Glacier > Progressive World Review
Progressive World Review
Musically, Glacier share a kinship with other English progressive rock bands, as one can hear a similarity to Jump, Jadis, Epilogue, Grey Lady Down, and, at times, Marillion. However, they also sound like such American progressive rock bands as early Echolyn and Tristan Park, to name two that come to mind. And, there were times, listening to the opening track “Lull Before The Storm,” when I thought of The Flower Kings…mainly in the arrangement as vocalist Dave Birdsall doesn’t sound like either Roine Stolt or Hasse Fröberg. The state of England underlies the lyrical content of a few of Monument‘s tracks, and a case could be made that all the tracks do. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you.
Glacier first formed in 1979 as Contraband, adopting the Glacier moniker shortly thereafter (Glass Ear was the intent, but was misheard as a Glacier). All but one of the album’s 13 tracks where written over the course of the past 20 years; the title track, an instrumental tribute to the band’s first drummer, Mick King, who passed away in 1997, is the only new track on the album. Though, it must be said, that all the material here has been recorded for the first time for this album (other than perhaps at recorded live gigs that the band may have done over the years). Our boon is that we get the opportunity to hear it now.
Along with the beautiful instrumental “Monument,” with its somewhat Gilmour-esque guitar solo (John Youdale), we get the gentle, acoustic based intro to “The City Gates” – a song ostensibly about Atlantis, the legendary island that was said to have sunk beneath the waves. Given that England (well, Great Britain) is an island as well, it isn’t too far a leap for one to suppose that the Atlantis in this track is a metaphor for England. Especially when we take other such tracks as “Think Of England,” “East of Arabia,” and “Another Open Door” into consideration. “Think Of England” was written in 1994, reflecting a time when, according to the band, “European issues filled the news, and the song tries to capture the typical paranoia that was everywhere.” There was, and still is, objection to the “Chunnel” — the tunnel that runs under the English Channel, linking England and France. The fear is that now is it far easier for an enemy force to make an incursion onto English soil. In fact, I’m sure today there are more than few that now see the Chunnel as a terrorist target, or a means of infiltration … though certainly one doubts that the instigators of such activity will be the French.
Glacier has a very nice sound, even if today it is a very familiar sound. Hmm…what does that mean exactly? Vocalist Dave Birdsall has a very warm and clear voice. The closest comparison, for comparison’s sake, would be to Gary Chandler (Jadis). In some ways, Glacier is a very safe band, playing things close to the vest in some respects. Though creating music like this is really going out on a limb, given the climate of the non-prog world. But, within the ever-widening envelope of the genre of progressive music, Glacier can be said to be playing safe. This kind of music has a closer kinship to popular rock context than say to a more avant-garde, jazz context, or, as seems to be very popular right now, classical-metal context. They are all solid musicians, and I’m sure these songs have been honed after years of live performances.
The arrangements are very textured, something I really like about this style of music…where each listen reveals some accent not heard before – whether it is a bit of percussion (Graeme Ash), some keyboard accents (Dave Kidson),…whatever. There are some very beautiful moments on this album, some already mentioned. Despite some of the darker lyrical themes, the arrangements are upbeat, though not overly so. That is, I wouldn’t call Glacier a “happy-go-lucky” band, but that they user lighter tones in their compositions. Though perhaps the exception might be the nearly danceable rhythm of “The Iceman Cometh,” a song about a potential new ice age. It is here where I most think of Marillion, especially in the guitar solo by Youdale. Bob Mulvey’s bass throbs jauntily, happily in the background, while Kidson’s perky keys swirl during the choruses and bridge. “Bring Down The Rain” is a melancholy track that, by the time the chorus is presented in its fullest, reminds me a lot of a Phil Collins’ song similarly titled “I Wish It Would Rain Down” (from …But Seriously). This track, and its reprise, are highlights of the album. Other highlights are the instrumental interlude to “Think Of England,” which while very typical for this genre (a build up that flattens out just before peaking, only to repeat the pattern again), is very well done, building the tension nicely.
Glacier is terrific find, especially for lovers of this style of music. I hope that Monument is only just the tip of iceberg, and that as we dig deeper there’s more to be found.