Glass Hammer – Three Cheers For The Broken-Hearted

January 01, 1970

(Sound Resources)


Whereas bands like Mars Volta and Muse often have the
perceived albatross of “prog-rock” hung around their creative necks…a
label they honestly don’t argue too awfully much with…the truth is that they
should be considered “proggish” at best.


Chattanooga’s Glass Hammer,
on the other hand, are unabashedly progressive, with a sound that evokes
memories of old school proggers like King Crimson, Kansas, or early Genesis while pursuing new
themes and sonic textures similar to modern bands like Porcupine Tree. Basically
the duo of Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, with whatever friends and fellow
travelers they can enlist for each project, Glass Hammer burst onto the scene
with 1992’s Journey Of The Dunadan, a
conceptual Tolkeinesque fantasy that sold several thousand copies and quickly
put the band on the prog-rock map.


Better than a decade and a half later, with over a dozen
albums and DVDs to their credit, Glass Hammer has done it entirely on their
own. Following a D.I.Y. aesthetic with their Sound Resources studio and label,
unlike their early forebears Glass Hammers controls its own commercial destiny.
With the release of Three Cheers For The
, their first studio album in two years, the band manages to
retain its classic prog sound even while taking it in some interesting and, at
times, shocking directions.


From Journey Of The
on, Glass Hammer has relied heavily on the story-telling abilities
of Babb and Schendel, two devout Christians that mix faith with fantasy in the
creation of epic, album-length yarns that are propelled by lush instrumental
virtuosity and an overall positive vibe. With Three Cheers For The Broken-Hearted, however, they
largely eschew the tall tales in favor of a darker, more cynical edge to their
lyrics. Combined with an expansive sound that at times veers dangerously close
to the prog-metal realm reigned over by Dream Theatre, Glass Hammer has managed
to take its music to an interesting next level here.


With singer Susie Bogdanowicz adding her ethereal vocals to
seven of the eleven songs on Three Cheers
For The Broken-Hearted
, Babb and Schendel concentrate instead on creating a
rich musical tapestry that matches each song’s haunting vocal turn with an
equally dense and sometimes black-hued music. While the album-opening
“Come On, Come On” is a wistful, almost melancholy bit of floss, the
muscular “The Lure Of Dreams” mixes heady six-string Frippery with a
heavy rhythmic bottom-end to tread near the metallic border.


A cover of Rod Argent’s “A Rose For Emily” is a beautiful,
albeit bittersweet treatise on romance and loneliness, while “The Mid-Life
Weird,” a lyrical story-song heavily influenced by British folk-rock of
the likes of Fairport Convention, is as close as Glass Hammer comes to their
traditional sound here. “Schrodinger’s Lament” starts with an odd
spoken-word intro that comes across like found vocals, but has a point in the
context of the song which, itself, is an atmospheric mix of lofty
instrumentation and electrifying shocks of discordant guitar. The busy,
oscillating “Hyperbole” features some blustery drumbeats and molten
fretwork courtesy of Schendel, with Bogdanowicz’s vocals often crossing swords
with Babb’s domineering bass line and the maniacal keyboard-bashing laid down
by Schendel.   


Although Three Cheers
For The Broken-Hearted
starts out kind of dour, by the end of the musical
journey both the band and the listener, as a participant in this introspective
exercise, have come out the other end with a sense of renewed optimism and
faith. Complex, with many musical twists and turns, moments of blinding beauty
and stark bleakness, Three Cheers For The
is one of the most ambitious and intriguing works that
you’ll experience, Glass Hammer a band with an infinitely open future in front
of them.


Standout Tracks: “Schrodinger’s Lament,” “The Lure Of Dreams,” “Hyperbole”



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