6 Songs, 1 Hour 9 Minutes

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Ratings and Reviews

4.2 out of 5
37 Ratings

37 Ratings

White Andre ,

GH's best effort

I take my prog seriously, having been a devotee of the genre since the late 1960s. That being my prog credential, it often takes a lot to impress me. This is (so far) the most complete and 'finished-sounding' GH release. Although I think GH rests a tad too much on another band's 40-year old laurels, here the Yes-clone has outdone their musical mentors with the most superb cover of "South Side of the Sky" as can be contemplated. It can happen that a cover can be better than the original, certainly Jefferson Airplane's "Wooden Ships" was superior to CS&N's rendition. But this "South Side of the Sky" shines with a magnificence that if not better than, at minimum measures up as an equal to the song I first heard Yes playing wAY back in 1972.

SoulFreq ,

A progressive rock expedition that creates a sense of wonder and beauty

Strap on your climbing gear folks and prepare to join Chattanooga Tennessee’s Glass Hammer on a scintillating musical ascension on Culture of Ascent. Steve Babb and Fred Schendel have assembled an expedition crew that brings a wealth of musical strengths and tools to the already formidable Glass Hammer arsenal of progressive rock sounds on their tenth(!) release. Joining GH founders & multi-instrumentalists Babb and Schendel on this scenic adventure are Carl Groves of (highly recommended) prog-band Salem Hill, new member (and aptly named) guitarist David “Shreddy” Wallimann, vocalist Susie Bogdanowicz, drummer Matt Mendians, the Adonai String Trio, and other returning friends. Oh, and the cherry on the top of the mountain are “vocalizations” by Yes lead-man Jon Anderson on the excellent lead-off cover of the Yes classic “South Side of the Sky,” and “Life by Light.” The end result of this titanic team-up of talent is a powerful, dynamic work of progressive rock that is a mighty leap upward for Glass Hammer.

While Ascent features the trademark sounds (deep, rich bass and keyboards, synths, and moogs galore) Glass Hammer is known for, the band opted to add some additional weapons to their already impressive sonic arsenal. The opening version of “South Side of the Sky” adds layers of techno/hip-hip rhythmic coating—a technique also used nicely in the intro to “Sun Song”. The Adonai String Trio contributes memorable orchestral touches, adding beauty and depth to Ascent. Matt Mendians contributes fine proggy/near metallic drumming that reminiscent of Keith Moon at times (high praise indeed, but the closest comparison I can think of). Mendian’s timing is unique, and his style veers wildly up the sonic heights of Ascent. “Shreddy” Wallimann adds virtuoso guitar prowess to the mix. The vocals are top-notch as well: new member Carl Groves contributes solid melodic vocal chops, Susie Bogdanowicz conveys her strongest GH performance yet on “South Side of the Sky,” and the uniquely Glass-Hammer-ish multi-layered vox are in luscious abundance. My only personnel complaint: more Babb and Schendel vocals!

Wrapped in a stark cover black and white depicting a lonely seeker, Culture of Ascent is a concept album about the risky business of mountain climbing—scaling the heights in exotic and forbidding landscapes. There is a spiritual component present as well—the seeker climbs in search answers to the deep questions of life, and there is an Answer. This theme is wrapped intricately in six song movements that enfold the lyrics like a Himalayan snowstorm. Beauty, adventure, longing and fulfillment are all touched on as the listener journeys through the sonic landscapes created by Glass Hammer. Rare is the rock album that creates a sense of wonder and beauty. Glass Hammer manages to do just that on Culture of Ascent.

Listen with headphones.

jrstudioboss ,

top two of the year

For me, the best two prog albums this year have been "Culture of Ascent" and "Fear of a Blank Planet", both rather different, but both great; this was my first GH album, and I'll be adding to the collection, it was money well spent!

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