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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

4.30 | 1087 ratings

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SonicDeath10
5 stars I'd say fans should start with H to the He but that would really be spoiling them. H to the He is a perfect blend of the early, apocalyptic fury of The Least we Could Do, mixed with more compelling lyrics, better riffs, stronger melodies and better arrangements. Essentially, the album is a more complete try at the style started on The Least but again it's important to note that this album also has a completely different sound. The Least had a very organ thick, plodding sound that created an atmosphere of doom that was a bit heavy handed but effective. Here, the arrangements and melodies are generally lighter and more spry, with saxophone, flute and piano making much of a presence. As a result, the mood lightens up a little but the songs don't: this actually increases the effectiveness of the mood created, as the doom could seem nearly cartoonish on the Least. The sound mix is dominated by flute in a way never heard before or later and the feel of each song is much lighter and relaxing.

Killer is the first song and perhaps the best remembered. It does indeed have an incredible set of riffs, incredible lyrics, Hammill singing like never before as well as a memorable mid song jam. It has a bit of the "plodding" sound of The Least but is done better than any song there.

House with No Door is another ballad in the style of Refugees but done a bit less operatic than before. The melody here is mostly piano based, giving it a lighter feel. The lyrics are pretty pessimistic. The playing is great and the melodies are truly moving and memorable. Peter tends to create ballads that become bombastic but effective but here he scales back to a mere 6:30 and keeps the arrangements light throughout, focusing on effective contrast between piano and organ as well as melodic variations on the same basic melody.

The Emperor in his War Room features an upbeat flute introduction and features quick playing as well as a great staccato vocal melody from Hammill. The lyrics discuss a war mongerer pondering war and are very effective: Hammill has stopped declaring truths and tries coming to them through character studies. The melodies here are catchy and constantly switching: it is here where you can see how effective a prog band they had become. The playing features incredibly complex melodies but the melodies retain catchiness.

Lost is a flute dominated ballad that may meander at times but still coalesces into a series of melody shifts, climaxes and contrasts. It never hits the same way Refugees or House with No Door do but it serves as a nice contrast between Emperor the Pioneers Over C.

Pioneers Over C features some of Peter's best lyrics. While still sci-fi they ponder a scenario where astronauts are flying over the speed of light and pondering the fact that everyone they know will have died after they have finished. It features an incredibly moody opening with one of Peter's best riffs, several melody and mood switches, great arrangement ideas (Dave's sax part during the faster parts is incredibly anthemic) while still retaining an essential mood and staying coherent. Gone are the days of the wide ranging confusion of After the Flood: the song has multiple parts and sections but they never seem tacked on how they did in After the Flood.

Essentially, this is VDGG's best pure prog album. Later albums became a bit more personal and created a bit more of different style. However, this album is pure prog through and through and it is one of the best prog records of 1971, already an incredible year. Peter never again created an album that balanced progressive playing with great melodies, diverse and effective arrangements and ear catching singing and lyrics. He probably could have coasted on variations of this sound (as many prog bands tended to do) for a decade but the fact that he kept changing his style (even when it became frustrating and difficult) is a testament to his ability and his artistic integrity. Listening to this album, one gets the sense of a talented composer while later albums give a sense that the man would never, in a million years, sell out.

SonicDeath10 | 5/5 |

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