Chris Squire fans will instantaly be drawn to Steve Babb's bass guitar parts, Wakeman-style keyboard excursions as well as Fred Schendel's Howe-like steel guitar parts.
"Centurion" is a thematic, progressive soundtrack-like track with instrumentalsand vocals both contributing to the lush harmonies; mood changes, crisp percussion and asymetrical keyboards, reminiscent of ELP's Tarkus, also grace the track. An extensive collection of progressive rocking elements contribute to the dynamic track "When We Were Young," the last epic of the album. "Heroes and Dragons" is the light acoustic rocker that concludes the album.
Glass Hammer's music is dominated by massive keyboard arpeggios that run up and down across the various tracks of the album. Although the album is not blessed with a vast number of female lead parts, the women add a lovely texture to the sound whether backing male leads or participating in the lush choir parts. The strength of the album is largely in the songwriting and instrumentals whose arrangements are just superb.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the album from amazon.com
here. Dave Shoemaker from CD Services says, "With Glass Hammer producing some of the finest melodic prog on the planet, using their instruments in more of a traditionally progressive style,
they surely must be considered as the undisputed
kings of the American symphonic prog scene." A stunning album in all respects, clearly this one is a must listen!