Review – Glass Hammer – At The Gate

Time crawls when we are very young; the older we grow, the more it hastens. If you’re living out a normal span of years, you know this to be true. “Where did the years go,” remarks the elder for whom the long night draws near. “It seems like just yesterday…”

But what of the man who lives beyond his years, who finds he cannot die? Does time fly by at ever accelerating speeds? I am asked this often, for I have passed my thousandth year upon the wretched earth, most of it wandering cursed Andorath for a dream I once cherished but lost.

At The Gate’, is the third album of the Skallagrim trilogy. This new album follows ‘Dreaming City’ (2020) and ‘Skallagrim – Into The Breach’ (2021), bringing the story of the ‘thief with the screaming sword’  to its conclusion.

Vocalist Hannah Pyror is back to front the group and is joined by bandleader Steve Babb, keyboardist Fred Schendel, and drummer Aaron Raulston. In addition, vocalists Jon Davison (Yes) and John Beagley (Life In Digital) both contribute, as well as guitarist Reese Boyd.   

Steve Babb says, “For those who love our newer, edgier sound, they won’t be disappointed. But I’ve brought back the pipe organ, the choirs, and the sweeping ballads for those who miss the sounds of our earlier albums.

For those fans of fantasy literature, like myself, this new Sword & Sorcery storyline that began with 2020’s ‘Dreaming City’, and the excellent music that accompanied it has really hit the mark and has seen Glass Hammer reach new heights and become even more popular and venerated than before.

I have always been very lucky in that I get to hear the albums before most people and every time I am even more impressed with the creativity and musicianship that these US prog rock titans deliver. Well, to quote Michael Caine, with ‘At The Gate’ they’ve only gone and blown the bloody doors off!

“Lonely years roll by, Leaves me wondering, Don’t ask me why…”

The final part of the Skallagrim trilogy is wide screen music at its most impressive, opener, the ballad The Years Roll By, does see a return to the band’s earlier, classic progressive rock, style but beefed up with added layers of sophistication and skill. It immediately puts a smile on my face as soon as I hear the ever so stylish organ intro and Hannah Pryor’s voice is just magical. To hear Steve channelling his inner Chris Squire again is just a joy to these ears too and the guitar sound is just utterly compelling, giving the track a wonderfully symphonic style.

“There is a road, Hidden well but search, You may find it, There is a gate at the end, And only time can unlock it…”

Savage is just that, a slow burning, ominous opening is blown apart by a huge riff and Hannah’s voice takes on a darkly delicious tone. The symphonic moves aside for pure hard rock with a Led Zeppelin edge, the intricate guitar and keyboard parts are so precise that they make me smile and Aaron Raulston shows he’s lost none of his skill behind the drum kit. The musicianship on display is just dazzling but it’s that hard-edged, fuzzy riff that gets me every time, what a superb track this is!

“Lirazel! I found her name in a song, the melody of which cured me of all forgetfulness. Lirazel! They took you from me and hid you away, but the memory of love will not—cannot die.”

let’s go all 80’s and electronic shall we? North Of North is a really chilled and laid back instrumental that has a feel of Tangerine Dream to its wistful synthesised notes and I am a total sucker for a bit of old school electronica. You feel yourself getting lost in its pulsing rhythm before Fred lets loose with some super stylised keyboard licks, backed by some vibrant guitar and drums. This track is as uber-cool as they come.

“There’s gonna be hell to pay, When all is said and done, So many years have come and gone, And now I’m left with none…”

Prepare for a monumentally heavy aural assault as the blues-rock intro of All Alone makes way for the heaviest riff on the album, what an absolute beast of a song. Imagine King’s X and Metallica getting together for an anything goes jam and you won’t be far wrong, this track absolutely rocks and rocks hard. You can just imagine the band having the time of their life on this and it would be an absolute monster live, Hannah’s vocals once again giving substance to the down and dirty music. Creativity and songwriting prowess are both at an absolute zenith on this album!

Fred Schendel, Hannah Pryor, Steve Babb, Aaron Raulston

“You know where to find her, You know where to start, But only fools would go down, To the mountains heart…”

That ever so stylish hard rock feel continues with the funky grooves of All For Love, another edgy riff and some crunching bass lines from Steve adding some shadowy grunge to proceedings. The distorted guitar solo is a clever addition, as is Fred’s excellent, Deep Purple inspired, keyboard blast. It’s a hell for leather rollercoaster ride of immense proportions.

“I kinda thought this would be done soon, But I was born beneath a black moon…”

Snowblind Girl powers into focus on another thundering riff, the lengthy opening grabbing your attention before Hannah’s vocal begins, strident and demanding. There’s more a feel of symphonic metal to this song but it’s still bombastic and mightily heavy. Another verdant solo brings a smile to my face once again as these consummate musicians deliver yet another memorable track, the instrumental interplay is just jaw-droppingly good!

“Zagzagel, Here, the sorcerous city is buried now, Beneath a frozen lake For the king did justly curse it…”

Discordant and chaotic, the jarring opening to Standing At The Gate (Of Zagzagel) instantly grabs your attention, the crashing guitar chords and keyboards almost fighting each other for supremacy. Hannah’s authoritarian vocal delivers each line in a clipped manner before things calm down a bit for the memorable chorus,

“He’s standing at the gate, He’s pounding at the gate, Of dread, and now it opens.”

The guitar solo that follows is one of the best, flowing beautifully and full of passion and emotion in every single note and the song closes out with Hannah’s voice repeating the chorus as it fades into the background.

“There’s no life without you, There’s no life, If I walk this life alone, If I never find a home…”

In The Shadows sees the start of the final chapter in the album and the story and is also a complete sea change from the bombast and heaviness of most of what has gone before. It is an utterly captivating, ethereal track led by a gentle piano and Hannah’s haunting, sublime vocal. A wistful, melancholic song that bleeds sentiment through every note, the contemplative, almost mournful, music really gets you in your very soul and leaves you with a feeling of regret. The extended instrumental section is genius, utterly captivating and brings time to a standstill as it holds you in its thrall.

“Forgotten joy, the feel of sunshine, touch of summer sun, Don’t you know, my love…”

The album closes with the uplifting joy and charm of It’s Love, a fantastically inspirational song that sees Glass Hammer returning, once again, to the symphonic, orchestral prog for which they were well know. It is a perfectly constructed track, almost Queen-like (just check out that guitar!), that brings this mighty tale to a wonderful close.

Melodic, symphonic and, at times, monumentally heavy, ‘At The Gate’ is a superb, majestic leviathan of an album that enhances the band’s legacy as masters of the genre. This final instalment in the impressive trilogy brings things to a triumphant and proudly pompous conclusion, this is Glass Hammer at their finest, hugely expressive and sonically brilliant.

Released October 7th, 2022.

Order direct from the band here:

Glass Hammer official website




Glass Hammer Release Video for At The Gate

‘The Years Roll By’ is the first of two music videos from the band’s new concept album.

The Years Roll By is the opening track on Glass Hammer’s At The Gate concept album —set for release on October 7th, 2022.

Bandleader Steve Babb said the following about the new album: “At The Gate completes our sword and sorcery inspired trilogy that began with 2020s Dreaming City. We followed that up with last year’s Skallagrim—Into The Breach.”

For the uninitiated, he went on to explain. “It’s the story of a scarred and battered thief, Skallagrim, who’s had his memory stolen along with the love of his life. He’s got to fight unimaginable horrors and slay hideous creatures and sorcerous villains if he’s ever to reclaim either. Finally, at the end of the last album, his memory is returned, but he finds himself cursed to wait one thousand years for a chance to find his lost love! At The Gate picks up at the end of his tale as he prepares to face the ultimate challenge of his life—to finally rescue his girl and defeat the evil being who has imprisoned her.

“Of course, as with any Glass Hammer concept album, there is more to it than a simple plot. On the surface, it appears to be about magic swords and heroes, but it’s actually a story about confronting evil, how to survive it, and how to face despair and heartache.

And most importantly, it’s about why the pursuit of profound and lasting joy in an often joyless world is worthwhile, even when all available evidence suggests it cannot be found.”  

Babb says he chose to open the album with a ballad. “…something ethereal, something reminiscent of what our fans call classic Glass Hammer. The Years Roll By fits the bill, I think. Of course, there’ll be plenty of metal and prog on the new album. The next music video I plan to release hits really hard!”

Watch the video here:

Autographed copies of At The Gate are available for pre-order on the Glass Hammer Store website. www.glasshammer.com

Glass Hammer Announces New Album For October

Glass Hammer Completes The Skallagrim Trilogy with ‘AT THE GATE’

‘At The Gate’, the third album of the Skallagrim trilogy, is set for release on October 7th. The new album follows ‘Dreaming City’ (2020) and ‘Skallagrim – Into The Breach’ (2021), bringing the story of the ‘thief with the screaming sword’  to its conclusion.

Vocalist Hannah Pyror is back to front the group and is joined by bandleader Steve Babb, keyboardist Fred Schendel, and drummer Aaron Raulston. In addition, vocalists Jon Davison (Yes) and John Beagley (Life In Digital) will contribute as well as guitarist Reese Boyd.   

Babb says to expect another 70’s metal-influenced project but also promises a return to the symphonic-prog sound the band is best known for.

“An album can be both things,” he claims. “Since the inception of the trilogy in 2020, it’s been my intention to tell this sword and sorcery-inspired tale with appropriate music. And to do that, I needed the sound to evolve toward something grand by the end of the third album. Skallagrim’s story is one of lost joy, of grief, and longing, and ultimately of a worn-down swordsman’s coming to grips with what the world can and cannot offer him. It’s probably the most important story we’ve ever told through music, so important to me that it led me to retell it in novels.” Babb’s book, “Skallagrim – In The Vales Of Pagarna,” was released in March of this year.

Babb adds, “So, for those who love our newer, edgier sound, they won’t be disappointed. But I’ve brought back the pipe organ, the choirs, and the sweeping ballads for those who miss the sounds of our earlier albums. I think it works, but the fans will be the ones to decide!”

Watch a short teaser video for the album here:

Review – Glass Hammer – Skallagrim – Into The Breach

Glass Hammer return with ‘Skallagrim – Into The Breach’, Part Two of last year’s ‘Dreaming City’ which found lyricist, bassist and co-producer, Steve Babb, drawing inspiration from sword & sorcery novels of the seventies. Now the album has inspired an actual four-hundred page novel, “Skallagrim – In The Vales Of Pagarna”, which Babb plans to release in early 2022.

“Skallagrim is a thief who lost his memory and the girl he loves,” explains Babb. “He’s up against all sorts of wickedness to reclaim both, but finds an ally in a sentient, eldritch sword. Now his fate is bound to the sword as much as to the quest to find his love.”

Into The Breach finds our protagonist going to war, so the music absolutely has to reflect that.” Babb promises that fans will hear “a much heavier, angrier album than we’ve ever done before.”

Let’s cut to the chase, prepare to be blown away by this monster of an album! Brooding with an ancient, primeval power, this leviathan of a release sees the introduction of new vocalist Hannah Pryor who joins stalwarts Babb, Fred Schendel and Aaron Raulston, along with GH session guitarists Reese Boyd and Brian Brewer, for the band’s twenty-first studio album.

Album opener He’s Got A Girl begins our protagonist’s tale on a gentle note as Hannah’s ethereal vocal overlays a tender piano note. The peace is shattered as the monstrous behemoth that is Anthem To Andorath hoves into view. The guitar riffs are as heavy as a two ton heavy thing (thanks Queensrÿche!) that reverberates through your whole body. Accompanied by Babb’s stellar bass and Raulston’s thunderous drumming, you will not have heard anything quite like this from the band before. Pryor’s voice adds measured ferocity, matched by Steve Babb’s backing vocals. I feel like I’ve been run over by a prog powered train!

Sellsword carries on in a similar vein but with more of a grunge fuelled vibe, the reverberating guitar riff hammering against your psyche. The fiery guitar licks give a hard rock edginess and Hannah gets her head banging going with gusto. It’s like Black Sabbath and Nirvana got together for a jam session and let it all hang out, brutal and blisteringly rapacious. Now the band are really getting into their groove with the 70’s hard rock flourishes of the intro to Steel before Schendel’s artful keyboards and Hannah’s searching vocal bring us back to more regular Glass Hammer territory. The thing is, this is something that they know inside out and are masters off and it really shows, there’s almost a funkiness to the rhythm section and you can tell that Fred is on a roll and really enjoying himself.

There then follows a dark and mysterious triumvirate of instrumental tracks starting with the low key cryptic electronic meanderings of A Spell Upon His Mind which then bleeds into the more esoteric jazz fusion psychedelia of Moon Pool. The trio comes to a close with the deliciously enigmatic brooding tones of The Dark and it’s Hammer Horror-esque guitar and Hammond organ combination. Three tracks that really add a magical and secretive feel to the album, I really liked this middle section, it’s creative and imaginative and adds a lot to the overall story.

Hard rock returns with the forceful and mighty Led Zeppelin leanings of The Ogre Of Archon. The towering guitar work, edgy bass playing and lofty drums give a vast feel to the song, those riffs can really move musical mountains and Babb’s vocals add to the arcane atmosphere that the music engenders. Boy, do you really feel that these guys are having an absolute blast, these tracks are going to be immense live! There’s a real sense of urgency to Into The Breach, the intense and impassioned guitars adding a real groove to the music. Glass Hammer are moving into early Rush territory here as the album starts to feel like a loving homage to some of the great hard rock, metal and prog acts of the last four decades while never straying from the path or the passion of the story.

The Forlorn Hope carries on in a similar vein, what we have here is a group of musicians whose playing is as tight as can be but who are obviously enjoying every minute playing music that they are totally invested in. Hannah is a perfect foil, her voice resonates passion, fervour and intensity and draws you into the continued tale of sword and sorcery. The funky, repeated riff of The Writing On The Wall is incredibly catchy and reminds me of Lenny Kravitz, the whole song having something of a psychedelic aura as Hannah’s vocals glide smoothly along. This is superb, polished rock music with progressive leanings and I am more impressed with every listen.

One of the best songs on the album (in my opinion) is the wonderful Hyperborea that wears its Rush leanings squarely on its sleeve, even Hannah gets in on the act with her Geddy Lee influenced vocals. It’s a really enjoyable, smile inducing, ride from beginning to end and just oozes cool with its metaphorical Ray Bans in place. The final track, Bright Sword, is a potent, commanding reprise of A Desperate Man from the last album and closes things neatly.

With ‘Skallagrim – Into The Breach’, Glass Hammer have raised the (already heavy) bar to even greater heights. Epic in scope, majestic in scale and blurring the lines between progressive rock and progressive metal, GH have given us their best album of recent years and possibly their best release ever and it should be another monster success for this evergreen band.

Released 15th October, 2021

Order the album here:

Glass Hammer official website

All pictures credit Julie Babb Photography.

US Proggers Glass Hammer release a two-song video to celebrate their October 15th release of Skallagrim – Into The Breach

Glass Hammer have just released a video of “He’s Got A Girl” and “Anthem To Andorath”, two tracks from their upcoming Skallagrim – Into The Breach album. 

Skallagrim – Into The Breach is Part Two of last year’s Dreaming City which found lyricist, bassist and co-producer, Steve Babb, drawing inspiration from sword & sorcery novels of the seventies. Now the album has inspired an actual four-hundred page novel, “Skallagrim – In The Vales Of Pagarna”, which Babb plans to release in early 2

“Skallagrim is a thief who lost his memory and the girl he loves,” explains Babb. “He’s up against all sorts of wickedness to reclaim both, but finds an ally in a sentient, eldritch sword. Now his fate is bound to the sword as much as to the quest to find his love.

Into The Breach finds our protagonist going to war, so the music absolutely has to reflect that.” Babb promises that fans will hear “a much heavier, angrier album than we’ve ever do

He goes on to explain the video. “He’s Got A Girl is a short intro piece meant to start the album and lead us into the heavier material. Anthem To Andorath follows, and lyrically sets up Skallagrim’s current predicament and what he’ll have to go through to survive it. Musically, it’s designed to hammer you into the ground! It’s not what you’d expect from us, but then fans never really know what’s coming next from Glass Hammer. It’s what, album number twenty-one? We have to expand our sound, and fortunately this heaver side of Glass Hammer is something we’re long overdue to explore.

New lead vocalist, Hannah Pryor, is joined by Steve Babb, Fred Schendel and Aaron Raulston. The band’s website is currently accepting pre-orders for autographed copies and downloads now. 

www.glasshammer.com

Glass Hammer Tease Fall Release With New Trailer – “SKALLAGRIM – INTO THE BREACH” Releasing October 15th, 2021

Glass Hammer returns to the world of the Dreaming City with the follow-up album, “SKALLAGRIM — INTO THE BREACH.” The album continues the tale of the thief with the screaming sword, a “desperate man” who lost his lover and his memory. 

“It’s over the top and meant to be,” comments Glass Hammer’s Steve Babb. “But it’s relevant as well,” he continues. “There’s always a deeper story hidden within every concept album we’ve ever done. This one is no different.” 

“There is plenty of the ‘classic’ Glass Hammer sound on the album, but also some electronic pieces as we’ve done in the past. Our new vocalist fronts most of the songs, which is a little different for us, but I think fans will approve. They’ll hear a lot of metal-influenced prog, something we really love of late. Fans never know what to expect from us, what new direction we’ll be going in. But I’ll tell you upfront, there is far more hammer than glass on our 2021 release!”  

The video not only shows off the new album cover but a new lead vocalist as well. Singer, Hannah Pryor, joins Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, Aaron Raulston, and GH session guitarists Reese Boyd and Brian Brewer for the band’s twenty-first studio album.

My own first opinions are of music that broods with an ancient, primeval power, Glass Hammer raising the (heavy) bar to even greater heights on an album that is sure to be a monster success from this evergreen band.

Band photo credit: Julie Babb.

Review – Glass Hammer – A Matter Of Time – Volume 1 – by Martin Hutchinson

“The present changes the past. Looking back you do not find what you left behind.” – Kiran Desai.

‘A Matter Of Time – Volume 1’ sees Glass Hammer founders Steve Babb and Fred Schendel reimagining the past as they pick their favourite songs from the band’s nineties catalog; reimagining and re-recording those songs from the ground up, totally updating them for the here and now.

These new recordings feature GH regular Aaron Raulston (drums) and guest appearances by Hannah Pryor (vocals), Reese Boyd (guitar – Lliusion & Song Of The Dunadan), Walter Moore (vocals: The Mayor Of Longview, Heaven – vocals & guitar: On To Evermore, Junkyard Angels), and Dave Bainbridge (guitar: Heaven).

If you’re a long time fan of this most ‘Prog’ of US progressive rock bands or a newcomer to their involving and dynamic music then you are in for an absolute treat.

I first got into Glass Hammer with 2010’s ‘If’ but the band is the epitome of prog rock longevity having released their first studio album, ‘Journey of the Dunadan’, in 1993. Suffice to say that Steve and Fred have an embarrassment of riches to choose from when it comes to their extensive back catalogue.

All of the tracks (barring Domain Walls) are taken from the band’s first three studio releases, the aforementioned ‘Journey of the Dunadan’, ‘Perelandra’ and ‘On to Evermore’, and deliver statuesque soundscapes across which the precise guitars, keyboards and vocals can weave their intricate stories of heroic deeds and the triumph of good over evil.

Opener Lliusion (‘Perelandra’) is a case in point, a fine piece of music, intense in flavour and rich in musicality, that immediately draws the listener into the tale that is laid before them. With the soaring vocals, stylish bass, majestic keyboards and charismatic guitars, I’m hooked after the first track!

Shadows Of The Past, Something’s Coming and Song Of The Dunadan form a three song suite that open ‘Journey of the Dunadan’, a concept album based on the story of Aragorn from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’. The first track of the trio is literally a music score, containing all the pomp, circumstance and majesty that anyone could really need. This blends seamlessly into the sprightly second piece that has a hint of early Yes to it. Flourishing keyboards, urgent vocals and a powerful, insistent rhythm section drive the track along at breakneck speed before it ebbs and flows like a mystical river. We are truly in the realm of traditional 70’s progressive rock here but Steve and Fred have given it a gleaming new coat and it is wondrous to behold. The closing part of the triumvirate opens with an engaging piano line before becoming something altogether more regal and imposing, once again the rhythm section of Aaron’s drums and Steve’s bass give a solid canvas onto which the captivating tale can be painted in the listener’s mind. The highlight of the whole section has to be the brilliant interplay between Fred and Steve as they weave bass and keyboard lines ever more intricately into the track before Reese’s guitar gets to join the party, inspired!

Steve Babb Glass Hammer bassist

‘The Return of the King’ (‘Journey of the Dunadan’) is yet another superb track that opens full of instrumental wonder and just holds your attention as it takes you on an enthralling musical journey through the world of Middle Earth. As instrumentals go it is up there with some of the very best and special note must be given to Fred Schendel whose keyboards skills are certainly well on show throughout all of its near seven minute running time.

Domain Walls, taken from 1997’s ‘Live And Revived’ has an utterly carefree feel to it, like the band were just jamming, which, in essence, they were! Another instrumental but, this time, a hard edge, down and dirty, funky as hell one that really gets under your skin and I absolutely love it! Felix the Cat (‘Perelandra’) brings this instrumental section to a close and lives up to its name, graceful and mischievous just like any cat I know. It bounds and leaps along with Fred’s keys again at the core, artfully aided and abetted by Steve’s cool sounding bass.

The next three tracks take us ‘On to Evermore’, the band’s third studio release. The Mayor Of Longview is instantly recognisable as a Glass Hammer track and flows serenely, letting the music flow naturally, with Walter Moore’s dulcet vocal delivering a perfectly crafted storyline. Wistful and contemplative at times yet with an impishness just under the surface that always threatens to break out. On To Evermore is a song imbued with a graceful, stately grace, almost taking you back to an era of Knights, swords and sorcery. It holds itself with composure and class with Walter’s vocals again being key to the feel of the song. Junkyard Angel is a calm and collected gem of a song. The plaintive and thoughtful vocals are a perfect fit with the dreamy, ethereal music and the juxtaposition of Fred’s strident keyboard solo is a stroke of genius, a brilliant track.

The album closes with the yearning and reflective Heaven (the track that also closes out ‘Perelandra’). I love the feeling of understated strength that pervades the whole track, a slow burning intensity that is always there waiting to pour out and pour out it does when Dave Bainbridge’s guitar is allowed free rein. What a way to bring this excellent collection of songs to an end.

With A Matter Of Time – Volume 1′ Steve and Fred have given us a fantastic reimagining of some already sublime early Glass Hammer tracks. This release is full of superb songwriting and accomplished musicianship that has been artfully updated to fit perfectly into a modern world.

Released December 14th, 2020

Available exclusively from the band’s website here:

Glass Hammer official website