Ghostland Review

Glacier – “Monument” (2001)  [Independent]

On this recent thirteen-track release Glacier, a British quintet, establish themselves as purveyors of the best kind of prog: that which doesn’t become anchored to genre clichés but, instead, delivers music both fresh and dynamic.

While the high drama that has always been important to English proggers (Uriah Heep, Yes, ELP, Genesis) remains evident, the same British predilection for strong melody and singable lines prove equally important to the record’s success. Keyboardist David Kidson, guitarist John Youdale, bassist Bob Mulvey and drummer Graeme Ash provide the perfect foundation for vocalist David Birdsall to do his stuff. What’s a British rock band, after all, without a fiercely dynamic lead singer? And Birdsall is certainly just that. Although it may seem at first that the warbler remains reluctant to fully open his throat, repeated listens reveal the full range of his instrument, the subtleties within. (Birdsall may remind you of a young Ian Gillan or, in certain moments, of Van Morrison had the Irishman never become obsessed with American soul.)

On “Think Of England,” “The Iceman Cometh,” “Con Molto Nodus,” “Beyond The Wave” (a hit) and “Bring Down The Rain,” it quickly becomes apparent that these boys have done their homework, for there’s a special blending of 70s boogie metal blues, 80s radio-ready prog, and present-day songwriting know-how that few groups find by accident. Still, that’s not to say the record sounds contrived: there’s a warmth here that’s too often absent from contemporary prog records, a sound that will make you long for the days when you used to sit in front of the stereo, your older brother’s copy of the latest Uriah Heep album on the turntable, and dream of having your own band with a gigantic bank of keyboards and monster-sized drums. These are complex songs, after all, but they’re also loaded with elements that could easily make them hits, once you’ve heard them, they prove hard to forget.

Of course, even the best records have faults and if there’s anything I’d change about this one is that there are too many slow fade-ins, too many sound effects detracting from the earliest moments of many of the songs. But this is small. Once things have kicked off and you’re deep into the track, such moments are quickly forgotten.

What’s most surprising about this record is that the band released it on their own. Given the talents displayed on this release, it’s hard to imagine why. John Youdale is as gifted a songwriter as has been seen in many years and Mulvey’s production lends a warmth that is too-often absent on many contemporary records (prog or otherwise). One hopes that some established label will hear this band, realize how good they are, swoop down and sign them. And soon.

Review by Jedd Beaudoin
November 19, 2001

Link to original review on Ghostland