[Review] Glass Hammer – Dreaming city

Glass Hammer are one of the main Prog bands active on the scene in recent years, formed in the early 90s in the USA, since then they have released 19 studio albums, the latest of which is “Dreaming city“. The disc released on April 17, 2020 for Sound Resources contains 12 tracks. The opener “The dreaming city” is the title track that starts with distorted guitars, a fine layer of keyboards and a powerful and taut rhythmic session on which an effected vocal is inserted. Energetic, engaging, it shows a harder sound than previous works, permeated with high quality Progressive sounds. The sounds of the band are best combined with modern influences showing both compositional and executive maturity walking with the times. In the instrumental part elaborated between guitar and organ the theme becomes more intricate between tempo changes and a solid and constantly changing rhythmic session with a valuable organ solo. “Cold star” connects to the previous one with an imposing distorted guitar riff and a ’70s style hammond and then leaves room for a softer section with acoustic guitar and flute and a Gentle Giant style vocal. Between heavier and more symphonic openings, the organ is highlighted again with high-level inserts, the vocal verses are warm and expressive, full of emotional charge. The originality and technique of the band is manifested in the final part by closing the song with an excellent passage of voices and keyboards, with the return of the initial theme ending the track. “Terminus” begins with synth and guitar with a solid rhythmic session and the song develops on a Neo Prog full of tempo changes and positive melodies, less harsh than the previous ones. The synth guides the sound with a good solo in the second part, for a song that is in continuous elaborate change and very close to the sounds of the first wave of modern Prog. A short passage “The lurker beneath” characterized by atmospheric effects given by keyboards and guitar guides us towards “Pagarna,” which returns to more energetic riffs and a decisive and load-bearing bass line. This song also follows the Neo Prog sounds with slight AOR influences, however the tempo changes are constant and a good guitar solo characterizes the second part, more elaborate than the beginning. In “At the threshold of dreams” a hypnotic synth opens the track with a spoken and effect vocal in the background, an atmospheric and more electronic track based on effect keyboards. “The lonely world” is a dreamy song with acoustic guitar and keyboards on soft dreamy melodies and mainly sung, pleasant and well executed. The guitar is the protagonist in the instrumental section with inserts that guide us to the end of the piece. “October ballad” as the title is a light ballad full of symphonies on a slow tempo, pleasant but that except in the end with some keyboard insert in my opinion lacks a bit of incisiveness. “The tower” is another passage with a hypnotic synth and guitar flashes in the background, the drums offer a light, well-elaborated rhythmic session. “A desparate man” connects to the synth melody of the previous one, a track with more electronic flavors, developed on a slow tempo with a background of spatial keyboards. A song halfway between the style of the first Kraftwerk and the Prog, full of effects also in the vocal. “The key” begins with a solid rhythmic session with a killer bass line, the harshest atmospheres that characterized the first two tracks of the album return, alternating more rhythmic moments with the main bass and more Prog openings with the great protagonist keyboards. The symphonic component blends in the best with the funky one of the bass lines, offering space for all the instruments, including the flute to express oneself best, one of the best tracks on the album. Closes the longer track “The watchman on the walls” which begins with a symphonic Prog with a warm vocal that is well suited to the tempo changes of the song, which in the first part is melodic and well elaborated. With a change we enter an instrumental section where the intensity increases and the guitar and keyboards intertwine in the solos, then in the central part offer a pause with effects that takes us to the second section of the song returning the singing and numerous tempo changes. Second part which is guided by the guitar which offers a good solo in the end. An album with different facets, in the first two tracks a solid Prog with electric guitars and keyboards, energetic and engaging composed and played with the right attitude. In the central part of the album, the intensity decreases as well as the push, decreasing the strength of the songs that deviate from the initial ones, however well performed but less incisive. In the finale, the penultimate track approaches the opening sounds while the others remain in the style of the previous ones. The quality of the disc is high, with a really well-made start, but it’s a shame that with the scrolling of the album the thrust decreases and the explosive charge of the first two songs is lost. A listening however recommended as this is my humble opinion, the technique and skills of the group are in any case unquestionable, being one of the cornerstones of Progressive music of the last 30 years.

Tracklist

1. The Dreaming City (7:14)
2. Cold Star (7:29)
3. Terminus (4:17)
4. The Lurker Beneath (1:44)
5. Pagarna (3:33)
6. At the Threshold of Dreams (4:11)
7. This Lonely World (4:52)
8. October Ballad (4:11)
9. The Tower (2:40)
10. A Desperate Man (4:15)
11. The Key (6:10)
12. Watchman On the Walls (11:29)

Lineup

Steve Babb / keyboards, bass, backing vocals, lead vocals (1, 5, 12)
Fred Schendel / keyboards, guitars, backing vocals
Aaron Raulston / drums
Susie Bogdanowicz / lead vocals (8)
Brian Brewer / lead guitar (7, 8), acoustic guitar (12)
Reese Boyd / lead vocals (2, 11, 12), lead guitar (1, 5, 12)
John Beagley / lead vocals (3, 7, 10)
Joe Logan / lead vocals (11)
James Byron Schoen / guitar (11)
Barry Seroff / flute (2, 11)

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Author: Jacopo Vigezzi

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