Dave Birdsall – Vocals
John Youdale – Guitars & Vocals
Dave Kidson – Keyboards & Vocals
Bob Mulvey – Bass & Bass Pedals
Graeme Ash – Drums
Peter Cornforth – Keyboards [Track 10]
Heather Davies – Additional Vocals [Tracks 3, 5 & 8]
Tony Stewart – Additional Bass [Track 1]
John Rhodes – Additional Guitar [Track 2]
Jack Youdale – Vocal Introduction [Track 10]
Chris Brown – Spoken Word
UK Neo Prog band from Durham, formed in 1978 as Contraband and based around guitarist John Youdale.They soon changed their name to Glass Ear and then to Glacier, but the band called it off one day in the 80’s after the numerous line-up changes and the dissapointment of being underappreciated by record companies due to their sound.In mid-90’s though Glacier and John Youdale returned with Bob Mulvey on bass, female singer Heather Davies, Peter Cornforth on keys and Graeme Ash on drums.The late 90’s found Glacier working on old and new songs, which were completed with Dave Kidson on keys and new singer Dave Birdsall, who was also a member of the early days of the band.The compilation ”Monument” came out in 2001 as a self-produced CD.
Glacier played typical British Neo Progressive Rock along the lines of JADIS, IQ and ABEL GANZ with strong emphasis on the catchy melodies, the sensitive vocals and the careful keyboard textures.All tracks are well-crafted, pretty memorable and very melodic with some nice guitar solos, easy-going choruses and synth explorations, while the longer ones contain also some space for instrumental soundscapes of symphonic nature, which are pretty good.The atmosphere ranges from pleasant tunes to dramatic lyrical moments, surrounded by more grandiose musicianship and will please all fans of the genre.The vocals of Birdsall are warm, while previous singer Heather Davies appears also in a few tracks.On the other hand it is certain that the overall performance sounds pretty safe despite the hidden potential, while a few tracks are closer to Melodic Rock than even Neo Prog.Still the good arrangements will make the listener overcome these minor flaws.
Glacier’s unlucky incidents continued after the release, as the band had suffered again from constant line-up shakes, while the major content of a second album was almost ready.Hopefully the new material officially sees the light someday.
Pretty good work for all fans of 80’s British Prog, Neo Prog or light Symphonic Prog.Melodic and very intense at moments.Recommended.
Even though the English band Glacier has existed since 1979, Monument is their debut album. There were several times in Glacier’s history when the guys split up, but they always tended to drift back together at some point. Those times were obviously fruitful since they managed to create a modest collection of songs over the years. Some of these have now finally been put onto an album which at the same time serves as a monument for their drummer Mick King who sadly passed away in 1997.
The nicely coloured cover of Monument looks really interesting. At first sight, you see large chunks breaking off from a glacier and plunging into the sea. On closer inspection, however, you find that there are all kinds of faces in the surface of the ice, while the ice itself is made to look like a fortress. And for those with the magnifying glasses, there is even a little Viking ship coming out of the gate!
Most tracks on the album – 10 out of 13 – were written in the period from 1978 to 1985; the other three are from 1994, 1995 and 2000. I do not know how close the band stayed to the original arrangements of the songs, but I must say that musically seen they sound remarkably much like a mixture of two well-known neo progressive bands, namely Jadis and IQ. On top of that, Dave Birdsall’s somewhat nasal vocals feature the same kind of heavy vibrato that Jadis’s Gary Chandler uses at the end of his lines, while the combination of lead and backing vocals in the choruses (e.g. in Beyond The Wave) sounds very much like the harmonies between Chandler and Jadis/IQ keyboard man Martin Orford. Sadly though, some of the vocal melodies are on the upper edge of Birdsall’s range. A good example of that is Bring Down The Rain, in which the vocals are so pinched at places that they actually sound as if they were sung through a vocoder. The end of the same track features the very soulful backing vocals by ex-Glacier singer Heather Davies. Her voice is really nice, but its warmth is too much of a contrast to Birdsall’s less expressive singing, in effect she really manages to take over that part of the track entirely.
The album is often very enjoyable, but there is still something I miss. I could not put my finger on what that was immediately, but after having played the CD a couple of times, I realised what bothered me: the album lacks some “bite”. It is as if all edges have been carefully sanded off. This makes the music much less powerful than I think it could be. The lyrics often have challenging subjects (e.g. England’s attitude towards getting involved in the European Union in Think Of England, and England’s colonial history in East Of Arabia), but neither the vocals, nor the music really get angry at any time. It all stays… well… just nice. Still, I do know that there are many people who can highly appreciate this calmer kind of neo prog; it is just not the kind of stuff that makes me tick. Some more references are both early and later Genesis (Bring Down The Rain, Con Molto Noddus, East Of Arabia, Hackett-like guitars all over the album), Pink Floyd‘s The Division Bell (first three tracks), Arena‘s instrumentals on The Visitor (Monument), IQ’s early albums (beginning of The Iceman Cometh, East Of Arabia) and melodic jazz/fusion (Bring Down The Rain and The Iceman Cometh).
Two tracks that stand out for me in a positive way are the above mentioned East Of Arabia and The City Gates. The former features marching feet, oriental sounds and many silly voices, which remind me a lot of Genesis’s Get ‘Em Out By Friday. Its sarcastic text also really appeals to me; I like a bit of criticism wrapped in a silly jacket. Apart from that, this track features some musical highlights as well; great combination! The City Gates has a much more serious atmosphere. It features a beautiful “huge” sounding chorus, not unlike the one in Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb, with bass pedals and Hammond organ. Sadly though, the rest of the song is a bit light by comparison. A heavy structure on top of a light foundation usually leads to the collapse of an entire structure, which is the case with this track as well. The guitar solo is also a bit in the vein of the main one in Comfortably Numb, but it gets disrupted by some rhythm changes before it can come to a climax and that is a big, fat shame!
Glacier’s first album Monument is one that I think would appeal to people who like well-constructed, but not very aggressive sounding progressive rock in the vein of IQ, Jadis, Genesis, Pink Floyd and, to a lesser extent, Arena. Both the music and the vocals could use some rougher edges, in my opinion, because the songs are sometimes so smooth that they become a bit boring. I am interested to see how Glacier will develop further, since they do have interesting musical and lyrical ideas. However, my recommendation for the next album would be: kid gloves off, please!
Conclusion: 7 out of 10.