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Glass Hammer - Lex Rex

Glass Hammer - Lex RexMy Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen”, or in this case should that be “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears”.  But before we ‘go there’ let me tell you a little story.  For those of you who are familiar (in the non biblical sense) with Glass Hammer please feel free to skip this paragraph of digression.  A couple of years ago whilst scanning the prog newsgroups there was a number of postings regarding a recent live performance from a band called Glass Hammer (not to be confused with MC Hammer, oh no).  Being, as I am, naturally blasé when I come across usually unwarranted hype on the Net of certain bands (who shall remain nameless), I was a little reluctant to succumb to these rave reviews.  So it was against my better judgement (or so I thought) when I sought out the band’s website and downloaded a sample MP3 from their upcoming album, Chronometree.  Bemused at their obvious intellect, musicianship and British sense of humour I placed my order for the CD.  A couple of days after it arrived I had to go into hospital so took the CD and a couple of others to while away the monotony of the ward.  My stay stretched to over five weeks and apart from the nurses, the only thing that kept me sane was Chronometree that I must have listened to at least 50 times in that period.  It was novel, it was clever, it was humorous.  A concept album parodying concept albums often using the styles, sounds and arrangements of the prog greats of the 70’s, Chronometree is pure genius.  No disrespect intended, but surely they must be English ex-pats living in the US?

The follow-up to Chronometree, the Middle-earth album, is perhaps even more ‘English’ with libidinous tavern songs amid much merry-making and one or two trolls and goblins.

They may have a sense of humour but it is clear that the Glass Hammer team of Fred Schendel and Steve Babb take their music seriously.  And their music is seriously good.

Lex Rex is an album in the classic prog style; growling Hammond, blankets of Mellotron, complex vocal harmonies, pounding bass, intricate guitar and odd time signatures are only part of the picture.  Lex Rex plots the story of a Roman Soldier beset by ancient gods and goddesses lured on a quest for something unobtainable, a sort of personal Holy Grail I suppose, but he calls it Glory.  A bit of humour opens the album (no, the lyrics aren’t in Latin!) with an ‘establishment’ type voice with crackling vinyl recording effect announcing the performance of Lex Rex.  The following 66 mins is prog bliss with sounds and arrangements in the styles of Gentle Giant, Yes, Rick Wakeman, Genesis, Camel, Caravan, Jethro Tull, ELP, Gryphon (esp. vocals 8 mins in on Further Up-Further In) and no doubt others, yet the GH signature comes through loud and clear. 

Fred and Steve play most all instruments and vocals on the album, but they are occasionally joined by vocalists Susie Bogdanowicz (pronounced Bow-dan-o-vitch if I’m not mistaken), hopefully not infrequent visitor to the HHH site Walter Moore, Sarah Lovell (Susie, Walter and Sarah are GH regulars), Haley McGuire (she’s only twelve and has got a great voice), Robert Streets and Carrie Streets.  Guesting on guitar on Further Up-Further In is David Carter, Charlie Shelton on One King and Bjorn Lynne on Tales Of The Great Wars.

By all accounts I should have written this review some four days ago but I was so entranced by the majesty and emotion of the music, well, you know what I mean.  As prog albums go I thought that Chronometree would be hard to match.  Seems I was wrong again.  Lex Rex a work of art that I won’t get bored of listening to.  Come on chaps, tour the UK soon – you can use your British passports!

Not convinced yet?  Check out the samples on the Glass Hammer website but bear in mind they are just a taster.  Glass Hammer, the new masters of the progressive concept album.

Jem Jedrzejewski


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