Chronomonaut is the 17th (!) album from US progressive rock veterans Glass Hammer, and is the loose sequel to their fourth release, 2000's Chronometree. Here, the band pick up the story of prog rock fan Tom, who previously was convinced that aliens were trying to communicate with him through his favorite music, now he's all grown up, started his own band, and wants to be a '70s rock superstar. Check out the bands social media platforms of late, as they've been very busy trying to make Tom a living, breathing character. It's a fun, light concept album that will instantly appeal to any longtime prog fan, and as always the band have presented a spectacularly produced & performed album here that also brings a few new elements to their sound.
For Chronomonaut, the current line-up of Glass Hammer is:
Susie Bogdanowicz - lead & backing vocals
Fred Schendel - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Steve Babb - bass, keyboards, lead & backing vocals
Aaron Raulston - drums
In addition, there are a number of guest stars here on guitars, drums, and horns, as well as Discipline lead vocalist Matthew Parmenter. Oh, yes, you read that correctly, horns, on a Glass Hammer album. "Roll for the Initiative" is the first appearance of the horn section, sax & brass blending with Mellotron, synths, and guitar for what comes across as a marriage of early '70s Chicago and Yes, the results being absolutely glorious. Babb's lead vocal and wonderfully melodic bass lines just weave throughout this instantly memorable track, as the jazz & prog collide for a fantastic listening experience. Tasty lead guitar and sumptuous keyboards give way to acoustic guitar and Susie's delightful vocal on "Twilight of the Godz", a song all about 'getting the band back together again', which leads into "The Past is Past", highlighted by some cool, breezy sax, Hammond organ, synths, electric piano, and Parmenter's playful lead vocal. Dreamy arrangements permeated with lush guitars, keyboards, silken bass, and Bogdanowicz's ethereal vocals make up the pleasant "1980 Something", and the band lurch back in with some quirky, yet heavy prog for "A Hole in the Sky", a tune that also has a slight new wave/power pop edge to it, featuring guest vocals from Patton Locke. Awesome Mellotron on this one, as well as continued bass brilliance from Babb. "Clockwork", and "Tangerine Meme" for that matter, are brief instrumentals that pay tribute to the great German electronic masters Tangerine Dream, the synths & sequencers all blipping and chirping in grand fashion, while "Melancholy Holiday" is more of a moody pop track, Susie's gentle vocal soaring over brooding synths and some Fripp-ian lead guitar swells.
The instrumental "It Always Burns Sideways" shows the band haven't forgotten how to deliver vintage '70s styled prog rock, the lead guitars battling with the Hammond & synths, the drum work of Raulston acrobatic, Babb's bass nimble, and the textured acoustic guitar adding a nice touch. Majestic stuff. Shades of Frank Zappa as well as the previously mentioned Chicago pop up on the 'jazz-meets-prog' gem "Blinding Light", horns blaring and combating with Schendel's array of keyboards and guitar textures, male vocals fitting in well with the more muscular arrangement. Closing out this concept album is the 10-minute "Fade Away", the longest track here, kicking off with atmospheric piano and both male & female vocals, the synths start to make their presence known as the intensity picks up, resulting in a symphonic prog-rock crescendo, Parmenter really shining on the vocals, and the band eventually drifting out with glorious vocal harmonies, synths, and melodic lead guitar solos. This finale brings the story to an end, or does it?
Glass Hammer could have taken the easy route here and delivered another trademark symphonic prog excursion, and I don't think anyone would have blinked an eye or complained, but you have to give them credit for not taken that path and instead added in some new elements which have ultimately given Chronomonaut so much variety. The horns especially blending in quite well, giving a number of songs a wild 'jazz-prog' feel that is simply exhilarating to listen to. As always, a job well done by this long running and super talented US act.
See more about this release on our recent YouTube show!
1. The Land of Lost Content (1:54)
2. Roll for Initiative (7:43)
3. Twilight of the Godz (8:13)
4. The Past is Past (9:56)
5. 1980 Something (5:51)
6. A Hole in the Sky (4:49)
7. Clockwork (2:17)
8. Melancholy Holiday (4:27)
9. It Always Burns Sideways (5:49)
10. Blinding Light (6:01)
11. Tangerine Meme (3:05)
12. Fade Away (10:27)