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Glass Hammer: Valkyrie

Veteran US prog act Glass Hammer are no strangers to change, and as we've seen founding members Steve Babb & Frend Schendel do many times throughout the career of this band, when new blood is needed they don't hesitate to make the move. In the case of their latest release Valkyrie, that new blood is actually a familiar face, namely vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz, who has spent considerable time in and out of the band over the years, but now steps in full time as lead vocalist after the departures of Jon Davison and Carl Groves. The band haven't thrown her out there by herself however, as both Babb & Schendel have upped their vocal contributions here on Valkyrie as well, giving the album a multi-layered feel that we haven't seen in years from the group. Toss in the excellent work of guitarist Kamran Alan Shikoh and drummer Aaron Raulston, both of whom have now spent considerable time with the band, we might just have the most formidable line-up of Glass Hammer yet.

As for the album itself, Valkyrie is another prog-rock concept album, this time with the story dealing with the horrors of war and how relationships can be separated and ravaged but ultimately need to be brought back together after the dust has settled. It's an emotional concept for sure, which mankind has seen way too many times in our history, but Glass Hammer have found a way to give it their uplifting, positive spin, and adding a healthy dollop of vintage & modern progressive rock flavors certainly helps matters. Schendel, as always, delivers a virtuoso performance throughout, his 'Emerson-meets-Wakeman' flights on a multitude of keyboards just a marvel to behold, and right there alongside him are the muscular bass lines of Babb (and extra keyboards as well!) adding plenty of heft to these dramatic songs. Bogdanowicz has a lovely voice that has only gotten stronger over the years, and she's paired with plenty of lead & backing vocals from the two founders that give many of these songs a rich & colorful tone. Some of the songs here rock a bit harder than what we've come to expect from the band, like the raging "No Man's Land", complete with furious riffs from Shikoh and plenty of keyboard textures. The title track is a perfect example of 'light and shade', permeated with not only majestic bombast but also glorious atmosphere, while the upbeat "Fog of War" is a complex prog workout for the entire band. Susie's luxurious vocals soar over symphonic arrangements on the adventurous "Dead and Gone", a track also featuring some stellar guitar & keyboard passages, but she settles into a more angelic role on the slowly building "Eucatastrophe" before coming into the light on the emotional grand finale "Rapturo".

Valkyrie is ultimately another massive triumph for this Tennessee based band, who continue to amaze us album after album in a career that is now in its 23rd year. If you want to hear a modern progressive rock band in their prime making exquisite music, look no further.

See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!

Track Listing
1. The Fields We Know (7:37)
2. Golden Days (6:20)
3. No Man's Land (14:20)
4. Nexus Girl (2:58)
5. Valkyrie (5:55)
6. Fog Of War (8:24)
7. Dead And Gone (9:56)
8. Eucatastrophe (3:31)
9. Rapturo (6:13)

Added: October 24th 2016
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2522
Language: english

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