GLASS HAMMER “A Visit to the Dreaming City” 

By Dark Starr

It's easy to think of Chattanooga, Tennessee-based progressive rockers GLASS HAMMER as being a new prog band. The thing is, they are approaching 30 years as a band (they'll hit that milestone in a couple years).  Sure, they aren't part of the 70s wave, but honestly, 30 years is quite a legacy. I think it's time we stop calling these guys new. There are basically two guys at the heart and core of the band, Steve Babb and Fred Schendel. I recently got the chance to chat with Babb about their new album, the current pandemic world and more. 

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Let's talk about the new album. When I interviewed you a year or so ago you also had a new release. How does this one compare and contrast with that disc?

STEVE BABB: This album is loosely related to “The Inconsolable Secret “(2005), at least the story element is. Beyond that, I can say it’s a continuation of where we’ve been heading with GLASS HAMMER since “Valkyrie” and “Chronomonaut.” Each GLASS HAMMER album is unique, I think. We don’t really intend it that way, but we change over time and the music changes with us.

WC: I suppose “Dreaming City” is much heavier than 2018’s Chronomonaut, and it’s also a more focused production. The story for the concept is a bit more serious too.

SB: We’re very proud of it. There are times where we release albums, listen to them a few times and then move on to our next project. This time however, it’s staying in the player. Fred Schendel and I both knew we wanted an album that rocked more than typical GLASS HAMMER releases, and “Dreaming City” certainly does. Of course we dabble in some very moody electronic synth-wave pieces, too – there are three on the album that I really think bring out the horror element of the story / concept. 

WC: This set is a concept album. Can you elaborate on that aspect of it? 

SB: I think I’ve written a great story for this concept album and hope the fans think so. Sword and Sorcery with a touch of Lovecraftian horror and a dose of C.S. Lewis style allegory – an odd mix but I think it works.

The story begins with a lowly thief who more or less wakes up in a fight for his life in a “back alley hell." When all seems lost a mysterious sword comes shrieking down out of the sky. He grabs it, and everything about his life changes. He can’t remember much about himself, but he knows that ultimately he is up against an evil sorcerer who has kidnapped his lover. He has three days to find her before she is killed, and there is black magic to battle and a host of horrific monsters to fight before he can hopefully save her. Beyond that I don’t want to spoil it. Interesting things happen, though!

WC: I know the whole pandemic has really turned the world upside down. In some ways musicians, since they can no longer play out, have been hit with a lot of the brunt of it. How are you guys coping?

SB: Cruise To The Edge was our only big show (shows) we were set to play, and that was postponed, of course. We have a music studio we operate full-time, but our city is in lock-down, so we can’t do that either. It’s rough – not working. But I’m enjoying my family, and I think the rest of the members are doing the same. I have an album to promote, too, and that is keeping me busy. 

WC: What's ahead for you?

SB: Who can say? If the world returns to normal, I hope to be recording again, writing again, getting ready for our shows again – and still enjoying my family. The world came to a stop, and that has never happened. So I just don’t know. I’m an optimist, though, and am praying for health (and sanity) to return quickly to our world.

WC: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

SB: I bought my wife the “Peaky Blinders” soundtrack last Christmas, and we like that. My YouTube playlist include albums by TEMPLES, JACCO GARDNER, YURI GAGARIN and RUSH.

WC: Have you read any good books lately?

SB: I’m currently reading “To The Walls of France” by Martin McDowell. This is book four (I think) in a series about the fictional 105th Foot Battalion fighting in the Peninsular War in the early 1800s. I just re-read “Sharpe’s Eagle”, which is much the same sort of book. Gee! I’m looking at my recent reading list. and it’s just mostly Napoleonic stuff! I’m a geek for that sort of reading.

WC: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

SB: Last year I took my family to see a JOURNEY cover band. It was okay. Before that we saw the same band performing QUEEN, and they did that nearly to perfection. Haven’t seen anything lately to report on, though. Of course we would have seen dozens of bands when we performed on Cruise To The Edge this year, but that’s been postponed due to the pandemic.

WC: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

SB: I think I’ve answered this one for you before, but let's see where my head is now. The Duke Of Wellington, Napoleon and I guess we’d need the third to be a French translator. But, and I don’t know where I’m getting this, but it just sounds like it would be a blast to add this name to that illustrious list – how about comedian Chris Farley. So yes, I’d love to do dinner with the Duke, Napoleon and Chris Farley. Why not?

WC: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

SB: Yes! “Dreaming City”! Wow! Did I pick a fantastic time to release an album or what? I mean, we’re doing this in the middle of a pandemic! Every one stay safe and healthy, but don’t forget to support your favorite bands. It’s a great time to be home and listening to music! Of course it’s a tough time for bands - gigs cancelled, music shops closing down….not good for anyone. Hopefully you will all enjoy our album. It’s about finding hope in the midst of despair, and that does seem timely doesn’t it?