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The Inconsolable Secret CD Cover (Roger Dean)
Image Arion Records 2005

Glass Hammer
clockwise from left: Sarah Snyder, Bethany Warren, Susie Bogdanowicz, Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, Eric Parker Walter Moore, Matt Mendians
photo Bart Lindstrom
image Arion Records 2005

More Glass Hammer:
Lex Live
Chronometree
The Middle Earth Album
Lex Rex
Shadowlands*
* with interview

Related Artists
U I Blue
Michelle Young
Tracy Cloud
Various Artists
A Remedy Raised
All This Time

Glass Hammer Female Singers
Susie Bogdanowicz, Bethany Warren, Sarah Snyder, Laura Lindstrom
photo Bart Lindstrom
image Arion Records 2005

Glass Hammer Female Singers
Susie Bogdanowicz, Bethany Warren, Laura Lindstrom
photo Bart Lindstrom
image Arion Records 2005

Glass Hammer Female Singers
Bethany Warren, Laura Lindstrom, Susie Bogdanowicz, Sarah Snyder
photo Bart Lindstrom
image Arion Records 2005

 

(17 July 2005) This month saw the long-awaited release of the epic two-CD masterwork Glass Hammer. While the band have been enticing their fans with material recorded live since their 2003 NEARfest performance in both CD and DVD formats, The Inconsolable Secret (Arion Records (USA) SR1320, 2005) is the band's first all new studio recording since 2004's Shadowlands. It is their most diverse project to date with progressive material spanning hard rocking numbers to orchestrally arranged, cinematically influenced soundtrack themes.

A completely glorious project in every single respect with the trifold digipak's artwork features an all-new illustration by the legendary Roger Dean. The two-CD set includes a wide variety of enhanced material in addition to well over two hours of stunning recorded material. Bonuses include the entire storyline in an epic poem by Steve Babb and lyrics in PDF format, the Inconsolable Sessions video, desktop art and further digitial resources.

Glass Hammer's lineup is Fred Schendel (keyboards, electric guitar, steel guitar, vocals), Steve Babb (keyboards, bass, vocals), Walter Moore (vocals), Susie Bogdanowicz (vocals) and Matt Mendians (drums). Glass Hammer's material continues to draw on influences from Yes, ELP and other modern day progressive themes. Vocal harmonies drift in and out of vast instrumental excursions often led by Moore, Schendel and Babb which gives the material a Glass Hammer unique texture. The signature Glass Hammer sound is not lost anywhere on this album however there are positively clear ddvelopments from their earlier work.

On the inside one finds two CDs, one entitled "The Knights" and the other "The Lady." Glass Hammer informed our editorial staff that the new project would highlight the work of the band's female vocalists more than on previous recordings on the second CD ("The Lady"). The women include: Susie Bogdanowicz (lead vocalist), Sarah Snyder (featured soprano), Bethany Warren (backing vocals and girls choir), Flo Paris ("Long and Long Ago" and "Having Caught a Glimpse") and Laura Lindstrom ("Morrigan's Song"). Visitors will know that Susie and Flo have worked with Eric Parker on his various artist albums and Laura Lindstrom is half of UI Blue, featured here earlier this year.

"The Knights" is comprised of two epic-length tracks. The recording opens with "A Maker of Crowns," an extended number with wonderful Keith Emerson-inspired keyboard and piano riffs. A range of stunning guitar and further keyboard solos complement the rich arrangement. One can not escape from Steve Babb's incredible and melodic bass lines within the instrumental mix. Walter Moore's expressively delivered vocals are well delivered and most memorable, especially in the brief choruses and heartfelt in the verses.

"The Knights" concludes with the 24+ minute progressive rock masterpiece "The Knight of the North" whose passages include crisp vocal breaks, powerful keyboard and piano excursions and melodic bass lines. Lead vocals are perfectly backed by and alternated with vocal harmonies. Numerous keyboard passages will immediately draw comparisons to Keith Emerson, ELP, Yes and Rick Wakeman, while the rapid and melodic bass work is clearly reminscent of Chris Squire and Jon Camp.

Vocals, as with "A Maker of Crowns," are led by Moore and backed by Schendel and Babb. String work by the Inconsolable Symphony featuring The Adonia String Trio: Rebecca James (violin), Susan Hawkins (viola) and Rachel Hackenberger (cello) adds great texture to the track. Later passages include brief solos by the band's lead female vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz. Further harmonies are added as the track develops. The number closes with a dramatic choir and organ passage.

While "The Lady" CD has a different feel from "The Knights" in some respects--two epics and nine much shorter tracks--the instrumental themes and overall sequence of the second CD has been developed to equally enhance the album whether played before or after the first CD. "Long and Long Ago" is a very typical extended Glass Hammer upbeat progressive rock track full of glorious male and female vocal harmonies, vast guitar excursions and orchestral keyboard passages. Steel guitar and melodic bass give a tremendous Yes feel to the number. The instrumental mid-section is superb with orchestral interludes broken by a ripping guitar and bass passage and further vast richly arranged keyboard excursions. The number includes a wonderful, although tragically brief, vocal solo by Flo Paris.

The series of shorter numbers begins with "The Morning She Woke," vocals led by Walter Moore but underscored by a rich choir and lush keyboard-driven arrangements. Susie Bogdanovicz's hearfelt solo in the song's quiet midsection is delightful. Susie working together with Moore, the song becomes a duet as she brings it to a conclusion. "Lirazel" is a gentler ballad, acoustic guitar joining warm keyboard washes and light percussion. The lead is well sung by Susie and backed with sweet harmonies from the girls choir (Haley McGuire, Summer Hullender, Emily Hammett, Natalie Pittman, and of course Bethany Warren).

"The High Place" continues the album's divergence from previous Glass Hammer recordings. Cinematic arrangements with deep bass and choir create warm textures and draw meditative emotions from the listener. Beatlesque male vocals are contrasted by Susie's sweetly contrasting lead. "The Morrigan's Song," sung by Laura Lindstrom's is performed atop acoustic lovely woodwinds and gentle percussion. Her crystalline vocal perfectly suits the number blending naturally into Sarah Snyder's vocalise at the introduction to the symphonic "Walking Toward Doom." A rich choir part adds to the cinematic texture of this series of shorter numbers. "Mog Ruith" is a short and fast-paced keyboard-driven ELP-style instrumental interlude. Crisp percussion is precise, perfectly complimenting the rapid-fire keyboard passages.

Tender woodwind and orchestral passages introduce "Through A Glass Darkly," a richly arranged soundtrack number that develops with a piano backed vocal passages featuring Susie Bogdanowicz. Lush soundtrack style string quartet-based textures continue to envelop the album's musical theme of the second disc in the richly arranged instrumental "The Lady Waits." A whisping choir adds texture before "The Mirror Crack," a natural instrumental extension in the movement, begins.

The Inconsolable Secret concludes with "Having Caught A Glimpse," which begins instrumentally where the two preceding instrumentals left off. The orchestral soundtrack develops before rock instrumentals return, rich keyboards echoing the themes underscored by rich percussion. Flo Paris' gorgeos lead vocal is sung atop a gentle piano, bass and percussion instrumental. Powerful Glass Hammer-style instrumentals develop and Walter Moore's vocals join working in duet with Flo--with lyrics sung and backed with lovely vocalise--atop rich progressive arrangements featuring thick and powerful [church-style] organ parts. Following a series of solos in the midsection, including keyboard, guitar, bass, and woodwinds, the number builds to a stunning climax with a robust choir passage as the album concludes.

The Inconsolable Secret is a tremendously adventurous and well-produced album of diverse progressive material. Glass Hammer continue to grow instrumentally and vocally, building on their past experience. This release recognizes the contributions of their stunning female singers, showcasing their voices significantly and letting them truly soar on the second CD in this set. The album is a progressive masterpiece that summarizes the path they have followed and shows that their journey is far from complete.

 
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