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Van Der Graaf Generator - H To He, Who Am The Only One CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.31 | 1486 ratings

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Symphonic Team
5 stars H to He Who Am the Only One is an excellent album from Van der Graaf Generator, definitely one of their best alongside Pawn Hearts (their best), the much celebrated Godbluff and the incredible The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other. The album begins with the dynamic 'Killer' which is easily the best track on the album and a concert favourite. It focuses on a narrative perspective from a killer shark who wants to be loved but has an impulse to kill outside of its control: "You crave companionship... because the whole of your life you've been living alone". Interesting enough, the real highlight beyond the lyrics is the way Hammill delivers with absolute conviction and the way that the instruments compliment the keyboards with saxophones and percussion that is off beat at times but never out of time. Perfectly in synch, all the instruments blend to create a soundscape of doom and majesty and it captures the imagination unlike anything the early 70s had to offer. At 8 minutes the track flows beautifully from one segment to another, and features an erratic instrumental break that almost transports you under the sea witnessing a shark attack, the shrill saxophone bursts could be a fish screaming in pain, and the deep rumbles could be the shark swimming to its next meal. 'Killer' is an instant classic and a must for anyone interested in this genre of music.

'House With No Door' is one of the contemplative existentialist pensive tracks where Hammill contemplates life and the purpose for his existence.

'Emperor in his War Room' gets back to the greatness of VDGG, a torrid saga of an Emperor who "cradling his gun, after choosing the ones you think should die... crawling over the windowsill into your living room." The bodies that are "torn by vultures" are left to die by the "saviour of the fallen, protector of the weak". Once again terrific lyrics overladen by mellotron, atmospheric drums and saxophone, and the relentless bass.

"Lost" is another brilliant track that begins with a swirling dervish of keyboards and wrong chords that are used to maximum effect. It's as good as it gets and moves all over the place, with time signatures that are difficult to emulate. This is one of the more complex tracks from the band, and features an excellent saxophone and keyboard solo that drives the song forward to the final section The Dance in the Forest. One part pulses with a driving bass while a thin saxophone contains a strong esoteric melody. The echo of the saxophone adds to the sense of alienation and bleakness. It all ends on an off kilter series of notes that speed up into a frenzy that finally fades out.

'Pioneers Over C' is one of the best VDGG tracks and begins with a high pitched atmospheric note, then a low rumbling Hammond keeps the jagged rhythm in tact somehow, while the percussion kicks in. It's a great sound and prepares the way for Hammill's spaced out lyrics. "Somebody help me I am falling down" he cries. I just love the riff of the bass and sax in this track that stops and starts and even features quite a beautiful acoustic arrangement and spars saxophone. "The universe is on fire exploding without flame" - fair enough if the universe is going to go foom it may as well be to the melodies of VDGG. Heavy stuff throughout it never becomes overbearing thanks to the excellent structures of each track that range from tranquility to an out of control maelstrom.

The bonus tracks are surprisingly good and worth the effort. "Squid/Octopus" is a fantastic lengthy 15 minute epic that works well on a number of levels. From the estranged vocals, "I wish that you would set me free forever, but these rings on my arms are too deep...", down to the way it blasts and spews waves of noise using instruments from acoustic guitar to mellotron. I love the way it loses control halfway through almost improvisational in places and then somehow finds its way again, nobody could jam like these guys. The end is stuffed up with an added cymbal hit and the band members curse and laugh. But who would care after the way this track spiralled all over the place, but I guess these guys were perfectionests.

The early take of 'Emperor in His war Room' is more or less a curio and is a rare look at the makings of a classic track. It does sound different without the overdubs and atmospherics but is no the less the better for it.

Overall, H to He... is absolutely quintessential VDGG and my CD collection would be the poorer without it. Along with Pawn Hearts and Godbluff, I can't recommend this more highly.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 5/5 |


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