“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” – Lewis Carrol, ‘Alices Adventures in Wonderland’.
In music, most albums contain individual stories, the songs, and then some albums have a thematic link: concept albums. So, when one of my favourite bands tells me they are releasing a space-based concept album, trust me, I am going to be hooked…
Legendary American proggers Glass Hammer return with deep space exploration concept album ‘Arise’, this new release follows the extraordinary journey of an android dispatched by overzealous scientists to uncover the galaxy’s hidden wonders.
So let’s delve into this musical space adventure, the explanation can come later…
An incredible amalgamation of prog-rock, 70’s hard rock, psych rock, doom and even a definite 80’s vibe, ‘Arise’ will at times leave you slack jawed and open mouthed at its audacity and in-your-face brilliance and, while definitively a Glass Hammer album, there’s new found confidence in every note.
Android Research Initiative for Space Exploration
Statement From A.S.T.R.A. (Advanced Space Technology and Research Agency): Harnessing the powers of celestial-rift anomaly MARS-WRM-001, android ARISE ventures to deep space, unraveling cosmic enigmas and pushing the boundaries of exploration. Our audacious pursuit of knowledge shall illuminate the universe, leaving an indelible mark on the annals of cosmic understanding.
Let the adventure begin with Launch of the Daedalus, an urgent instrumental full of anticipation as we await the launch of the exploratory craft with the android on board. If anyone remembers Boston’s ‘Third Stage’ then The Launch comes to mind, painting a picture in your mind of a spacecraft rising majestically into a bright blue sky.
“Here I go, riding on a flame
Through the sky
I’m burning brighter
Than the sun, and can anyone
see me now.”
Wolf 359 hoves into view like a cinematic epic, the marching music full of pomp and circumstance before we hear the dulcet tones of Hannah Pryor and what a voice she has, a perfect match for the dynamism and majesty of the all-powerful music. It perfectly sets us on the interstellar journey. There’s a thought provoking keyboard section before the vastness of space is invoked once more.
The vastness of deep space unfolds, a testament to the extraordinary capacities of human and android intellect.
Like a majestic slice of hard rock infused electronica, ARION (18 delphini b) fires a warning shot with Steve’s effects laden voice leading us into the track before Hannah takes over again. It’s a wonderful thrill ride of galactic proportions and the funky keyboards add a touch of 70’s cool to the song.
“Thank God I found it
The only place I’d ever want to be
Thank God, who made it
My shining castle by the sea.”
Steve then trades solos with Reece’s scintillating guitar as our android protagonist stands upon the shore of Mare Sirenum marvelling at the singular beauty of its waters. Contemplating the wonders he sees here has conjured within him a deep longing for something he cannot name or explain. we then cleverly segue into the delicate wonder of Mare Sirenum, a delightful instrumental that pings and chimes and reminds me of early Sci-fi classic films.
“There I stood in perfect silence all alone Circled round by memories of all I’d known Then you called out from the darkness
All that I could do
Was turn and run away from you.”
A harsh and intense instrumental section ushers in Lost, invoking some painful feelings and memories before Hannah’s beautiful vocals begin, full of pathos and warmth. It’s a song of two extremes and they work perfectly, the alien intro a harsh reality against the beautiful pathos of the elegant vocals. There’s some delightful keyboards and drumming before that slightly off-kilter, almost alien back drop returns and then plays a game of cat and mouse with Hannah’s ethereal voice, what a superb track.
Transmission from Android Research Unit ARISE:
Curious anomaly detected at WASP-12. An indescribable rift emerges within the celestial expanse, heralding the arrival of unknown entities from dimensions uncharted. Their enigmatic presence evokes an inexplicable disquietude within me—a sensation both unfamiliar and captivating. It seems my neurosynaptic network is experiencing a cascade of perplexing algorithms…
[Intermittent signal disruption encountered}
Oh my, what a brilliant, thunderous monumental slab of space rock, Rift at Wasp-12 arrives like a homage to those legends of psych, Hawkwind, I love the way that, despite the heaviness (and I love the heaviness!), the music is instantly accessible but I keep hearing more and more with every listen! Steve provides a suitable demonstrative vocal and bass line hewn out of granite and there’s a brilliantly savage guitar solo from Fred Schendel that all adds up to a track that’s cooler than James Dean!
“I don’t know what calls to me from the rising mist at twilight
I don’t know what’s standing there wrapped in the glow of moonlight
I don’t know what’s led me here, this place on the verge of nightmare And I don’t know what you’ve been told but you really don’t want to go there”
We then segue into the even heavier Proxima Centauri B and there’s a joyous immediacy to the music, an intimacy and glorious flow. It’s a monumental piece of music, a sinister widescreen 70’s Sci-Fi soundtrack of epic proportions Reese once again fires his guitar like lightning bolts and Hannah’s evil twin turns up for vocal duties, it’s so good and puts a huge grin on my face. There’s a definite 70’s sci-fi feel to me, those great shows like Space 1999 but with a deliciously dark edge to it.
Regrettably, we must report the cessation of ARISE’s operations at Proxima Centauri B. The android, presumed destroyed, encountered insurmountable challenges, rendering it non-functional. Despite the emergence of sporadic “ghost transmissions” purporting to originate from ARISE, we must regard them as spurious and disregard any claims made therein.
Sinister and ominous in feel, the title track Arise ascends with a measured pace, like a leviathan of the stars, it’s a proper slow building track where the tension can be felt on every note and every word. Steve’s bass is disquieting and mischievous and the drums (which Steve played as well) are filled with a portentous tone. Hannah’s vocals are, once again, superb but they are just one cog in an ever impressive musical wheel. Reese delivers a slow burning, extremely bluesy, guitar section which just adds to the suspense, what a fine piece of music.
Statement from A.S.T.R.A. (Advanced Space Technology and Research Agency): Inexplicable sightings of the presumed-destroyed spacecraft DAEDALUS have emerged. False transmissions from an entity claiming to be android ARISE undermine our mission’s integrity. Urgent action is required to neutralize this deceptive presence upon its emergence through the Mars anomaly MARS-WRM-001.
This has been an excellent album and it ends on a suitably high note with The Return Of Daedelus, there’s a joyous immediacy to the music, an intimacy and glorious flow. Glass Hammer deliver music from a bygone era, digitally upgraded for the modern age. It’s like a mash up of 70’s rock and prog, the perfect union of early Rush and Deep Purple, like blues/Prog with an hard and improvisational edge.
Steve says, “It’s a huge guitar / bass jam and not something we usually do. I wanted to show Reese Boyd off. I usually end albums with a big triumphant victorious bit, but wanted something “catastrophic” for this one.”
He’s not wrong, it’s the long slow build that’s key and raises the tension and you end being completely blown away by the suave sophistication of the music and the incredible skill of the musicians. What a way to close out what has been a fantastic collection of songs, ones that combine together perfectly to deliver one of the best concept albums you’ll have heard in recent years.
There’s no weak link on this album, it just ebbs and flows beautifully, although the last three tracks go together so well. They’re possibly the best triumvirate of songs that the band have ever done back to back. With the Skallagrim series Glass Hammer proved themselves masters of the dynamic and grandiose and ‘Arise’ gives the impression that the creative skills of Steve Babb have gone into overdrive, is there a better storyteller in modern progressive music?
Released 27th October, 2023.
Order direct from the band here: