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


Peter Hammill

Eclectic Prog

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4 stars This concept album is based upon the tale by E. Allan Poe, a jewel of theatrical darkprog. In fact this re-recording and re-remix concerning the famous theatrical dark project of HAMMILL, which has been the main reference for a lot of dark prog bands, including DEVIL"S DOLL, is the best effort by this versatile UK artist in the recent times, talking about his music adaptations. This excellent plot by E. Allan Poe, featuring also Lene Lovich as Madeline Usher, is developed like a theatrics' act and well constructed too!! This great vocalist has a strong expression during his vocal excursions, as long as the plot lay-out is completed by the original tale's development of the characters. It's difficult to compare this work to those ones of V.D.G.G., but in my opinion this is the peek of his career and also a true HAMMILL trademark !! It is very comfortable for him, by standing here as a one man band, regarding of his total personal control over the construction of the opera... moreover by demonstrating also his maturity in this fresh remake! I hope that such re-make and the re-recording of the whole opera as well, keep on maintaining the original mood as a secure reference for the next theatrical music acts.

Highly recommended, not for the fans of V.D.G.G. only !!

Report this review (#18743)
Posted Friday, April 2, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars For real, this is a real gem in rock history. The most dramatic album that I ever heard. As a vocalist Peter Hammill as a Roderick Usher and as a Voices of the House is - in my opinion - in the highest point of His fantstic career. Compositions are full of passion. Dark, hypnotic and memorable. To sum up, I enjoy all His stuff, but "Fall of the house of Usher" is one of the most important albums ever made.
Report this review (#45562)
Posted Monday, September 5, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Album announced in 1991 "The Fall of the House of Usher". Edgar Allan Poe's original is wonderful, and this album is also wonderful. This is one of the finest albums of Peter Hammill.And one of The most dramatic album that I ever heard.It is a content that is not only a fan of VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR but also can recommended for all progressive rock lovers.
Report this review (#47737)
Posted Thursday, September 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I've been listening to Peter Hammill's compositions for some 30 years now. I've always found them to be fascinating and extremely well made. "Usher" especially '99 version is no exception. Thank you, Peter, for sharing with us your unwavering love for your music. Thank you for continuing to create new and challenging compositions for all of us to enjoy.
Report this review (#69429)
Posted Wednesday, February 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars After a couple of dull albums, Hammill delivered this masterpiece; first released in 1990 and then re-released in its remixed form in 1999. I have both and prefer the 1999 version. No cheap drums, some parts re-sung in a way that is more appropriate to the overall atmosphere; and some additional instruments added, mainly violin and ambient guitars. The whole album is a tense and very dark experience which is beautifully captured and delivered by all singers. Hammill in particular uses his voice to its full range, being at the same time Roderick Usher and the voices of the house. This album is a masterpiece and most of all an emotional experience, up there with Pink Floyd's The Wall . My only comment which makes it lose one star is: when it was first released in 1990 I thought this should be performed by an orchestra!!; and then in 1999 version; since Hammill had the oportunity to do some re-working on it and to re-move the "rocky" bits; I was still rather disappointed with the instruments and still wondered why real classical instruments weren't used. So 4 stars.
Report this review (#71974)
Posted Wednesday, March 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first mix of this remarkable recording is inferior, so insure that you get the better updated and improved final version. Peter is often inconsistent but this record is highly entertaining throughout. The downside is that despite the re-mix the instrumentation remains a little sparse and understated. Maybe Peter having made some money from the resurgent VDGG will finally lavish the kind of money on this work that it deserves. A full Rochester would make this not only a prog classic but also an all time classic of darkness. What we have may not be perfect but it is the outline of a great work his magnus opus. The highlight as always is Peters fantastic vocal and emotional range. The contrast of voices is also very effective but of course Peter is the star. Chris Judge smiths Libretto is a supreme achievement, very well put together. For once Peter lets another control the lyrics and it works very well. Chris is of course a friend of peters from the early VDGG days and also wrote the lyrics for Peters amazing "Pail". The original mix sounds cheap and there remains a little hint of amateurism here but its just a hint. the remix version is leaps and bounds better and of course die hard fans will want both to see how this work has progressed. This is certainly a classic of progressive rock music and although I can only give the first version 3.5 stars the newer re-mix gets 4.5. Hopefully one day soon he will release a definitive version and leave for posterity this example of his art. Peter Hammil is a great artist on a par with the Bach and Beethoven's of a previous age.
Report this review (#146544)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This should have been the peak of Peter Hammill's career: A full opera about a Poe narration written over 15 years... But there are a couple of things that shortened the result: It was written during a too long period. Listening to it, it comes pretty clear from witch period comes each scene. I like much more the 70's parts. The result is not coherent enough. Peter Hammill was in love with Barcelona when he finished the writing of the opera. It was supposed to be premiered and recorded in Barcelona opera with full orchestra. But the project fell off. The studio recording is full of samples lacking in deepness and variety. It would have been much benefited of real instruments. Even these problems it is a great effort. Hammill's most ambitious one. There are many remarkable scenes. Excellent but not perfect.
Report this review (#167561)
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Since I haven't read the original Poe story, I have some difficulties to enter into this storyboard.

For sure, it is an album apart in Hammill's long and productive career. Unfortunately, I am not touched by the grace while listening to this album. About eighty minutes of complexity, weirdness and little, very little great moments.

I was thrilled with Lene Lovitch's participation. She released two great albums in the late seventies and I was quite of fan of this Lady. But her role as "Madeleine" is only three songs long, so don't expect too much from her parts. And to complete, I'm not impressed by most of the guest vocalists invited here.

Of course, the same magic as usual does work when the man (Usher/Hammill) enters the scene. Poignant, emotional, tortured. Almost vomiting his words as if his life depended on his performance. I can only be moved by a track as "the Sleeper"; even if the pomposity of the church organ is maybe a bit too much.

But this work as a whole is somewhat too hermetic ("Leave This House") and would hardly please the traditional Hammill fan. Even less traditional ones as I am.

"Dreaming" is the very much expected entrance of Lene, but even if she's brilliant in her vocal part, the backing instrumentals are just too loose and chaotic. This ain't a lucky number.

There is nothing I can do about it, but I am only touched by "Usher", and preferably when he sings on his own. This role is of course held by Peter (only for three songs out of the many from this album). Which is a bit short to my taste.

Most of the time, I have the impression to listen to a West End musical. Sound without vision in this case. Not a great experience I have to say. To be fairly honest, I believe that this album can only please an extremely limited amount of people.

I'm not saying that it is an elitist attempt but even if I have praised the man in lots of his albums (this one being at the very middle of his work so far - 2008), this one just doesn't work for me.

No surprise that the last appearance of "Madeleine" is one of the best song of the whole (It's Over Now) . But I'm probably biased by this great Lady. I miss her so much. Just two great albums and then the silence. Why did you do this to me, Lene?

This is a difficult Hammill album (as if there were "easy" ones). One has to hold on tight throughout these long seventy minutes. There are some passionate moments ("An Influence"), but too scarce to make this one a good album, IMHHO.

Two stars. This is how far I can go for "The Fall Of The House Of Usher": the last act (sixteen minutes) being particularly weak.

Report this review (#174133)
Posted Monday, June 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars I hate musicals. I think you need to keep that predisposition in mind for understanding my estimation here of Hammill's rock opera: The Fall of the House of Usher. Oh, and I hate rock opera. You better take note of that partiality as well.

Hammill had been working on this work for around 20 years. So, despite me loathing musicals, I was still expecting something. After all this was still Hammill right? Unfortunately, I couldn't believe my ears when I heard it.

After 20 years of hard work, Hammill couldn't have chosen a worse moment to actually record and release this. First of all, around 1991 he was close to hitting rock bottom of the continuing creative downfall that had set in with the ill-conceived ballad-collection The Love Songs. Secondly, at that time he was still fumbling around with premature midi-equipment and was releasing one exercise in plastic rock after the other. So instead of releasing this as a proper band effort or just as a low-fi play for piano and voice, he employed his entire midi-orchestra again, complete with toy-box drum computer and amateurish sounding violins and keyboards.

If that wasn't bad enough yet, the actual music is poor as well, entirely made up of all musical clichés from the Handbook For Derivative Musical Writing. (By the way, in case anyone's interested, I will be glad to dispose of my copy of that very handbook for a buck, shipment excluded.). Of course Hammill uses his harsh voice on occasion, but it is rather preposterous then it is effective here. In fact, this whole undertaking has only one track of note, Architecture, where Hammill sets off for an impressive dialog between his different vocal persona. Similar to Medieval on the album The Future Now, but nearly not as good as that song was. Oh, and I hate rock opera and after hearing this album again, I fully remember why.

No, all musical-bashing aside, I really can't see this as an accomplished piece of work. It's way below many other weak albums that Hammill released in the 90's and with hardly 3 minutes of music that I can stomach, this will be just 1 red dwarf.

Report this review (#252826)
Posted Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#775694)
Posted Friday, June 22, 2012 | Review Permalink

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