First Impressions

Summit Expedition - Summer of 07

Moderators: MayorOfLongview, FredProgGH, Sam Gamgee, Bnielsen

User avatar
esteban
Amateur
Amateur
Posts: 247
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:09 pm
Location: Red Bank
Contact:

First Impressions

Post by esteban » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:20 pm

I'm hoping everyone one will post their first impressions here as they get the new release. Here are mine, in my usual long-winded, wordy style.

I've had COA barely 24 hours, but I'm already getting the lay of land. The topology, if you will! :P First impressions are dangerous in progressive music, since they tend to change as the music begins to sink in. And while I'll lay off the epics for the most part, this release has made some definite first impressions on me.

First, the "new sound" isn't so much a change of style - this is very much the known and loved Glass Hammer - as an integration of new century possibilities (rhythmic and riffing) and new compositional techniques into an ever-expanding toolbox, augmenting a symphonic rock sensibility firmly grounded in the '70s, not to say 1700's. The choral polyphony, the lovely melodies, the lush synths and strings, clean guitar solos, it's all there, snuggled comfortably next to the trancy/techno-like rhythms and shredding prog-metal guitar and percussion.

Second, David's heads-up last month (David the Yeshead, not the Shredmeister) about the continued integration of the Adonia String Trio was right on - I do believe I heard a viola solo from Susan nestled tightly between Fred's keyboard and Shreddy's guitar solos on track 2! (Right? Wrong? I've misidentified viola before ;^). From swelling the menacing sound of a power trio, to lovely obligato passages under the vocals, these ladies are everywhere. Glass Hammer has made amazing progress - as a BAND - since the Belmont Show, and that show floored me!

Third, the "Mountains as Metaphor" theme of the album speaks to me in many different ways. I was listening to track 5 I believe, driving up the Cumberland Plateau on I-24 yesterday, and found myself thinking about the time I went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park, around Long's Peak. It was a cool but bright sunny May day as we started, but as we got up to the shoulders of the peak it clouded over, and began to hail, just as we reached a shadowed hollow containing a lake, covered completely over in snow. That's one thing this album evoked immediately. For a guy that lived in Colorado, near the edge of the Cumberland Plateau, and (briefly) on Lookout Mountain, these metaphors hit me where I, ahem, lived. Even ignoring that my forebears came to the US from Switzerland.

Continuing on from here will be some thoughts on various tracks, posted on my website. There are SPOILERS.
Last edited by esteban on Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.

User avatar
esteban
Amateur
Amateur
Posts: 247
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:09 pm
Location: Red Bank
Contact:

Post by esteban » Thu Oct 11, 2007 12:44 pm

Oops, forgot this:

For those who need their new release fix sooner than they can get the CD, I'll be playing two tracks Monday (10/15) on my show Retune The Sky. These tracks fit seamlessly into the existing playlist; "Court of Alkinoos" was already there. Two weeks later I'll play more! With a surprise, I hope.
Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.

FredProgGH
Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Posts: 1857
Joined: Tue Dec 10, 2002 3:35 am
Location: The short bus

Post by FredProgGH » Thu Oct 11, 2007 8:26 pm

That was Rebecca on that one. There are a couple viola solos though- one is in Into Thin Air and the other is... I forget *lol*
"The baloney is yodeling" -- [i]Jon Arbuckle[/i]

User avatar
esteban
Amateur
Amateur
Posts: 247
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:09 pm
Location: Red Bank
Contact:

Post by esteban » Fri Oct 12, 2007 7:38 am

That's good to know, I could have sworn I heard a solo viola in there somewhere. So this morning I was listening to Sun Song again, and heard the little opening flourish to the string solo, and thought, that's the violin, just playing on the lower strings mostly.

But I'm the guy that thought the dueling strings that open up Bach's Brandenberg #6 were cellos....then I saw it live. D'oh!
Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.

User avatar
MayorOfLongview
Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Posts: 2273
Joined: Wed Dec 04, 2002 10:08 am
Contact:

Post by MayorOfLongview » Fri Oct 12, 2007 9:58 am

Got this from ZNR this morning....


Fantastic ninth studio release by Glass Hammer! This album has an overall darker feeling than any of their previous work. That isn't to say that it broods, musically or lyrically, but it is 'serious' in a way that their work up until this time hasn't been, or perhaps wanted to be. Maybe it is the brief appearance by prog rock icon Jon Anderson on two tracks, maybe it is the presence of Salem Hill vocalist Carl Groves. Who can say...? Maybe it is something unknowable. This is, at any rate, as dark an album that a group whose main influences are Yes and The Moody Blues could possibly make. It begins with a wonderful performance of the Yes classic "South Side of the Sky". Jon Anderson contributes 'vocalizations' - wordless musings as only the master himself could. The main vocal is by singer Susie Bogdanowicz and it is totally gorgeous. This is as close an idea as we will ever get of what it would have been like to have Annie Haslem join Yes! The rest of the album is classic Glass Hammer but with a certain added inspiration that is hard to pin down. The songs have a 'feeling' that their previous releases never seemed to quite achieve. Maybe it was simply the exhilaration of working with Jon Anderson. Maybe it was the collaboration with Carl Groves, a masterful songwriter in his own right. Again. who can say. This is sure. Fans of Glass Hammer will be absolutely blown away! Yes fans should have this CD for the obvious reason but also because Yes could have written any of this, and been water-holder-backer proud of it! Visually, "Culture of Ascent" reinforces the 'dark' observation with the cover being a bleak, frozen landscape at night with a full moon trying to shine through the clouds and a lone figure walking toward the viewer. Lyrically, the band has moved several steps away from the fantasy-like, Tolkien-esque narratives of their previous work and on to more personal musings about emotional isolation, loneliness, perhaps even despair - but underneath it all a feeling of repressed optimism and hope, attaining a sort of mixture of Jon Anderson and Peter Hammill at times. Founders Steve Babb & Fred Schendel provide all manner of keyboards, guitars and percussion. The Adonia String Trio also appear once again adding a classical touch here & there. Also returning this time around are drummer Matt Mendians and singer Susie Bogdanowicz. Carl Groves (of Salem Hill) shares lead vocal duties with Bogdanowicz. Newcomer David Wallimann on guitars rounds out the line-up. "Culture of Ascent" is a monumental release that all fans of the 'classic' prog sound should treasure. This is what it is all about. Highest recommendation!!!
I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down.'- Bob Newhart

User avatar
Bnielsen
Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Posts: 3849
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2003 4:26 am
Location: Spring City, Pennsylvania, USA
Contact:

Post by Bnielsen » Fri Oct 12, 2007 12:44 pm

They really understated the role of good 'ol Shreddy, he was practically a bootnote!
Brian Nielsen
GH Merch '09 - GH Roadie '05 - GH NEARFest Choir '03
Image

User avatar
yeshead 777
Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Posts: 1163
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 10:54 pm
Location: Red Bank

Post by yeshead 777 » Sat Oct 13, 2007 12:35 am

Bnielsen wrote:They really understated the role of good 'ol Shreddy, he was practically a bootnote!
Otherwise, a really accurate and sincere review. Hard to cover everything-there's so much here to cover. Those of us that really KNOW and love this band will know how much Shreddy,Carl, and Matt, and the Adonai trio contribute to the greatness of this album!
Art can "make people feel what's true rather than telling them".[Dan Haseltine,Jars of Clay].

User avatar
Physicist
Amateur
Amateur
Posts: 86
Joined: Thu Oct 11, 2007 6:53 pm
Location: Katy, Texas

Further impressions

Post by Physicist » Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:13 pm

Interesting comments. I have been out of country, so I may have missed it, but I haven't seen any reference to Sam Karnick's review:

http://www.stkarnick.com/

(Posted Oct.2--scroll down a few pages)

Karnick also sees a higher level of inspiration in CoA, similar to this review. Karnick does not hand out praise lightly, but his recommendation for CoA rare even from him:

"Given that the music is as intelligent and complex as we have come to expect from this band, and that the lyrical concept is equally intelligent and sophisticated, this is Glass Hammer's best album yet. And that is saying a lot."

October 23 seems like such a long time away...
"If I hadn't believed it, I wouldn't have seen it." -- Old Geologist's saw

User avatar
Bnielsen
Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Posts: 3849
Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2003 4:26 am
Location: Spring City, Pennsylvania, USA
Contact:

Post by Bnielsen » Sun Oct 14, 2007 3:37 pm

Wow! What a nice review! =)
Brian Nielsen
GH Merch '09 - GH Roadie '05 - GH NEARFest Choir '03
Image

yanks07
Amateur
Amateur
Posts: 171
Joined: Thu Sep 20, 2007 8:04 am
Location: New Jersey

Post by yanks07 » Tue Oct 16, 2007 1:24 pm

Bnielsen wrote:Wow! What a nice review! =)
He's a major prog head and has said nice things about GH and Salem Hill in the past.
And now for something completly different

nazpastor
Newbie
Newbie
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Oct 18, 2007 3:42 pm

Culture of Ascent

Post by nazpastor » Fri Oct 19, 2007 10:05 am

OK, this is my first post on the forum.

I received my bundle yesterday, several days earlier than I expected. I immediately put CoA in the disc player and listened to it all the way through three times.

This is an incredible disc. The tone of the album is set immediately with the beginning of South Side of the Sky. It sounds as if one is starting out on a journey in a very barren and desolate place. For the next hour one journeys across the darkened landscape.

This album as others have posted seems darker than others albums. The Yes influence is definitely present, especially in the keyboard work.

A sense of brooding is present throughout the album. As I said above, it is a journey and as most journeys are, not everything is bright and cheery. I don't know that I will be able to listen to this disc on bright sunny days, it suits gloomy, cloudy days moreso. That may sound strange, but there is so much emotion present in the disc that one cannot help but be consumed by it.

If you don't have it ordered, get it. If you don't have the Compilations disc, the bonus track is definitely worth buying a CD copy of the project. I had it from iTunes and I always wanted an original disc version. I bought the bundle just to get a disc of compilations and the bonus track is a great additon to a great project. I recommend buying the bundle just to get that track.

Great job everyone.

User avatar
esteban
Amateur
Amateur
Posts: 247
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2005 5:09 pm
Location: Red Bank
Contact:

Post by esteban » Fri Oct 19, 2007 11:15 am

The other night I put the disc in the car stereo while my wife and I went for takeout Chinese. We didn't even get all the way through the first three tracks, but when we got home, she said:

"Stephen, this is a beautiful CD."

From her, high praise indeed.
Ecce quam bonum et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum.

User avatar
DruidsGlass
Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Posts: 1144
Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2004 6:06 am
Location: Cookeville
Contact:

Post by DruidsGlass » Fri Oct 19, 2007 12:36 pm

I got Culture of Ascent yesterday (Thursday). I've listened to it the whole way through many times but I keep coming back to Into Thin Air and Rest. More Rest than Into Thin Air. I love the way that you guys are mixing up the vocals (I seem to remember a while back having discussions about that, or at least digging up old topics on it :P). Being a violinist, I love the prominence of the strings. It warms my heart.

So, in closing, I'd like to say that I like where you guys are going with this. It's a big difference between this album and Lex Rex. Both are great, but I have to say that this just might be your best work so far, in my opinion.
We shall not let Word Association go quietly into the night!

User avatar
yeshead 777
Hammerhead
Hammerhead
Posts: 1163
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 10:54 pm
Location: Red Bank

Post by yeshead 777 » Sat Oct 20, 2007 7:25 am

After 3 or 4 listens now,not counting the preview a month ago. The word that keeps coming to mind is "INNOVATive", GH has always been innovative, even for modern PROG, put they really have pushed the envelope in so many ways this time. The writing collabaration between Fred and Carl on EWN(my fav so far), and Rest is incredible.Carl's voice not only suits all of the music, but is mixed so well with Susie's and the other backing vocals. Don't even get me started on the Adonai Trio's influence-this ould no where be the masterpiece it is without them. A pure classical touch here, a Kansas touch here-they've never been the same since Rebecca stood up and rocked out at the Tivoli show! The CD is so consistant too!"Sun Song" was my fav at first, but EWN just blows me away CRANKED UP!!!Rest has the most beautiful lyrics and meaning of any CG song! I love the vocalizations by Jon on "Life by Light", and Carl's voice is impeccable here to, but it will have to grow a little more on me, so will "Into thin Air" which has the best ending of any GH song besides "Having caught a Glimpse".David's work is incredible throughout-esp. on SS and EWN, and Matt rips the skins to shreads on EWN.The sequencing of the songs-esp. the segue from SSOTS to SS is pure genius.Just when you've reached the heights with ITA, Rest brings you back to a haunting, but beautiful reality. This truly is an inspired work, and one I will glean something new from each listen. Somewhere I read somebody say-maybe it was Steve-we'd like to make the kind of CD YES would make now if they were at the top of theis game.Well, obviously they are as performers, but not songwriters. The thing that I think really is going to set COA apart from all of the other GH CD's, and most modern prog-is the INSPIRED songwriting, and the incredible performances-everyone plays their role perfectly.OK. I'll quit gushing for now!You guys out did yourself!someone needs to send a copy of EWN to Portnoy and Petrucci and watch their mouths drop to the freakin' floor!
Art can "make people feel what's true rather than telling them".[Dan Haseltine,Jars of Clay].

Venividi
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 116
Joined: Sat Apr 05, 2003 4:01 pm

Post by Venividi » Sat Oct 20, 2007 4:53 pm

I received my copy on Thursday as well, but have only had a chance to listen to it to straight through once and in pieces a couple of times. Like all great prog, this one will take a while to digest, but my first impression can be summed up in 2 words:

"Majestic" and "Masterpiece"

As much of Jon Anderson fan as I am, I was a little apprehensive in hearing the samples that Jon's presence on the album would be disappointing, either because I would want to hear him sing all of the songs, or because his vocalizing would make it sound like Yes Wannabe's. But it is integrated so well it just sounds like it belongs - Thanks, Jon! Lots of new sounds and colours, but clearly still GH.

Once again Steve and Fred and the crew had laid it on the line and produced yet another great work of art. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who worked on this project!!!!

Post Reply