Talk about grandiose! American prog band Glass Hammer now have another DVD under their belt, this one a full-blown event taped at Belmont University's Massey Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. Featuring an expanded band with a few new members, plus the Adonia String Trio as well as the 150+ member Belmont University Choir, this is modern progressive rock at its most over the top and bombastic.
Absent this time around is guitarist/vocalist Walter Moore, and in his place are Salem Hill vocalist Carl Grove and guitar phenom David Wallimann. Rounding out the band are charter members Fred Schendel on keyboards/vocals and Steve Babb on bass guitar/vocals, drummer Matt Mendians, Erik Parker on acoustic and steel guitar, and vocalists Susie Bogdanowicz, Bethany Warren, and Flo Paris. Most of the set list is culled from the bands last few albums The Inconsolable Secret, Shadowlands, and Lex Rex, and seeing as the majority of the songs chosen are fairly lengthy the 90 minute set features only nine songs. As far as modern prog rock bands go, few play symphonic 70's styled music as well as Glass Hammer, and this live set is a fine example of their talents.
New guitarist Wallimann is quite the find, as he plays in a style that seems to take influence from such players like Frank Gambale, Eddie Van Halen, and Allan Holdsworth. He meshes perfectly with Schendel, even getting in some wicked unison exchanges with the keyboard ace, who adds to the 70's feel with his layers of Hammond, Moog, and Mellotron sounds from his large keyboard rack. Groves does a fine job on lead vocals, even though it's obvious that he is not overly familiar with the material. There is a slide slow with commentary on DVD2 that mentions the fact that Carl stepped into this gig pretty much at the last minute, and even brought along his band Salem Hill to open up the show. Glass Hammer's sound over the last few years has really become reliant on the wonderful female vocal trio of Bogdanowicz, Warren, and Paris, who add an extra amount of class and sophistication to the music, and each gets solo spots as well as plenty of opportunity for lush backing vocals. Bassist Babb also gets in some lead vocals as well, giving the band a pretty well rounded sound from a vocal perspective, and when the Belmont choir makes their way out on the stage for the last few songs, that obviously is magnified even more. Hot songs in the set include "Farewell to Shadowlands", "One King", and the epic "Knight of the North", but really the set list in whole was picked to impress, and it does.
Visually and sonically this is a very enjoyable DVD from Glass Hammer. The show is mixed in 5.1 surround sound, and sounds great, and the camera work, despite some rough shots and cuts from time to time, is pretty solid. The venue was a good size with a large stage, perhaps a little too large until the 150+ person choir joined them, and the sizeable audience were well into the show. There's a good amount of bonus material, including some clips of earlier gigs (remember, this is a band that rarely plays live) behind the scenes and rehearsal footage, commentary, and slideshows. As far as progressive rock DVD packages go, you can't get much better than this.
1. Long and Long Ago
2. One King
3. Run Lisette
4. Farewell to Shadowlands
5. Through the Glass Darkly
6. Knight of the North
7. When We Were Young
8. Having Caught a Glimpse
9. Heroes and Dragons
Bonus: Behind-the-scenes video footage
Bonus: Rehearsal video footage
Bonus: Slideshow with commentary
Total Time: Over 250 minutes of content