Chronometree CD, Import [アダルト]
Progressive Rock. Released 2000. Along with Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon and Terry Clouse of Somnambulist are featured on this newest release by the American Progressive Rock Band, Glass Hammer. Als o featured as gue st lead vocalist is Brad Marler. Artist biography: Glass Hammer, a modern-day progressive rock band based in Tennessee, officially began in 1992 when longtime friends Steve Babb and Fred Schendel began writing and recording the Tolkienesque concept album "Journey of the Dunadan". The real origins of the group, however, can be found as far back a s the early days of the 80's. Steve and Fred had yet to meet at that time, but were busy writing and performing with two other friends who would later become memb ers of Glass Hammer -- Walter Moore and David Carter.
In the early 80's, David and Steve formed the group Wizards. Though unsigned and virtually unnoticed by the recording industry, Wizards (a.k.a. Wyzards) was a popular southeastern group with amazing potential and fanatical followers. Wizards was a power trio in the best traditions of Rush and Triumph. The early music of Wizards was influenced heavily by Rush, Sabbath, Nugent, and Kiss. But besides being a fan of heavy metal, Steve was very taken with the sounds of 70's symphonic-progressive bands; thus, his occasional delvings into the music of Yes and ELP began to influence the music of Wizards.
In 1984, Fred and Walter met in the small Tennessee town of Oak Ridge. Fred had relocated from Denver, and Walter was a native. The two of them played together in several local cover bands and eventually formed The Obvious in 1985, with Walter handling vo cals and guitar and Fred playing keys. The band played many eclectic covers, including material from Genesis, Rush, ELP and Pat Travers, and was chosen to be a house band at Six Flags in Atlanta, GA in the summer of 1986.
When The Obvious broke up in 1986, Fred moved to Chattanooga and eventually met Steve, while Walter returned to Oak Ridge. Even though Steve was busy touring for several more years in various bands with David, Fred and Steve managed to work together every chance they got. Eventually, in 1993 the two formed Glass Hammer, and began working on their first opus, "Journey of the Dunadan," a concept album based on the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien. It was released in 1993 and has become a staple of prog-rockers e verywhere, with sweeping grandeur, a narrative story, and richly complex music. The album included several guest musicians, including David on guitar s for one searing track.
Although the two handled nearly every instrument on the album itself, when it came to playing live matters were different. Walter was added to fill the slot as the group's drummer. Glass Hammer toured for a while, playing smaller venues and conventions a round the Southeast. Steve played bass and sang lead vocals, Fred handled keyboards, organ, and more lead vocals, and newcomer Michelle Young playing additional keyboards. David Carter would soon join the live ensemble after the release of the next GH al bum, "Perelandra".
In 1994 they went back to the studio and began working on "Perelandra". This new album was released in 1995 and was an immediate success. Continued musical growth, a cooler tone, epic tracks and mind-blowingly complex passages were the hallmarks of this album as Glass Hammer began building its own mythos, borrowing from C.S. Lewis, Tolkien again, and the band members' religious beliefs. They toured with this album as well, meeting some success in the southeastern areas.
After "Perelandra" the band took a bit of a break from recording, and Michelle left to pursue a solo career. Fans who were clamoring for more GH material were delighted when Steve and Fred released an album of fantasy-themed electro-ambient music under th e project name TMA-2. "Artifact One" departs from the prog-rock that is the typical GH sound, instead showcasing trancelike musical wizardry and electro-dance beats, The album was released in 1996.
In 1997 the band began working on their next epic. To tide fans over, they released "Live and Revived", a limited-edition collection of live rehearsal recordings and unreleased material written just after "Journey" was released . In addition to the new tr acks, GH fans also got a sense of the huge amount of fun the band has playing live and rehearsing.
1997 also saw the release of the Wyzards album "The Final Catastrophe". Steve and David's early group had not died; instead its music had lived on until the appropriate time -- and the time was now! Fred Schendel guested o n Hammond organ and keyboards, helping this part of GH history come to a ringing close.
In early 1998, Steve and Fred, always busy, released a second TMA-2 album, "Tick Tock Lilies", this one packed full of the same ambient-fantasy-electro tracks that made "Artifact One" a hit. Then they retreated back to the studio to finish up the newest G lass Hammer epic, "On To Evermore".
"On To Evermore" came out to a flood of anticipation in March 1998. Continuing the story of "Perelandra", it adds more guitar crunch to the atmospheric keyboard-rock that was GH's trademark, and for the first time showcases Walter's not inconsiderable voc al skills as he sings lead on several tracks. Furthermore, the entire band branched out, Fred and Walter in particular playing a bewildering array of instruments. "On To Evermore" would receive critical acclaim from many sources and go on to be recognized as one of the better albums of 1998.
Now, in 2000, Glass Hammer members find themselves juggling two albums at once. "Chronometree" is the first to be released. Brad Marler is added to the group as lead vocalist for the recording, and Terry Clouse of Somnambulist returns to fill in on guit ars with special guest Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon, also performing additional lead guitars. Fred and Steve intentionally created a 'retro-seventies' feel for the album, filling it wit h analog keyboards, mellotrons, and Hammond organ jams. As anticipation of this new release grew, so did the groups popularity. The Glass Hammer website, run by long time fan and GH friend Phil Carter, became an incredible source for GH news, history, and sound-bytes. Fans began returning to the site daily as the counter cl icked off hundreds of hits every few days.
Epic ballads, crunchy guitars, and grandiose lyrical themes are Glass Hammer trademarks. "Chronometree's" departure from that recipe does not signal a change in the future sound of this great progressive rock outfit, merely a temporary break from form. Gl ass Hammer continually experiment with new ideas like "Chronometree" to give their fans variety and to keep them guessing! This is one group that will never fit the usual mold, and though it's made them hard to classify at times, it's how they prefer to be known. The next Glass Hammer album is already well underway. Fred and Steve promise a return to the groups classic style, and that the best is yet to come. Band members: Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, Arjen Lucassen, Terry Clouse, Brad Marler.
Glass Hammer seem to be all over the shop when it comes to their recordings. The shift in style between "Dunedan" and "Evermore" couln't be more pronounced, and the shift from there to Perelandra ... well, enough said. Versatile, this group.
Chronometree is a concept album about a guy who listens to progressive rock while stoned, achieves enlightenment and hears messages from aliens in the music telling him to assemble the masses for a visit, attracts a crowd into a field to meet the aliens who ... but I've said too much. You want more, buy the album and listen to it the way we used to when it took futuristic-looking transcription turntables, cleaning and anti-static paraphernalia and a 12" vinyl platter to do so. I actually miss the rigmarole and ritual of the LP/Turntable. Don't miss the clicks, pops, scratches, jumps, warps, rumble and hiss though.
The music is great here, with the band evoking Yes, ELP, Genesis (pre and post Gabriel) and no doubt a bunch of others I missed, all while telling the story of Tom the stoner. Some have said that they can't tell whether the band is doing a tribute here, but what I take away is that they are doing something far more clever - a pastiche in order to evoke Tom's state of mind. I love it.
The music is technically superb and melodically clever. If I had a complaint it would be that I find the lyrics sometimes hard to make out amongst the rest of what's going on, and the album (like all Glass Hammer recordings I own to date) has no lyric sheet in the cd insert so I can't do what I did with Fragile and Close to the Edge in my youth and follow along as the album plays.
...what I don't understand here is that, if you're going to make what amounts to an original music tribute to some of the best symphonic progressive bands and musicians, why not go all the way? Didn't ELP have a great vocalist in Greg Lake? Both Gabriel and Collins were excellent in their own ways, and no one can argue the ethereal qualities of Jon Anderson's angelic voice. On "Chronometree," though, more often than not the vocals are mediocre at best and extremely irritating at worst. As another reviewer noted, the singer adopts a very annoying affectation on his voice, but even then, he's not consistant with it. Fortunately, this CD is mostly instrumental.
The best thing here is easily track 6, titled "Chronos Deliverer." Wow, talk about inspiring! I find myself unable to listen to this track just once though; it gets repeated at least three times every time I play this CD. There's a choir singing "Gloria In Excelsius Deo," great synth textures, and screaming, Steve Howe-inspired pedal steel runs throughout. The overall feel is like a combination of Genesis' "Afterglow" and the choral section of Yes' "Awaken." Very moving!
Thus, I'll give this CD 4 stars. Sonically, it's outstanding, and musically, it could easily have merited 5, but the vocals bring it down because they're blatantly irritating, and as such they end up diluting the concept. Still, if you're a fan of the 70's prog rockers ELP, Yes, and Genesis, you'll undoubtedly find something here to like. I'd even go as far as to say track 6 alone is nearly worth the price of the CD. Nearly.