Glass Hammer – If

As I said in a previous GEPR review, I liked Glass Hammer‘s last album Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted. But I must admit, I was somewhat disappointed with its low Progginess Quotient (“PQ”. Yeah, I just made it up). Fortunately for us, however, there was still more progressive music that needed to escape the fertile brains (and nimble fingers!) of Mssrs. Babb and Schendel. And so, in 2010, they return with a new line-up and an album that can only be described as an unbridled progressive masterwork. If there’s anything negative to be said about it, it’s that it definitely borrows a lot of prog mannerisms from the stylings of Yes. But since Yes hasn’t really been up to the challenge for many years now, I can only say, “Thank You, Steve and Fred!”

But even this complaint is a bit unfair. Yes would have never made this album, in any incarnation. New vocalist Jon Davison really sounds exactly like that other Jon, right down to the vocal harmonies and “DUT-DUT”‘s (obviously designed by the composers to emphasize the similarity in their voice timbres), but though the lyrics are similar in their “spiritual” bent, they are neither the sorts of esoteric poetry Jon Anderson used to enjoy, nor the overtly Christian lyrics sometimes to be found on Glass Hammer albums. Instead, they are simply uplifting messages suitable for virtually any religious belief … though if you’re Christian, you’ll certainly hear some of these lyrics as Christian spirituality.

New guitarist Alan Shikoh sometimes sound more Holdsworth than Howe, but sometimes exactly like Howe. Schendel‘s keyboards are frequently very Wakeman, but other times more Emerson or Banks. Perhaps it would be best to say that all these people are very familiar with the musical style of Yes, and this shows through clearly, but they also all have their own styles that makes this an album that both sounds like Yes and sounds like … Glass Hammer. Even the album cover was done by an artist who clearly is familiar with Roger Dean, in both artistic and font designs, and yet is also different.

I’m prepared to say this is the best Glass Hammer studio album to date, though since I haven’t heard Lex Rex or Chronometree in their studio versions, my comparison may be incomplete. But it would be very difficult to top this one, and I’ll definitely say it’s my favorite studio album from Shadowlands through If, and I really liked most of those. A true masterpiece from guys who consistently amaze, from whom you never know quite what to expect on the next album. If If was a Yes album, I’d rate it only behind Relayer and Tales from Topographic Oceans. Not behind Close to the Edge? Hmm .. it’s a toss-up. Really, If is that good, though very different from CttE. I’ve listened to it at least 6 or 7 times now, and it continues to improve with each listen. I very rarely do that with an album these days, but this one is really inspiring. If you think “they don’t make albums like this any more”, you’re wrong. — Fred Trafton

Click here for Glass Hammer‘s web site

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2 Responses to “Glass Hammer – If”

  1. christiaan paulse Says:

    I have to agree that Glasshammer is sometimes not prog enough for me. as long as they dont move in the world music or metal prog direction so many prog bands do these days . Good review !

  2. Jason Says:

    I like this album a lot but it’s not my favorite GH album. This one sounds like Yes, as you mentioned, but it just doesn’t jump out as me as new or exciting. I loved Lex Rex, Shadowlands, and secrets, but this one just hasn’t stuck with my yet.

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