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progVisions

progVisions is a progressive rock e-zine, published in English and made by an international group of members. Our objective is to become a centre of information that contributes to the knowledge, growth and development of progressive rock.

album reviews

album review

Glass Hammer - Lex Rex - 2002

"Screaming Hammond and Moog solos by one of the top progressive rock keyboardists, soaring steel guitar leads, lush beds of Mellotrons, mandolins and acoustic guitars, soaring sopranos, vocals rich with complex harmonies and counterpoint, that signature crunching bass guitar, swirling analog synth leads awash in echo, the grandeur and pomp of the pipe organ -- all that and more are present on Glass Hammer's seventh release, Lex Rex."

(Excerpt taken from their website www.glasshammer.com)

Personally I see this album as their fifth studio album, but if you also count the "Live and Revived" (1997) album, which was re-released this year, and their last project "The middle earth album" the counter stops at seven. But you can't compare "The middle earth album" with the other albums. It was a special project inspired on J.R.R. Tolkien. And seen in a musically point of view it has nothing to do with prog or sympho. So after "Journey of the dunadan" (1993), "Perelandra" (1995), "On to evermore" (1998) and "Chronometree" (2000) I see this as their fifth studio prog album. If you liked "Chronometree" you have to buy this album. I think the band was at that time already searching for the sound they managed to achieve with this "Lex Rex".

Musicians:
Steve Babb – lead and backing vocals, four and eight string bass guitars, synthesizers (Yamaha CS-5, Korg Micro Preset), keyboards, pipe organ, Hammond organ and Mellotron.

Fred Schendel – lead and backing vocals, steel guitars, electric and acoustic guitars, Hammond organ and all Hammond leads, piano, pipe organ, keyboards, synthesizers, Mellotron, mandolin, recorder, drums and percussion.

Solo vocals and backing vocals:
Susie Bogdanowicz, Walter Moore, Sarah Lovell, Haley McGuire, Robert Streets and Carrie Streets.

Additional guitar leads:
David Carter, Charlie Shelton, Bjorn Lynne

You the progVisions readers are used to get from me a full detailed description of each track. But I think it isn't usefull for this real concept album. You can see this album as one long piece of detailed and melodic Sympho Prog. I will be repeating myself over and over again I think. Steve Babb and Fred Schendel the driving force behind Glass Hammer have managed to write, perform and produce the ultimate Symphonic Prog album people were waiting for. In a few years time this will be one of the classic concept albums in this genre. So I will only describe the overall sounding of this CD that will get a place in my top 10 list of this year.

The story and concept is described by Glass Hammer as follows:
"Lex Rex tells the tale of a Roman soldier, beset by ancient gods and goddesses, lured on a quest for something unattainable -- something powerful and tantalizing. He calls it glory, and he searches for its source. His quest leads him from barbaric battles in the frozen forests of ancient Europe, to the demon-haunted temples of Rome, even into the arms of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. But that is just part one of the epic tale!"

The album is divided into eleven tracks that seamlessly merge into 66 minutes of music. The tracks have the following titles: I. Good evening (0:51), II. Tales of the great wars (10:42), III. One king (6:07), IV. Further up and Further in (15:13), V. Intermission (1:08), VI. Music for four hands (and temporal anomaly) (2:19), VII. A cup of trembling (7:50), VIII. Centurion (7:47), IX. When we were young (9:53), X. Goodnight (1:11) and XI. Heroes and dragons (3:45).

There is that typical Glass Hammer atmosphere of the first two records which is mixed with a typical sympho prog sound of the seventies. A lot of Hammond organ, pipe organ and Mellotron. On top of that keyboard layers we find synthesizers and steel guitar solos. The later often reminds me of Yes in their "Going for the one" period. But in the track "One king" is a point with Mellotron sounds who reflects the "Tales from topographic oceans" period of the same band. A positive surprise for me is that Steve Babb and Fred Schendel are doing most of the vocals again. Somehow I had always the feeling that the singer on the "Chronometree" album doesn't fit in the Glass Hammer atmosphere. In "Further up and further in" I hear at a certain point a great mix of ELP, Triumvirat, Genesis and Yes at the same time. This amazing piece is a real beauty. "Music for four hands" is a classical piece with great piano work. "Centurion" opens with one of the returning themes played on a delicate piano but then burst into a delicious sympho piece with electric guitar, Mellotron, synthesizer solo and classical female vocals. The Hammond organ plays an important role on this album. "When we were young" is also one of the many highlights of this album. Yes lovers will love the last minutes of this track, which reminds me of the Yes classic "Awaken". But I will stop now before I will repeat myself.

"Lex Rex" is a delicate little masterwork of Babb and Schendel. I would describe it as "beautiful melodic symphonic prog". There is some amazing keyboard work on this album. It is absolutely the best album of Glass Hammer. Also I want to mention the beautiful artwork, which is done by Rosana Azar. Lovers of melodic sympho with some reflections of the best Yes work can buy this album blind. You won't be disappointed. As I talk about Yes I don't mean that Glass Hammer is a copycat. I only mean that the atmosphere of the typical Glass Hammer sound sometimes has a delicious Yes fragrance.

Douwe Fledderus - November 2002.
rating - Orion Records

 

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