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Peter Hammill - The Fall of the House of Usher CD (album) cover

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER

Peter Hammill

 

Eclectic Prog

3.41 | 68 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

AtomicCrimsonRush
Special Collaborator
Symphonic Team
3 stars Edgar Allan Poe reimagined...

I must admit, although I am a fan of both Edgar Allan Poe and Peter Hammill, this release left me rather cold. It simply is overdone and does not feature enough melodic memorable tracks to warrant repeated listens. However, in saying that, it is a one of a kind project, and deserves at least one listen, and it is quite an absorbing experience initially. Hammill is more bombastic and vindictive than ever with his narrative storytelling vocal style. He incorporates many guest artists to retell this macabre infamous tale of a house that possesses its occupants to the point of utter madness. Hammill plays "Roderick Usher" and "The House" as well as all instruments, which is a feat in itself, and he is joined by Sarah-Jane Morris as the "The Chorus", Andy Bell as "Montresor", Lene Lovich as "Madeleine Usher", and Herbert Grönemeyer as "The Herbalist".

Indeed, the Poe story emerges in snippets of dialogue or the author's famous lines, though these are repeated ad nauseam. At first the album is a curio that grabs my attention, but the idea soon wears thin and then becomes stale. This is very unfortunate as I expected something special given the content and the artists involved. The Alan Parson's Project did it better on "Tales of Mystery and Imagination"; the reason it worked was simply great compositions, musicianship and attention to detail encompassing many of the tales, rather than labouring on the one solitary tale. Poe's tales are short little shockers and they are meant to be enjoyed in one sitting like a one act play.

There are some stunning pieces of classical music and it is all rather dark in passages. This is apt to build a threatening atmosphere of foreboding and gloom. It is perhaps an experimental approach that failed in many respects as Hammill never returned to this type of self-indulgent album making (though he did release a remaster with added features).

It is impossible to recall any particular track as it merges together as a whole. Though I firmly believe the first track and the last part of the album are gripping and definitely deserve attention. Act IV with Lene Lovich is one of my favourite segments; I always loved her voice, and the music dominated by cathedral organ, is very dynamic and ethereal. Act VI is very interesting as it incorporates my favourite Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart, reimagined by Hammill as 'Beating of the Heart', and then the climax is the girl rising from her grave to exact revenge and the house crumbles into the Tarn.

The reason I believe the album should be listened to, despite its flaws, is to experience the dramatis personae of the visionary, who had the sheer audacity of releasing it in the first place. The drawcard is obviously Hammill's inimitable vocals, and he revels in the dark power of the text. He is better off with Van der Graaf Generator when his musical genius is at the height of its powers, but nevertheless his solo material is always an intriguing project. Every Hammill solo album rings differently, and it doesn't get much more different than this! This is one to savour as a curio and certainly will generate a topic of conversation.

AtomicCrimsonRush | 3/5 |

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