The time couldn't have been better for Tennessee's Glass Hammer to record their "magnum-opus", their crowning achievement so to speak. Seeing as Spock's Beard, Echolyn, and the Flower Kings have all recently released grandiose concept albums to critical and fan acclaim, it would have taken a monumental work of art for this fine prog-rock band to keep up the pace. Well, Lex Rex is that damn good, and a throwback to the great prog recordings from the early 70's from bands like Yes, ELP, Genesis, and Gentle Giant. While Glass Hammer never proclaimed to be the most original band on the planet (something the critics always harped on for some reason), their old-school brand of classic, keyboard soaked prog pays homage to the greats, and is delivered in such a professional manner that is both striking and exhilerating for the listener.
Steve Babb (vocals, bass, keyboards) and Fred Schendel (vocals, keyboards, guitars, drums) are Glass Hammer, and as usual pull together a handful of top-notch musicians to help round out this recording. The story here is about a Roman soldier whose journey into the world in search of glory takes him into tremendous battles with many fantastic and mythological characters. Sound like a prog lovers dream? You bet! Delivered within a structure of wild Moog, Hammond, piano, and Mellotron work from keyboard master Schendel, you would swear that this was 1972 all over again. In fact, some of the electric and steel guitar lines on tunes like "Further Up and Further In" and "A Cup of Trembling" sound like leftovers from the Close to the Edge recording sessions, while Tales of the Great Wars is complex as anything Gentle Giant ever recorded, and features a similar vocal style.
Huge beds of Mellotron surround nimble Moog runs on the compelling "Centurion", which also has very tasty lead guitar breaks from Schendel (yes, the man can do it all!) Guest artists include Somnambulist guitarist Charlie Shelton, Wizard and sometime Glass Hammer mate David Carter, multi-instrumentalist Bjorn Lynne, and a host of female vocalists. To say this is a well rounded and enjoyable package is an understatement. Having Babb and Schendel (as well as recurring Hammer mate Walter Moore) handle most of the lead male vocals this time around was a good choice, as their voices fit perfectly with these songs. The band's last lead singer had a very annoying voice that did not mesh with this style of music.
What more needs to be said-this is one of the years best traditional prog sounding releases. Glass Hammer have moved themselves into the upper echelon of the new blood, and just in time. Lex Rex is a crowning achievement and sure to be an instant classic of the genre.