Band: Glass Hammer

CD Title: “Culture of Ascent”

Band Website: 

Label: Arion Records

Release Date: 2007


We all have records that we anticipate with a certain glee….for me one of those bands is Glass Hammer. Ever since I discovered the band years ago I’ve relished every release. So when I checked the mail and saw a package from Arion Records, I was excited to find the new Glass Hammer release called Culture of Ascent. And putting it one, from the first couple minutes I knew I would not be disappointed.


I make no secret of the fact that symphonic progressive rock is my favorite, and in my books Glass Hammer is one of the best practitioners of progressive rock music around today. Their latest release features the band most of you will have seen on their Live at Belmont DVD featuring of course the duo of Steve Babb and Fred Schendel along with band mates Susie Bogdanowicz, Matt Mendians and relative newcomers Carl Groves and David Wallimann. I’m glad to see they’ve chosen to incorporate the Adonia String Trio into many of these compositions as the use of these three has added a nice touch. I must admit when I first heard Groves vocals on the DVD singing tracks from The Inconsolable Secret it took some getting used to. He has a softer tone than Walter Moore, but here singing these new pieces, his voice fits in really well.


There are six compositions here to enjoy and not a duff-track in the bunch. All the songs are themed around the title Culture of Ascent. They all focus on reaching for something higher and overcoming the dangers of doing so. Musically, this is everything we’ve come to expect from Glass Hammer, symphonic prog with huge swells of orchestration, moving moments of sweetness and searing distorted guitar over beds of Mellotron or Hammond organ. Interestingly the disc starts of with a cover version of Yes’ “South Side of the Sky” (9:24) which is sung beautifully by Bogdanowicz after a brief insert from Jon Anderson himself. Anderson then makes another appearance on track 3 “Light by Light” (7:29). There are two major epics here; “Ember Without Name” (16:33) and “Into Thin Air” (19:14). All of these tracks contain the Glass Hammer hallmarks; edgy guitar, flowing strings, keyboards galore, wonderful harmonies and ever changing time, tempo and moods.


Glass Hammer’s Culture of Ascent is everything melodic symphonic prog sets out to be. Richly orchestrated, filled with changing moods and masterfully played. I could go on, but what’s the point, Culture of Ascent is easily one of my top CDs for 2007. You know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this is symphonic progressive rock of the highest order and gets my highest recommendation.