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Glass Hammer: Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted

With the release of Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted, it's pretty obvious that there's been some changes in the Glass Hammer camp since 2007's Culture of Ascent. For one, the band (at least in the studio) is now a trio of Steve Babb (bass, vocals, keyboards, guitar), Fred Schendel (keyboards, guitars, vocals, drums, Mellotron, cello, horns), and vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz (with Josh Bates & David Wallimann handling some guitar on a few tracks). Second, Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted sees the band steering away somewhat from their bombastic progressive rock concept album format, going for a more song-based structure that emphasizes pop and hard rock styles more so than their normal symphonic prog sound. Third, just who is that thin bald guy with the glasses on the front cover of the CD? Well, that just happens to be Schendel, now all trim and fit after some serious weight loss, and ready to lay his distinctive keyboard style all over Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted, which he most certainly does.

As I mentioned earlier, there seems to be more of an emphasis on melodic pop numbers and hard rock than prog on this one, but fret not, there's still plenty of symphonic passages and loads of keyboards from Schendel. "Come On, Come On" kicks things off with Susie's lovely vocals, a lush little pop number that shows just how well this band can write a heartfelt, emotional little song. Familiar GH themes rear their head on the mixture of prog & hard rock that is "The Lure of Dreams", featuring crunchy guitar riffs and layers of synths, while "A Rose for Emily" is another charming little ditty that turns out to be a great vehicle for Susie's vocals. The band almost move into Spock's Beard territory on the raucous "Sleep On", complete with wild synth blasts, chugging riffs, and some fantastic background vocals from Schendel. Fred takes the vocal stage on the Babb-penned quirky pop number "The Mid-Life Weird", and some fascinating lyrics accompany the Mellotron drenched "A Bitter Wind", featuring a another great performance from Bogdanowicz. The Mellotron again plays a central figure on the proggy hard rock of "The Curse They Weave", and after the melancholy "Sundown Shores", the band lurches into the rather odd "Schrodinger's Lament", a prog-meets-metal number that mixes in some strange narrative clips with Schendel's almost whisper-like vocals. The CDs longest track (at surprisingly just under 8-minutes!), "Hyperbole", is vintage Glass Hammer, complete with plenty of symphonic layers, strong vocals, and quirky guitar work. Schendel's lead vocals, piano, and organ lead the band out on the mellow "Falling", which at times almost sounds like something Procol Harum might have recorded.

Three Cheers for the Broken Hearted is certainly a bold statement from a band that for years has been wowing their fans with one stellar release after another of 70's inspired epic & bombastic prog-rock albums. They've certainly toned & stripped down their sound quite a bit here, and though that might not sit well with longtime fans in need of another monstrous concept album fix, those who might be in the mood for some lighter fare, or even lovers of poppy prog with female vocals, will find much to like here.

Track Listing
1. Come On, Come On (3:37)
2. The Lure of Dreams (5:52)
3. A Rose for Emily (3:09)
4. Sleep On (4:06)
5. The Mid-Life Weird (3:55)
6. A Bitter Wind (4:35)
7. The Curse They Weave (4:30)
8. Sundown Shores (4:35)
9. Schrodinger's Lament (5:12)
10. Hyperbole (7:38)
11. Falling (4:36)

Added: November 28th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 4205
Language: english

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