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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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Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR's first mature album, with all musicians more or less established by now. The exception is Nic POTTER, who plays bass on some tracks before he had decided to leave and have Hugh BANTON cover on organ pedals. Otherwise, the lineup is as usual: the ever-strange Peter HAMMILL and his unique vocals, David JACKSON's haunting, and sometimes frentic sax, Hugh BANTON's ghastly organ textures, and Guy EVAN's virtuosic masterful drumming.

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR is perhaps the most underrated and unrecognized band of all the 70s prog groups. They lie on the fringe of fame, and are perhaps the best band never to break the American market (although they were wildly popular in Italy). Their brand of dark symphonic rock and existentialist ponderings are simply magnificent, and it's really a shame they didn't do better than they did.

All of the songs on "H to He" (which refers to "the transformation of Hydrogen to Helium, creating vast amounts of energy with power our universe") center around the universal theme of lonliness, aloneness, and recluse. The first song is "Killer," a catchy, dark song about a fish who kills everything it loves, and is thus lonely. The lyrics are somewhat awkward and sophomoric, but the message still reaches through. There is a strange dark psychadelic jam somewhere in the middle, featuring a cavernous organ and freaky sax honks. Also noteable is the acoustic guitar which appears in the background, one of the few times HAMMILL actually plays.

"House with No Door" is a piano ballad, with the main focus being the lyrics. There is also a bass somewhere in the track, which BANTON plays, that sounds excellent, and some flute courtesy of JACKSON that sounds wonderful. The song deals with the theme of being trapped in a house, a metaphor for yourself and the fact that we are all trapped within ourselves, essentially alone.

War, and the decay and death which it causes and is created by is the theme of "The Emperor and His War-Room." The main focus is a general, an emperor of war who knows nothing but how to kill. He is essentially a victim of his circumstances, doing what he does because it is all he knows. This is the literal interpretation of the fish in "Killer," the real-life example that that song explained metaphorically. The first half, "The Emperor", is a pondering montage of shadowy imagery and ghostly flute and organ backdrops. Halfway through the song is a bridge over which Robert FRIPP lays down the only electric guitar on the album, which leads into "The Room." This section is much more catchy, with lyrics that sum up the Emperor's situation and creates a final climax.

"Lost" is the traditional theme of post-breakup loneliness and hopelessness, drawn out to great epic lengths by HAMMILL. The music seems to float in and out, tons of themes segueing together in random fashion. This doesn't make it bad by any stretch of imagination, just harder to describe.

The final song, "Pioneers over C" is musically in a similar fashion as "Lost", with many themes strung together. This song is more epic and spacey than the last, the sci-fi theme of space pioneers travelling at the speed of light (C, as in E=MC2) and becoming trapped in a bodiless, empty world of eternal nothingness. The sax goes really insane towards the end, and a theme in 14/8 appears towards the end, looping on and on endlessly as it slowly fades into a spacey, atmospheric section.

Overall, the album, is not quite as mature as "Pawn Hearts", but still every bit as good musically and lyrically. However, the structure is not quite as organized as the next album, giving the album a more drifting, haunting feel. Highly recommended to people who are in the mood for something different, something dark, or something good.

penguindf12 | 5/5 |


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