Glass Hammer: The Middle-earth Album
Last year at Dragon*con I had the opportunity to meet with the people of Glass Hammer. They played a preview of their Middle-earth album and showed a video they had put together years ago about how Aragorn and Arwen met. To be honest at the time I didn’t think much of it, and I personally didn’t think the album would be all that good. In retrospect, this is another example of why first impressions shouldn’t be relayed upon.
Flash forward one year. Jonathan and I are getting together for some reason right before my trip to Germany and he mentions that he has just received a copy of Glass Hammer’s CD and would like me to review it. I told him that I would love to. I figure that I could listen to the CD on the 12-hour flight over to Frankfurt.
As I packed, the computer was busy ripping the CD into MP3’s and storing them on my portable MP3 player. As I traveled down to my sisters I started to listen to the music. Jonathan had told me the album was good and “a lot of fun.” As the first song started to play I knew that Jonathan’s four-word review was correct.
The premise of the album is that the guys from Glass Hammer get stuck in Middle-earth for an evening or so and end up playing at the Prancing Pony. As with any fantasy story the important thing is not necessarily how things happen, but the effect it creates when it does happen. This holds true for this album. I don’t care how the guys from Glass Hammer ended up with their recording equipment and instruments in Middle-earth, I was interested in the music.
I have had the chance of reviewing a vast array of Tolkien inspired artwork in my position here at Tolkien Online: The One Ring. Most of the work is very serious; by this I mean that the artist is trying to be as serious as possible about his artwork and he is being serious about the subject.
Usually what happens when the artist takes this approach, the artwork suffers. Granted if the artist is a talented artist the work is a beautiful reflection of Tolkien’s world. The guys from Glass Hammer fall into this later category, but do not be fooled; this is an album of drinking songs.
To give you an idea how catchy they are I have a friend at work who knows next to nothing about Tolkien, yet after playing the CD once he continues to hum and whistle music from as he puts it; “That Troll Drinking Song” several months later.
After you hear the songs from album, you will be hooked. It’s hard not to love the catchy music and lyrics. The album rings true to the fairy tale genre by treating things of horror with lightness and a laugh. An example of this is the very song my friend hums and whistles; the song is about a troll who lives a couple miles outside Bree and one day a very beautiful maiden walks by and he asks her to dance. Sadly the troll is conflicted; does he eat her or does he ask for her hand in marriage. The poor woman on the other hand is seeing things from a different angle, she wants to kill the troll, but needs to lull him into a false sense of security.
Of course the idea of a young beautiful woman being eaten by a troll is a rather horrible idea to contemplate; but it takes a certain genius to tell the story in lighthearted way. To make the presentation even more masterful they throw the story into a song and add a catchy tune. This is the stuff classic fairy tales are made of. This is also the type of music I would expect to hear in the Prancing Pony if I was to stop on by one late night.
To make the illusion more complete each song ends and we get to hear the audience reaction. This is great. I can see the feisty Hobbit yelling at another patron to find another table. Then later it makes sense for this same patron to start complaining when the guys from Glass Hammer are packing it up. To further complete the illusion of an album from Middle-earth people from the audience get a chance to sing along.
I do have several complaints about the album. The last half of the songs, though good does not fit the feel of the first half of the album. The songs are of a different style and do not have the audience participation in them. This is not to say that the second half of the album is bad. It is just different in style and presentation. To be honest my review and my attraction to this album is based upon the first half of the album.
The second complaint I have of the album is that the first half is way to short. But to be realistic, I could stand to hear the first half of the album over and over again.
In the end, I personally would recommend this album to Tolkien fans everywhere. I hope Sierra or Electronic Arts licenses this music to play in their computer games. I hope that the movies will have this good of a presentation of the atmosphere of the Prancing Pony. I will grant the fact that some may not like the silliness of the music, or the last half of the album might not be their cup of tea, but if you love the Hobbit or Tom Bombadill, then you will love this album. Glass Hammer has added their works to the vast interpretations of Tolkien’s world; future additions will be judged by this album. I suspect few will be able to match the album’s ability to immerse you within the world Tolkien spent so long creating.
To get the album, click on the link below and head on over to their website and click on Order