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Culture of Ascent

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Customer Reviews

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.

The Hammer has Come Down

And it is good. Had this been an album during the 70's it would have been one of the top favs alongside prog classics Yes's Fragile, and Pink Floyd's the Wall. From the startling take on Yes's South Side of the Sky, to the truly original Sun Song, this album does not disappoint on any track. It starts on a journey takes you through the ascent to the top and ends with the finale and by the time you take off that headset, you're ready to do it again. With the state of music these days being a sad state of affairs, It is rare that I can listen to a new album and immediately be drawn in, I think the last time that happened was ..well I can't remember, maybe 20 years ago? If like me, you are a keyboardist, you will be equally jazzed by the unbelievable synth sounds and studio work put into this effort. Give it a listen!

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!


Formed: Tennessee

Genre: Rock

Years Active:

Glass Hammer began in 1992 when Tennessee musicians Steve Babb and Fred Schendel got together and began writing for a progressive rock concept album. That album, Journey of the Dunadan, was released the following year. Since the two men were basically the entire lineup of the group and played all of the instruments on the album, they would need to recruit musicians to perform the material live. Schendel had played with a drummer named Walter Moore in his last group the Obvious. They brought him in...
Full Bio
Culture of Ascent, Glass Hammer
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music
  • Released: Sep 01, 2007

Customer Ratings