Ashes for The Monarch
01. Whichone (4:35)
02. Hell And High Water (5:56)
03. Projection [I-III] (8:14)
– Part I Sweet Dreams (2:42)
– Part II From Ego To Id (3:11)
– Part III Another Day (2:21)
04. Garden Of Evil (7:03)
05. Lightwing (2:49)
06. One Man Alone [I-XI] (22:47)
– Part I Barkus (1:26)
– Part II Mooning About (2:39)
– Part III Going Nowhere (1:22)
– Part IV Boundless (1:00)
– Part V Crystal Balls To It All (1:43)
– Part VI The Great Ocean Of Lament (3:56)
– Part VII Epitaph For The Spirit (1:24)
– Part VIII Call To Arms (2:35)
– Part IX Come To A Conclusion… (1:20)
– Part X …In A Peaceful Movie Release (2:50)
– Part XI We Don’t Need Any ‘ELP and YES, It’s A Barkus Mad Mutation (2:32)
07. Isle Of Glass [Outro] (3:43)
Monument concluded with the Whichone (Outro) and using the idea put forward on the first three Queen albums, a sort of ‘taster’ track to leave you with a hint of what’s to begin the next one. Musically the track is a slight departure in that it is basically a triplet feel minor blues, lyrically a satire based around the idea of endless choice, the idea being, that if you have too much choice, or too many possible things to choose from, the choice becomes more difficult and less convincing.
Hell And High Water has a strange link to the Ridley Scott film ‘Bladerunner’ in that it was inspired by the view from a window overlooking the industrial scene one clear and dark autumn night. Both this song and the cinematic feel of the film came from that striking imagery. Towers of steel; flames rising into the night; orange and cold blue light; steam rising into the darkness – both a hell on Earth and still the financial lifeblood of Teesside through the 20th century.
Projections was originally a twenty five minute piece, but eventually found to work better in a streamlined version. The middle dream section, From Ego To Id, is about our pleasures and our fears, our pleasurable slumbers are dashed as the dentist’s drill changes the mood. There’s some whacky ideas in there…
The inspiration behind Garden Of Evil came from John Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’ – one of Glacier’s most compact songs and is a seven minute journey into the story of the book.
Lightwing was originally written by John as he recovered from a long illness combining a number doodles on the guitar. The main theme comes from a piece called Nightwing (to appear on the next album) and has been transposed from its original D harmonic minor key into an A melodic minor with some other themic elements hidden within the arrangement.
The centrepiece of Ashes is the twenty three minute epic One Man Alone, a sprawling meander through 37 years of Glacier music influenced by ELP, Yes, Genesis, Camel, Focus, King Crimson and more. It tells the story of Lawrence Talbot, the Wolf Man as inspired by the 1941 film, starring Lon Chaney Jr. The track has the opening section being played in the style of ELP’s ‘Tarkus’ and the song is meant to be an affectionate homage to all of the bands who raised the prog banner in the early 70’s. The final outro section Barkus Mad Mutation… was fleshed out as being the ‘next wolfman….’ Using the original theme in 7/8 converted to a theme played in 6/4 and given a Yes type octave feel.
The Isle Of Glass (Outro) once again returns to the formula of offering a taster for the next release. A dense orchestration of E-bows fleshes out the strings and choirs as it tries to convey the imagery of a windswept wake across the moors to a place of rest…
Glacier is a typical British band established in the end of the 70’s. I’ve listened to this album on a website called “progstreaming” and I must say that I’m not disappointed. A bit of an odd album that must grow on you (before judgement). In between the songs there are a lot of humoristic passages and the songs are in the mood of Genesis and in particular Steve Hackett. The overall impression is very nice and the vocalist reminds me of a 70’s band from Holland called the Dizzy Man’s Band with also lots of humour in there songs (You should check them out!). The two songs and highlights on the CD are “Projections” and “One Man Alone”. Let yourself be enchanted by the music and try their first album “Monument” from 2001 (yes a 14 years gap) which also gives much pleasure with songs written in the 80’s and 90’s. The song “Bring Down The Rain” could be a hitsingle! Four Royal Stars For Me ****
This new album from UK band Glacier is their second release, even though they started in 1979, they have gone through splits and reunions and their debut album was released in 2001. The music herein are of the so called neo-prog, some would say in the realm of IQ/Pendragon/Pallas, but I also detect a hint of Asia, listen to the first track “Whichone” with its great melody, a catchy hook line and a lead vocal not that far from a young John wetton.
It is one of those albums that grows on you at every spin (and there have been many since it arrived at my desk!) not overly complex, still not that simple. But Glacier certainly knows how to compose great tunes and with high class delivery from all six members!
The tracks are sometimes blended with narrative voices and “soundtracks” from fun fairs, nature or the likes. Not always a good idea, but in this case it works fine and complimenting the music and vice versa!!
You get beautiful thematic music, some (mosty) lighter, some heavier but never to heavy. I have come to love this album and it has certainly been sitting in my cd player for many a day, sometimes to change place with other great cd´s…only to get back quite frequently.
Which goes to show the golden rule of Progplanet, never dismiss a band or their album after one or few listenings!
Oh i must mention the guest on violin, which brings a bit of folky tendency to some of the tunes, as only the English bands can provide.
So, do I like it ?! I do, very much so..it is certainly going to my private collection!
Special mention the imaginative and superb guitars of John Youdale!
NOW GO GET IT!!
Here in the Netherlands we have a saying that weed does not perish. Well, for some bands you might say the same. A good example might be the British progressive rock band Glacier. They have already existed since 1979. Released their debut Monument in 2001 and managed to come up with a follow up album 14 years later, named Ashes For The Monarch. Most bands hardly release anything new after such a long time and kick the bucket. Not this band because they must be as strong as weed and making music as beautiful as a flower in bloom!
Yeah, beautiful is the right word for the music they present on Ashes For The Monarch. What John Youdale (guitars, vocals and FX), Dave Birdsall (vocals), Mike Winship (vocals), Dave Kidson (keyboards), Bob Mulvey (bass, bass pedals, FX and voices), Graeme Ash (drums) and guests Gemma Elysee (violin) and Dale Harbron (narrative) recorded between 2004 and 2012 is very much worth listening to. On their debut Monument the band already impressed me with their strong compositions. And they did it again with their latest release. Despite the fact they went through some difficult times they must have kept the faith to come out even stronger.
The band’s sound can still, just like on their debut, be called neo progressive rock. Moving in the same musical direction as bands such as IQ, Pendragon, Pallas and early Marillion. However the band is not afraid to use elements from retro progressive rock acts such as Steve Hackett, Genesis, Yes and Rick Wakeman. Most of all the last mentioned name came to mind several times. Not only because of the strong keyboard parts of Kidson, but mainly by the use of some great lead singers. Wakeman had the wonderful singers Ashley Holt and Garry Pickford-Hopkins in his band in the seventies. Dave Birdsall and Mike Winship sing in a same kind of way and therefore enriches the music in the best possible way. I guess for the band Steve Hackett was one of the most important influences. Many times, together with the music from his former band Genesis, they come to the surface. Guitarist Youdale is an excellent player as you can hear throughout the entire album. However not only on the electric guitar. Just listen to the song Lightwing and you will discover his talents on the acoustic guitar as well.
All of the seven tracks on this album are of a very high level. Maybe they could have been recorded a little better but this doesn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy them any less. The almost one hour of music kept my attention all the way. Never a dull moment. They connect most of the tracks with narrative parts or sound fragments very tastefully. This way it is as if you are listening to a kind of concept album, but all of the compositions have strong story lines on their own. For example Hell And High Water has a strange link to the Ridley Scott film ‘Bladerunner’ that was inspired by the view from a window overlooking the industrial scene one clear and dark autumn night. The inspiration behind Garden Of Evil came from John Wyndham’s’The Day Of The Triffids’. Finally I can tell you that the centrepiece of the album, the twenty three minute epic One Man Alone, tells the story of Lawrence Talbot, the Wolf Man as inspired by the 1941 film, starring Lon Chaney Jr. The same track is also a homage to the fantastic progressive rock music made in the seventies in which influences of ELP, Yes, Genesis, Camel, Focus, King Crimson were intentionally used according to the band. It is so well done that you can’t say Glacier are just copy cats. Even if they named some parts Barkus (Tarkus from ELP), Epitaph For The Spirit ( Epitaph from King Crimson) and We Don’t Need Any ‘E.L.P. and YES, It’s A Barkus Mad Mutation.
I can only be positive about Ashes For The Monarch. It’s an amazing album that brought me only happy moments while listening to it. I am sure everybody else who is into neo progressive rock and loves the music made by the many progressive rock acts of the seventies will have as many happy moments as I had when I played this album. Thank God the band kept writing great music after they released Monument in 2001, otherwise we never could have enjoyed Ashes For The Monarch 14 years later.
**** Henri Strik (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
The history of Glacier is a convoluted one that began back in 1979. Since then the band has endured more than its fair share of stop-starts, personnel changes and tragic loss, with original drummer Mick King succumbing to cancer in 1997. When the debut album, Monument, eventually appeared in 2001 the songs spanned the two decades of the band’s career.
Fourteen years on, following a protracted recording process, their second album Ashes For The Monarch finally sees the light of day. Like its predecessor, the new album features a selection of songs whose origins date back over several years, being written by “present and past members of Glacier”. Despite this caveat, the line-up on this recording is essentially the same as for Monument, namely founding member and guitarist John Youdale, vocalist Dave Birdsall (with support from Mike Winship), keyboardist Dave Kidson, bassist (and former DPRP editor) Bob Mulvey and drummer Graeme Ash.
The digipak artwork, with its muted blues and greys, has a vaguely Wind and Wuthering (Genesis) look, which is appropriate given that the music largely harks back to the symphonic prog acts of the early 70s. Glacier steadfastly occupies a territory once populated by the bigger names of the 80s prog revival, with several similarities to more recent Dutch bands also coming to mind.
Based in County Durham in the North East of England, the band’s songs have a home-grown Britishness, a characteristic that can be traced back to the early work of Genesis, Marillion, and more recently Big Big Train. This is especially apparent in tracks like Hell And High Water, Garden Of Evil and the opening number Whichone, which incidentally picks up from where the concluding track on Monument left off. Like Pink Floyd and Credo they also incorporate sound effects and voice samples to supplement the narrative, although sometimes these can be a distraction rather than a benefit.
Both Whichone and Hell And High Water demonstrate the band’s ability to write compact, finely-wrought compositions with a taught narrative, solid melody and slick arrangements. There is a good deal of emphasis on Birdsall’s singing here. Whilst his voice is not the most refined, it has warmth and character, with similarities to Mark Trueack and John Wetton, which is no bad thing. His clear articulation also benefits Glacier’s documentary-style observations.
More expansive, the three-part Projections romps along at a breezy pace, with guitar and (sampled) flute displaying a strong Camel influence, with elements of classic Steve Hackett, circa Spectral Mornings. For me however it loses the plot a little in the meandering mid-section, where spacey guitar and (uncomfortably) a dentist’s drill are, respectively, used to convey the themes of pleasure and fear.
Based on John Wyndham’s classic novel ‘The Day of the Triffids’, Garden Of Evil is a horticultural horror tale in a similar vein to Genesis’ The Return of the Giant Hogweed. Musically it again has the unmistakable stamp of Camel and Hackett all over it, with a majestic orchestral arrangement that brings to mind the latter’s Shadow of the Hierophant.
The appropriately titled Lightwing is a delicate acoustic solo from guitarist Youdale, which is in a similar fashion to Hackett’s Horizons and serves as a tranquil respite before the album’s main event, the 11-part One Man Alone. Based on the horror classic ‘The Wolf Man’, it’s far more upbeat than the story would suggest, and at almost 23 minutes it allows Glacier ample scope to reference their prog influences. Driven by a bass line that echoes the main riff from Genesis’ Cinema Show, it opens with a sprightly synth theme and includes some very fine guitar moments which have echoes of Steve Howe, Steve Rothery and Andy Latimer.
Kansas (courtesy of the superb violin by guest Gemma Elysee), Yes (Tempus Fugit), and Genesis (Firth Of Fifth ) all get a look in along the way. It’s not all plain sailing however, a Kashmir-like middle-eastern sequence sounds a tad out of place, as does the jazzy instrumental variation tagged on the end. Whilst deftly played, it’s out of sync with the rest of the song which reaches its logical conclusion around the 20 minute mark.
Following the heady sprawl of One Man Alone, the slow burning instrumental The Isle Of Glass (Outro) makes a fitting epilogue, with its hypnotic, sustained chords fading into the distance. It’s also intended as a taster for the next release, which I for one will be looking forward to, but please don’t leave it so long this time guys.
As you would expect from a band of this ilk, there is nothing particularly original about what Glacier do, but they do it extremely well and they do it in a highly engaging manner. The music is a respectful (and accurate) homage to times gone by; don’t expect metallic riffs or any chordal angularity. Whilst their ambitions occasionally get the better of them, for me, tracks like Hell And High Water, Garden Of Evil and The Isle Of Glass show a band (and melodic progressive rock) at its disciplined best.