Glass Hammer — Perelandra
(Arion no#, 1995, CD)
by Jeff Melton, 1996-08-01:
My first impressions of the album were that the music is a trite retread of the same standard progressive ideas, just performed by a different set of enthusiastic fans using weakly written material. After the third listening, I did find a few tracks which don't meet this simplistic viewpoint. The title track, (with intro) "Now Arriving/Time Marches On" is probably the best on the disk except for possibly the title track. It contains a memorable, circular keyboard/ guitar hook which is the core of the song as well as some amusing sound effects which are more of a distraction than adding to the intended dramatic flare. "Into the Night" is kind of a creepy number with an intro of a mysterious, occult voice searching for a woman in dire distress. This project is the collaboration of two keyboardists, Stephen DeArqe and Fred Schendel. Arrangements I'd classify as 'light symphonic.' The organ playing is trademark Emerson at times, orchestral at others. Randy Burt adds a notable sax outro as a swirling, echo-ey ending to "The Last Danse" which is the atypical piece on this disc. Glass Hammer influences are easily obvious in the Yes vocal style arrangements, but also with a female backing voice (e.g. Pink Floyd's "Great Gig in the Sky"). I'm not certain who the lead vocalists are; the keyboardists or guitarist may trade off on different tracks. The male voices are pleasant, but not very forceful that could have added more presence to the finished product. Guitar player Walter Moore is mostly in a supportive role playing melody lines as a counterpoint to the lead keyboards. He doesn't really get to step out much since the compositions don't call for it. Not a bad disk, really.
by Mike McLatchey, 1996-08-01:
It's terribly sad to me that many people's impression of "progressive rock" goes no farther than Yes, Genesis, or their countless soundalikes. I don't want to be too hard on that style of symphonic rock, as many of them are artistically honest, lovingly crafted and well produced. It's just that the constant rehashing of specific stylistic elements of this niche, such as Yes like vocal harmonies, cliché ridden choruses, and instrumentalists virtually in the same style as a major influence, are going beyond trite. To keep this in perspective, it must be said that many people are introduced to the nebulous progressive genre through the more mainstream examples of the style. I mean you just don't go from Tears for Fears to Magma without something to warm you up. So on one hand, music like Glass Hammer is going to seem quite mundane to those whose musical breadth extends in the direction of the weird and wild, on the other hand, it acts as an ideal entry way for those not that familiar with progressive music's greater scope. Yes fans are going to love this, as it wears their influence like a fluorescent tie-dye. For instance, check out the last track "Heaven" with the Rick Wakeman-esque organ lines that are far too close to "Awaken" to be merely coincidence. Those that flipped over Echolyn, Spock's Beard or Ritual are probably going to love this — it's got the same sort of feel and sound.
by Mike Grimes, 1996-08-01:
If you're looking for a good keyboard album, then look no further. Glass Hammer has lots to offer in that department. There are some great keyboard parts on Perelandra and the keyboards are most certainly the main attraction throughout this recording. Stephen DeArqe and Fred Schendel share both the keyboard and songwriting duties, co-writing all 12 tracks together. Although the band uses a drum machine for the album, it's thoughtfully programmed and back appropriately in the mix so that it doesn't stand out in any bad way. The band achieves a very individual sound using so many keyboards, not really sounding too much like anyone else, except for "Heaven" sounding like Yes' "Awaken" in spots. The music ranges from mellow — like the intro to the title track, one of my favorite parts — to hard 'n' heavy. There is a lack of other instruments besides keyboards — the previously mentioned drums (or lack thereof) and especially guitar. And they even have a real guitar player! While there are tons of cool keyboard parts, there are essentially no equivalent lead guitar solo spots. More guitar would have balanced the album out nicely. The other main gripe is with the vocals, which are hit or miss. Too many different people sing lead parts, some of whom should maybe stick to background vocals. The band's sole female lead vocalist, Michelle Young, sounds great, but is under-utilized. She should be singing way more than she is. Other than these minor complaints, the album is pretty strong. Fans of other dual keyboard outfits like Triggering Myth and Happy the Man should dig Glass Hammer.
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