Glass Hammer, with their latest release of Cor Cordium, has defiantly done the impossible.
They created a follow-up to their monster hit album IF from 2010 with perhaps their finest work yet, and will hopefully leave any doubt behind regarding their status as one of the best progressive rock bands, period.
There have been numerous comparisons over the years, likening Glass Hammer to Yes, and there has been some merit to that, in my thinking, but perhaps that now is something inappropriate to use as a measuring stick. I love Yes, and they were my favorite band in High School, some seventy million years ago or so. Yes, in the last ten years, has produced nearly nothing, their latest offering an excellent album, to my tastes, but quite honestly, is nothing in comparison to IF, or now the special Cor Cordium album. I would wink and say, going back through both collections for both bands, Yes never sounded as good as Glass Hammer....
Lets look at what Cor Cordium has in store for you. The opening track is one called Nothingbox, a nice chunky prog number weighing in at just over ten minutes. It lures you in from the opening note, and once you hear those first strums of the guitar, the lazy but insistent tapestry of synth and keyboards weaving in, the commanding crunch of the bass, and Jon singing, the song just takes off. I've only listened five times so far, but it still may be my favorite track from the album... it is oh so difficult to make that distinction, when you have more goodies, like One Heart following right on the heels of the Nothingbox, and changing the rhythm and pace of the evolving landscape of sound that unfolds before you. Again there is magnificent playing on every level by Steve, Fred and Alan, their chemistry developed in the last album has matured like a fine wine, and they effortlessly glide together and apart, one accentuating the other.
Salvation Station follows, and evokes memories of the fun found in some earlier Glass Hammer albums, Lex Rex and the Middle Earth albums came to mind. The albums shortest tune, it grabs you immediately with it's boogie woogie funky prog and lyrics that have you smiling at their cleverness and fun.
Dear Daddy follows, another chunky ten plus minute tune, but this one again surprises you, and is a touching but strong song about a son and his relationship with his father.
On the heels of Dear Daddy comes the longest song and my second favorite, so far, song from the album, To Someone. Coming in at just over eighteen minutes, it the anchor of the album in a sense, not only from it's length, but from a musical perspective as well. A beautiful but definite Glass Hammer classic, it has all of the elements in it that has made me delirious about the band's music. The level of their collective song writing and playing continues to make this band a singular gift. This epic moves and flows, is filled with some artful but driving chords from Alan, Steve continues to throw out one thunderous bass run after another, and Fred comes swooping in with amazing organ, synthesizer and keyboard textures and parts, making this song one amazing ride musically.
The final song is one that also keeps sticking in my head after repeated listens, another left turn in beat and composition, and yet still going in the same direction, it closes out the album coming in at nearly eleven minutes, and is yet another song that evokes earlier Glass Hammer music to my ears, possibly Culture of Ascent's Into Thin Air.
Fred Schendel can no longer be compared to Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson. Fred is a wizard of the keys, and is in my personal top three keyboard players in the world: Fred, Gem Godfrey of Frost, and Dream Theater's Jordan Rudess. I put Fred first, because I truly believe, after listening to now fourteen albums worth of his playing, that he is peerless. He makes every set of keys he touches, sing and soar like no other.
Steve Babb is a perfect partner for Fred, because his bass playing IS Glass Hammer as well. His distinctive, powerful, driving bass lines accentuate the music perfectly, and have helped to reduce my dashboard to a beaten drum for my fists as I drive along. Yeah, I beat it senseless with my enthusiasm and joy at hearing Steve's bass playing.
The inclusion of Alan Shikoh has helped to reveal yet another facet of the band. His riffs are fresh and perfect counterpoint for so many of the scintillating keyboard runs of Fred's. Both the acoustic and electric guitar playing is outstanding, and allowed the band to truly hone it's unique sound. Don't be surprised to hear lots more of Alan in the future, he is a young talent that can only get better, and that should have any music lover drooling.
Finally, but definitely not least, Jon Davison, brings it. It being that voice of his. Amazing. Yes, it sounds similar to Jon Anderson, in possibly the same way the new Yes singer does. Jon has the familiar smooth high end voice for rock and prog, but it's the soul behind the vocal chords that makes this Jon just as unique and special as that other Jon... His vocals and musical/lyrical contributions are what makes these last two albums complete, his energy is present in all of the songs and it's signature is what will make Jon Davison remembered for many years to come.
You must buy this album. You do not have any choice. Free will is an illusion. Prog music keeps getting better and better, and it's because of bands like Glass Hammer, leading the way with the most creative and incredible music being made today.
Get Cor Cordium, and prepare to lose yourself in the dream, as you get swept away on the wings of majestic and swirling masterpieces.