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Shadowlands
Artist:  Glass Hammer
Label:  Independent
Length:  5 Tracks/58:08

Glass Hammer is a treasure!  Since rediscovering my love for progressive (melodic, lush, epic and extended keyboard driven music with many instrumental sections) one of the biggest pleasures has been unearthing aural treasures like 2002’s classic must-buy Lex Rex CD-a concept album about a Roman Centurion on a quest for glory that finds himself meeting Glory Incarnate as he pierces Christ’s side with a spear.  I read of Glass Hammer on National Review’s web site in a very favorable review by S.T. Karnick, downloaded a free mp3 from Amazon.com and quickly found myself enchanted.  I liked the music so much I purchased the entire catalog directly from the band at http://www.glasshammer.com.  I am still pleasantly surprised that one of my favorites CDs of 2002 was this classic progressive rock concept CD from an Indy group from Chattanooga Tennessee led by multi-instrumentalists/vocalists/producers/record company owners Steve Babb and Fred Schendel.

Shadowlands (title inspired by C.S. Lewis), the latest from Glass Hammer is five tracks of wonderfully melodic classic-style (ala’ Yes, Genesis, Kansas, Gentle Giant, Emerson, Lake and Palmer) progressive rock steeped in memorable keyboard sections, lush Mellotron beds and multiple vocalists with interesting layered harmonies.  The album kicks off with “So Close, So Far” featuring a spiffy mellow break, hooks-a-plenty, a guitar/keyboard break that will draw the listener in and that rich, booming bass sound that is featured on many classic prog-rock releases.  “Run Lisette” is built on a majestic pipe organ foundation and features lyrics (sung by Walter Moore and Susan Bogdanowicz) from a true story about a murderous horse and the master she runs to save-a French Lieutenant fighting in a bloody battle in France.  “Lisette” is notable for Glass Hammer’s trademark layered vox-up to 3 different lyric lines sung by different vocalists.  “Farewell to Shadowlands” showcases a lyrical meditation on faith with female vocals from Susan Bogdanowicz.  

Shadowlands closes with two standout tracks.  The incredible near ten-minute rendition of the 70’s light rock classic “Longer” from Dan Fogelberg (described in an interview with Steve Babb and Fred Schendel as “America via Yes”).  Steve and Fred take the song by Fogelberg and wrap it in playful keyboard parts and hook-laden vocal harmonies.  The final cut is a progressive rock epic spanning 20 plus minutes called “Behind the Great Beyond” with a classical piano intro, stunning string sections and lyrics focusing on finding the Answer (with a capital “A”) to life.  Midway into the song an unforgettable ethereal classical guitar interlude leads to the lyrical climax of the song:
 

Try-try and dismiss what it says
Even if you wanted to wrap your head around:
Just the sheer size of it all-
Better ignore it instead.
Why?  Why would a person waste time
Chasing for things that have nothing to do
With the business of staying alive-
Better to wait ‘till your dead
Try-try and not hear the voice
Telling you if you will not hear, will not see,
Will not choose which way to go-you still have made a choice
Shadowlands is a pleasant and memorable album that will have you scrambling to press the repeat button.  The music has a timeless quality, a classic feel and a strong emphasis on melody that will be enjoyed by a broad range of listeners-young and old, male and female (Steve Babb revealed in an interview that Glass Hammer has a large female fan base-unusual for a prog-band).  The CD is well produced and the sound is rich and sparkling.  My only minor qualm with the CD is a drum machine sound in a few spots, but this is only a slight quibble with an otherwise well conceived and executed CD. 

Glass Hammer is a group that deserves to be shared and heard by the masses and celebrated by Christians as an example of believers who create art without compromise. They don’t consider themselves “Contemporary Christian artists” and don’t get preachy on their projects…but their strong faith and creativity are evident in their works.  Glass Hammer’s lyrics over the course of their CD catalog focus diverse topics such as faith, the quest for Truth and Glory (Lex Rex), literary themes (from “Run Lisette’s” historical battle with horses that kill to C.S. Lewis), Tolkien’s Middle Earth (Journey of the Dunadan & the Middle-Earth Album) and Science Fiction (Chronometree)-all wrapped in unforgettable and timeless music.

Take some time to explore Glass Hammer and their latest project Shadowlands today-you won’t regret it!

Check out Glass Hammer @ http://www.glasshammer.com

Barry Nothstine 12/31/2003


 

   
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