Review – Glass Hammer – Mostly Live In Italy – by Progradar

“While it’s standard practice for bands to edit live material before releasing it, we knew going in that the guitar tracks would need replacing. We viewed that as an opportunity to do something really unique with this album, namely, adding some new ideas to the mix while preserving the integrity and energy of the live show.” – Glass Hammer co-founder Steve Babb.

That explains the album title then, glad that’s out of the way! ‘Mostly Live In Italy’ represents Glass Hammer’s first-ever concert in Italy at the 2 Days + 1 Prog Festival in Veruno and they were determined to create an incredible memento from that experience that their fans would love.

It features nearly all of the band’s amazing ‘Valkyrie’ album, a wonderful treatise on the horror, fear and eventual hope of World War 1 along with nearly twenty minutes of classic Glass Hammer material.

The symphonic introduction raises the hairs on the back of your neck and then the instantly recognisable duo of Steve Babb’s bass and Fred Schendel’s keys take over as we move into the smooth sounds of The Fields We Know and the energetic tones of Golden Days where the guys also get to show their instrumental chops, Susie Bogdanowicz’s elegant vocals stamp their authority on proceedings immediately. From the first note you know that this is going to be a cultured live album, taking all that’s great about the studio releases and adding that edgy, immediate feel that you can only get from a live setting. There’s a nice flow to the music and you feel you are being drawn into the actual performance.

One of my favourite tracks from ‘Valkyrie’ is No Mans Land and this domineering, dread inducing song is giving a haunting treatment on the live stage, a powerful statement that lives with you long after it comes to a close. Nexus Girl, Fog of WarDead And Gone – they all hold you in rapt attention, Susie’s stage presence coming across in her regal vocal delivery and the musicians just excel in front of a live audience. This is a band at the height of their powers and sure of their place in the pantheon of prog rock bands, just listen to Eucatastrophe and you’ll see what I mean.

A welcome addition to the tracklist is the wonderful The Glass Hammer Melody – Chronos Deliverer/If The Sun which had me grinning from ear to ear and picking out the parts of classic GH songs from the years gone by, the close out is just magical, the keyboards and Aaron Raulston’s drums bringing the piece to a crescendo and the vocals delivering the classic lines,

“When the morning comes, when at last the sun shines clear, I will hear you singing…”

It’s utterly spine tingling and then we finish off with a high-energy, up-tempo version of Hyperbole from 2009’s ‘Three Cheers For The Broken Hearted’. Here the band really sound like they are most definitely ‘on it’ and it is a vibrant end to what has been an utterly involving near seventy five minutes of ‘mostly’ live music.

Once again, the seminal US progressive rock band Glass Hammer have delivered on their promise, ‘Mostly Live in Italy’ is progressive rock at its majestic best in an incredible live setting, what more could you possibly want?

Released 18th May 2018

Order the live album from Glass Hammer’s webstore here


Review – Fates Warning – Live Over Europe – by Jez Denton

The reason for listening to live albums, for me, is one of two. Either it is listening to an album to remind you of an amazing gig you’ve been at such as Queen’s ‘Live Magic’ or the Marillion bootleg series or it is to get a different level of enjoyment of a band you wish you’d seen at their pomp, ‘Slade on Stage’ and Thin Lizzy – ‘Live and Dangerous’ being great examples. But listening to a live album from a band you don’t really know? It’s kind of a weird experience.

Such a band, pretty much unknown to me (despite a 30 odd year career) is Fates Warning, who are releasing their ‘Live Over Europe’ double CD (3 LP) live album on the 29th June. I didn’t really know what to expect and I must admit, seeing that there are 23 tracks on this release, I viewed it with quite some trepidation. It’s quite an epic amount of music to get through, especially if it’s new to you. Would I get through it? Would it hold my attention? Would it make me care enough to want to like it?

Thankfully, it answered all my worries right from the opening track, the masterful From The Rooftops. This is a loud, dynamic, symphonic and brutal heavy metal assault on the senses, a barrage of melodic noise, crunching guitars and a piercing rock vocal from singer Ray Alder. This is music designed to be noise terrorism, a building crescendo of discordant melodies voiced by an angelic voice; OK, a Hell’s Angel but still, what a combination they make.

It is Alder’s voice that truly makes this album for me. Like many more famous rock frontmen with great ranges, Alder isn’t drowned by the melodic noise behind him, he soars and rises above it, taking the various crowds with him, reaching heights that you feel can’t be surpassed until Alder surpasses them himself. The crowds are part of this show, the adulation and commitment add to the whole package of this album which has been fabulously mixed (Jens Borgen) and mastered (Tony Lindgren). The songs chosen are brilliantly paced, have moments of both introspection and crescendo; from the first tracks I genuinely couldn’t wait to see where the next song would go. It certainly has made me want to look up the studio recordings of this band.

In my opening paragraph I mentioned that one of the reasons for listening to live albums was, in a sense, nostalgia for gig memories the listener may have experienced. This album, in a weird way, taps into that idea too. Listening to the album I drifted back to a time when I saw bands like Iron Maiden in smaller theatre settings, or when I saw bands like Nuclear Assault and Suicidal Tendencies in club venues. It took me back to a time when I used to work doors and stage duties at rock clubs in the North East of England as security. It reminded me, in those days before health and safety and the wearing of ear defenders, why my hearing is completely fucked! If you know Fates Warning this is a must buy release and, if you don’t I’d suggest investing in it as you won’t regret it all.

Released June 29th 2018

Order the album from Burning Shed here

Review – Tumbletown – Never Too Late – by Jez Denton

I like a rock opera. There, I said it. If I’m in the right mood there is nothing more uplifting than a hugely bombastic, sub-classical, up its own arse (in a good way), melodramatic musical. I find enjoyment in some of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s most over the top moments; I’d really love to see the revival of Chess (other than the fact it stars Alexandria Burke – but that’s another story.) And this love of musical theatre passes into some of the rock music I enjoy. From seeing Queen and Marillion strut their stuff in the 1980’s right up to recent live extravagant shows by the likes of Muse, bands who rock up to stadiums with music and shows that fill these open spaces will always flick my switch.

Sometimes bands will try to create albums that have the feel of something theatrical. Sometimes they get the balance right and don’t fall into the trap of just creating something a bit naff. And sometimes they don’t. Starting up the first track off the new album, ‘Never Too Late’, by Dutch prog rockers Tumbletown, I had a fear that I was going to be investing time in something on the wrong side of pretentious; it’s a pet hate of mine – opening album tracks called Prelude (or Intro or something equally unadventurous. Give it a proper name guys!) But my fears were soon allayed as we entered the following songs which, on the whole, are marvellously evocative, clever and brilliant tracks.

Ok, lyrically there are some clunky moments; but this I can forgive most bands writing words in a second language. Mind you, it is no worse than some of the worst lyrical excesses of ‘try too hard’ poetry that finds its way into a lot of English prog rock bands too (you all know who I mean here – no need to say much more.) It doesn’t get in the way of the overall enjoyment; cut some slack for lines like ‘looking into my notebook’ and ‘lost muses’ and no harm is done and, to be fair, the stories and tales do flow, the third track, Avalon, being a particular highlight for me.

On first listen to the album I found myself a bit disconcerted as I heard a famous voice in the mix; not literally, but there was a spirit of somebody which I couldn’t put my finger on. What the album did do on subsequent listens was that it opened up doors and avenues to explore, each time you can pick up a new intricacy here, a nuance there. It was one of these nuances that finally allowed the mystery to click as I got the touchstone I was looking for that, being for me, huge similarity to the great Ian Anderson (25 years or so ago, not now he’s lost his range.) That realisation is what made the album for me, this is a kind of Jethro Tull album for the 21st century and that really does fit. After all, Tull and Anderson were always at the forefront of progressive music as a theatrical experience; something Tumbletown’s ‘Never Too Late’ has taken, developed and updated for today’s music.

Released 24th May 2018

Order the album in the UK here

Order the album in Europe here: