Release DetailsLABEL Arion Records
RELEASED ON 1/15/2004
posted on 1/2004 By:
Munster, Brie, Cheddar, Mozzarella, Gouda, Gorgonzola, Romano, Havarti, take your pick. None of these is as cheesy as Glass Hammer’s new album, Shadowlands. To give you an idea of just how cheesy it is, consider this: while listening to Shadowlands for the first time I was talking to a friend on the phone. She apparently heard it in the background and asked if I was playing Super Nintendo. That’s quite a bold statement, and one that can usually be assumed to have a negative connotation. The odd thing is that in this case, it really doesn’t carry much in the way of negativity. This certainly isn’t the type of music that I can take terribly seriously or that I’ll find myself drawn to on a regular basis, but when I put it on it’s a chore to find anything disagreeable about it. Shadowlands is destined not to make it onto any top ten lists for me and the chance of ever feeling compelled to play it anywhere down the road is slim to none, but for what it is, it’s nothing but good.
And what Glass Hammer is, exactly, is essentially an obvious tribute to psychedelic and progressive rock of the 70’s, most notably Emerson, Lake, & Palmer. Keyboards nearly always lead the extremely lengthy songs with other instruments playing essential roles but staying out of the spotlight (although, in fairness, there are a few moments where the guitar playing is the centerpiece and it does shine). The general vibe given off is not at all dissimilar to Neal Morse’s recent Testimony album (but without the obvious religious overtones) or to any of the happier sounding songs by Ayreon. Those comparisons stand until the rock organ comes in, at which point it would be nearly impossible for one not to hear the ELP influence.
With only five songs and a running time of nearly an hour, this is an outing of epics. There are a few moments when transitions don’t go as smoothly as possible and a disjointed feeling abounds, but usually the moments of slight stumbling are made forgivable by recurring themes that make it obvious that it’s still the same song. Ranging from seven and a half to over twenty minutes, there, luckily, aren’t any songs that stand out as weaker than the rest, though a loose cover of Dan Fogleberg’s “Longer” is extremely sappy and grows a bit tiresome.
Easily the best song is the album’s opener, “So Close, So Far.” It’s calm progressive rock at its best, going from melodic and straightforward parts led by vocals to extravagant sections where instrumentation is the primary focus. It’s simply a joy to hear throughout its entire ten-minute duration.
I can’t say that I recommend this to anyone but the biggest fans of progressive rock, and I can’t say that you’ll find anything terribly innovative here (which sort of negates the title of progressive, now doesn’t it?), but this is easy music to enjoy without too much thinking. If you’re a fan of 70’s progressive rock or of more recent progressive acts with psychedelic leanings, you’ll eat this right up as I have. Whether or not it’ll have more staying power for you than I believe it will for me is something that only time will tell.
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