US group go back to the future, prog-style.
Chronomonaut may be the perfect antidote to all those weighty, po-faced concept albums that take themselves oh so very seriously. The protagonist of the story behind the music is Tom, the obsessed prog fan first introduced on Glass Hammer’s 2000 album Chronometree. He returns here, as utterly devoted to prog rock as ever, but disillusioned that his own band The Elf King haven’t received the rapturous acclaim he believes
THE SOUND HAS PLENTY OF SUBSTANCE, AND THE BRASS SECTION ENRICHES
THE SONIC PALETTE.
they so richly deserve. So, Tom decides to travel back in time to the 1970s, convinced that he will finally find success in the golden era of progressive rock.
The playful tone of Chronomonaut is a great contrast to Glass Hammer’s last release, the much darker Valkyrie from 2016, which was all about the horrors of war. The lighter mood hasn’t led to any dulling of the group’s compositional skills, though. As much as it is a sequel to Chronometree, the album feels like it could be a cheery counterpoint to Tim Bowness’ Lost In The Ghost Light, about an ageing rocker reflecting on glories long past.
If there’s one common thread in prog forums, it’s a harking back to the days when prog bands ruled the airwaves and packed arenas, so it’s all too easy to relate to Tom’s sense that he lives in the wrong decade and is a man out of time. The album manages to sound both accessible and yet firmly rooted in progressive rock. Twilight Of The Godz has a touch of Floyd’s moodiness and a bluesy, Gilmour-esque guitar solo, but then there are catchy pop hooks in A Hole In The Sky.
Lead vocals are shared between bassist Steve Babb, Susie Bogdanowicz, Discipline’s Matthew Parmenter and Patton Locke, which helps bring the different voices in the story to life. Bogdanowicz in particular shines in 1980 Something and the atmospheric ballad Melancholy Holiday.
The production and arrangements are both impressive. Everything is clean and clear in the mix but there’s still plenty of substance to the sound, and the presence of a brass section on Roll For Initiative and Blinding Light enriches their sonic palettes. The latter has a hint of soul and 60s flower power pop thanks to the brass section and the infectiousness of the chorus melody, but then that’s balanced by the marvellous and very prog Mellotron solo.
There’s a lot of music to digest here and as much as Chronomonaut pokes a little fun at the way prog fans often cling to the past, this is an album that will reward repeated listens long into the future.