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

H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE

Van Der Graaf Generator

 

Eclectic Prog

4.32 | 1672 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

thesimilitudeofprog
4 stars H To He (the title refers to the fusion of hydrogen from helium) is the best prog album of 1970, which is saying something, because the competition was quite strong. ( ELP self-titled, Trespass, Gentle Giant, Benefit, Atom Heart Mother, In The Wake Of Poseidon too name a few.) VDGG suddenly made a definite breakthrough. I really have a hard time trying to come up with any specific complaints about this record - apart from certain overlong sections and a couple instrumental and vocal melodies that come off a wee bit more thin than the others, this is a great progressive album.

The album starts of with 'Killer', which is considered by many to be the band's peak and is the critics' favorite, and maybe it's the only possible VDGG song you'll ever hear played on the radio. It's not too often that you hear a band like VDGG come up with a brilliant riff like this, and set it to such positively frightening lyrics sung in such a positively frightening voice. Not only that - the intro and the opening verses might be the most epic and memorable moment on the album, but the mid-section, with the 'death in the sea death in the sea' chanting , is also great stuff. With 'Killer', the band finally proves that there was a reason of its existing in the first place. And to top it off, 'Killer' is immediately followed by what I consider VDGG's best ballad ever - the operatic, yet strangely sincere and moving 'House With No Door'. It's a little Bowie-like, reminds me of something from the Hunky Dory. The song's structure is immaculate, too: a sad, melancholic verse, a rousing chorus, a gentle flute solo, and a good buildup throughout - when Hammill screams out the last chorus in desperation, For me, it's very comforting and rewarding. The Emperor In His War-Room is dominated by guest star Robert Fripp's guitar playing, are a bit of a letdown as they are just overshadowed by the previous two masterpieces. It's absolutely clear that for this album the band had really spent a lot of time carefully working out the song structures and thinking about setting Hammill's lyrical imagery to some real dramatic music. So 'The Emperor In His War-Room' makes heavy use of the flutes; the entire first part is set to a steady, clever flute rhythm, and wisely alternates from super-slow and gentle to war like rhythms to anthemic heights. Then it all dies down, and the drums kick in the second, faster part, where Fripp finally comes in and gives us some much needed guitar work. Wow. 'Lost' comes next - again, Peter is the main star, this time mainly pulling out the song based on the strength of his singing. The melody is twisted, with time signatures flashing like cards in a dealer's hand and never giving you much time to enjoy them all; but whenever that gorgeous voice comes in and sings 'I know I'll never dance like I used to', or somehow I don't think you see my love at all... You can't help feel a little emotion. This is not just prog rock, this is something far above and beyond. On Pioneers Over C' Hammill tackles the traditional art-rock thematics of space travel - but it's not the lyrics this time, it's the atmosphere and the musical stuffing that makes the track so thoroughly unforgettable. Especially that cute little bass/sax riff in the middle of each verse to which Hammill tries singing in unison. And all the sections in this song are cleverly constructed. Fast, slow, moody and relaxed, energetic and fast-paced, and never getting boring.

A recommendation for all who enjoy dark heavy music, or emotional content, it's all there. This is an essential masterpiece of progressive rock music.

thesimilitudeofprog | 4/5 |

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