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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR

Eclectic Prog • United Kingdom


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Van Der Graaf Generator biography
VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR is an English eclectic progressive rock band with front man Peter HAMMILL from 'the classic period' that has proven be one of the most important bands of the progressive genre.

In England, 1967 Chris Judge SMITH formed 'VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR', but after his departure it was up to Peter HAMMILL (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Hugh BANTON (organ, bass on organ), David JACKSON (sax, flute) and Guy EVANS (drums) to become one of progressive rock most proliferate and unique bands as well as the first band to be signed to the Famous Charisma Label. The band was named after the scientific instrument 'the Van de Graaff generator', which is used for accumulating high voltage bolts. VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR (VdGG for short) is known for its extrovert dynamics (ranging from slow, calm & peaceful to fierce & heavy), its intense and emotional 'love it or hate it' vocals by Peter HAMMILL, its celebrated contribution to extended progressive songwriting and its combination of psychedelic, jazz, classical and avant-garde or even acid influences. Moreover, VdGG can be seen as the first band that was to combine the very progressive with the very personal, whereas other bands used to work with abstractions and fantasy. Peter HAMMILL has a talent for singing out intense graving, anger, panic and confusion whilst still being able to sing warm and caring in other passages. The band never really fitted in the symphonic progressive rock subgenre because of its widespread influences and unique style, though the band would have symphonic leanings throughout it's career. Unusual for the time was the focus on organ, drums and sax, whereas in the sixties the guitar and the bass guitar had played a major role.

The band had a leading role in the very first progressive phase releasing high-rated albums from 1970 to 1975. The strong conceptual 'H to He Who am the only one' (1970), the intense and highly innovative and daring 'Pawn Hearts' (1971), the bleak and ever evolving 'Godbluff' (1975) and the matured 'Still Life' (1976) are often cited as masterpieces of the progressive genre. Alongside VdGG there would be a very interesting solo-career for Peter HAMMILL who frequently invited members of the band to come and join on his seventies recordings, some of which are seen as 'lost VdGG albums'. VdGG would directly influence a lot of Italian progressive acts, a country in which they were particularly well received. The band stopped performing in its clas...
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Pawn HeartsPawn Hearts
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Blue Plate Caroline 2005
Audio CD$5.44
$8.51 (used)
GodbluffGodbluff
Remastered
Caroline 2005
Audio CD$5.04
$6.67 (used)
Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each OtherLeast We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Blue Plate Caroline 2005
Audio CD$5.44
$4.99 (used)
H to He Who Am the Only OneH to He Who Am the Only One
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Blue Plate Caroline 2005
Audio CD$5.44
$4.48 (used)
Grounding in NumbersGrounding in Numbers
Import
Esoteric 2011
Audio CD$10.34
$14.99 (used)
World RecordWorld Record
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Virgin / Charisma 2005
Audio CD$5.44
$10.33 (used)
Still LifeStill Life
Remastered
Caroline 2005
Audio CD$5.39
$10.99 (used)
H To He, Who Am The Only One (180 Gram Vinyl)H To He, Who Am The Only One (180 Gram Vinyl)
4 Men With Beards 2012
Vinyl$14.39
$29.17 (used)
Quiet Zone / Pleasure DomeQuiet Zone / Pleasure Dome
Extra tracks · Import · Remastered
Astralwerks 2005
Audio CD$5.44
$4.44 (used)
Classic AlbumsClassic Albums
Import
EMI International 2012
Audio CD$6.70
$4.03 (used)
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VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.26 | 415 ratings
The Aerosol Grey Machine
1969
4.03 | 661 ratings
The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
1970
4.30 | 1068 ratings
H To He, Who Am The Only One
1970
4.42 | 1413 ratings
Pawn Hearts
1971
4.50 | 1316 ratings
Godbluff
1975
4.28 | 970 ratings
Still Life
1976
3.80 | 493 ratings
World Record
1976
3.62 | 430 ratings
The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
1977
3.65 | 360 ratings
Present
2005
3.52 | 347 ratings
Trisector
2008
3.42 | 346 ratings
A Grounding In Numbers
2011
2.48 | 126 ratings
ALT
2012

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.72 | 187 ratings
Vital
1978
4.05 | 96 ratings
Maida Vale (The BBC Radio One Sessions)
1994
4.10 | 132 ratings
Real Time
2007
3.64 | 56 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
3.38 | 18 ratings
Recorded Live in Concert at Metropolis Studios, London
2012

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.07 | 89 ratings
Godbluff Live 1975
2003
3.16 | 19 ratings
Inside Van Der Graaf Generator
2005
3.00 | 1 ratings
Live Broadcasts - Collector's Rarities
2006
3.91 | 50 ratings
Live at the Paradiso
2009
4.43 | 32 ratings
Live at Metropolis Studios
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.61 | 26 ratings
68-71
1972
2.25 | 43 ratings
Time Vaults
1982
3.42 | 51 ratings
First Generation (Scenes from 1969-1971)
1986
3.35 | 37 ratings
Second Generation (Scenes from 1975-1977)
1986
2.20 | 27 ratings
Now And Then (Van Der Graaf Generator / Jackson, Banton, Evans)
1988
3.30 | 45 ratings
I Prophesy Disaster
1993
3.85 | 50 ratings
The Box
2000
3.36 | 17 ratings
An Introduction
2000

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.42 | 14 ratings
People You Were Going To / Firebrand
1969
4.00 | 18 ratings
Afterwards / Necromancer
1969
4.63 | 19 ratings
Refugees / Boat Of A Million Years
1970
3.57 | 21 ratings
Theme One / W
1972
3.69 | 13 ratings
Masks Part 1 / Masks Part 2
1976
4.40 | 15 ratings
Wondering / Meurglys III
1976
3.94 | 17 ratings
Cat's Eye
1977
1.66 | 16 ratings
The Masters
1998
0.00 | 0 ratings
Highly Strung
2011

VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Godbluff by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1975
4.50 | 1316 ratings

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Godbluff
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by Luís de Sousa

5 stars Is there a perfect record? One that grabs the listener from the very beginning into a breathless journey without detours, distractions or waste of time? If there is such a record it is this one. Writing a review is rather simple: no week points, no negative remarks, it is just pure excellence. It just happens that this is not any ordinary kind of music: eerie sounds from an unconventional set of instruments topped by disgruntling vocals and outstanding lyrics. But it all works together remarkably well, with the sum of its several parts reaching far beyond their individual value. An unrepeatable moment in the history of music. A record without peer.

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 H To He, Who Am The Only One by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.30 | 1068 ratings

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H To He, Who Am The Only One
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy

5 stars For this second masterpiece in a row to grace the year 1970 from one of the earliest of progressive giants..... VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR, I have to put on my Freudian psychologist's hat in order to understand the complexities of the allegories going into the truly poetic lyrics of Peter Hammill, who IMO is the best of the best in terms of singer / songwriter sensibilities in a progressive rock context. Every verse is constructed to milk out the desired emotional response with the musical accompaniment designed to heighten those precise desired effects.

This was my very first VDGG album that I ever heard and upon first listening I actually didn't like this at all. It seemed like a very bad pompous version of David Bowie, an art rock artist who to this day I feel has some similarities with Mr Hammill, however as we all know Bowie went in a more accessible direction and garnered well deserved success for his art rock contributions to the musical world and VDGG, sadly, while going down the same path and adding layers of complexities on their work bench didn't quite get the same results and although the magic can be clearly heard after many listens, the contemporary listening audience wasn't ready for such startlingly complex, darkened and mournful music when it was released much like my first encounter.

The title of this album has always intrigued me and it is by no means obvious as to what its reference may be, however after listening to this album several many times and studying the lyrics, it seems to me that the odd title H TO HE, WHO AM THE ONLY ONE taken with the obsessive fascination with abuse of power as well as the cover art depicting a lonely pair of legs in space with two rounded objects representing a pair of over-sized testicles makes me think that the actual meaning of this album is to represent the disconnecting nature of improperly used testosterone.

H TO HE symbolizes the fusion of hydrogen to helium and the WHO AM THE ONLY ONE changes the chemical symbol He from helium to the subject pronoun "he." This represents the mindset that male humans are the next logical step in creation after the primary building blocks of matter and that a man who is filled with testosterone and damaged psychologically can usurp power and go on to do nasty things by placing himself as the center of the universe and therefore making it possible to justify ruthless actions no matter how brutal or cruel. As far as anti-war stances go occurring in music, it just doesn't get any more poetically perfect or musically masterful than this splendid album by Peter Hammill and the gang.

Outer space and inner space seem more similar than not and a true poet like Hammill supplicates these portrayals like no other. "Pioneers Over C" perfectly represents this theory IMHO while referencing the laws of physics, it actually has a second meaning euphemistically referring to the tyrannical abuse of power. I see this piece as representing the domination of the natural and social worlds in a detached and frozen manner. The image of a man lost in outer space looking down on the world below viewing the world in disdain as he becomes increasingly isolated from the human family below and as this downward spiral escalates the desire to control and destroy only becomes stronger and stronger until....

This album really ramped up the experimental tendencies started on the previous album and because of the musical direction, bassist Nic Potter just couldn't get down with the whole thing and left the band in the middle of recording this album. Organist Hugh Branton whose keyboard playing is a major ingredient to the band's sound picked up bass duties and went as far as incorporating the bass parts with his foot pedals when playing live in addition to his already complex and haunting organ playing. David Jackson continued to amaze everyone with his rare ability to play two wind instruments simultaneously and with Guy Evans staying on as percussionist the band found a stable lineup that would be considered their classic lineup and they would go on to pump out some of the absolute best music ever made on this planet.

As with the last album every song flows perfectly into the next mixing pleasant melodies with jarring outlandish outbreaks of cacophonous sounds that perfectly emphasize lyrical subterfuge in their deliveries. Despite my countless listens to this masterpiece of music I am still floored by it. It not only ages well but because of the roundabout way of presenting the lyrics i'm constantly considering new meanings in the lyrical content. An intellectual teaser to say the least but one that fascinates me and keeps my constant interest. Of all the albums I have rated five stars this one comes close to the top of my list for best albums of all time. A timeless classic that I never tire of and sounds better after every listen.

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 Still Life by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1976
4.28 | 970 ratings

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Still Life
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by ibnacio

5 stars "Still Life, still living."

Van der Graaf Generator was not exactly one of my favourite bands of the moment, wayback in the 1970s (paraphrasing The Incredible String Band). I used to find Peter Hammill's singing unnatural and overacted. In addition, the dark aspects of the music were not my cup of tea, either. I wanted more light, being the Spanish scene quite a dark one after forty years of dictatorship, I guess.

Anyway, the Generator's music has grown or matured in me with time, like those sour or bitter tastes you get used to with the years and find pleasure in them as well as in the sweeter or milder ones. I guess it is a question of maturity.

So, after having revisited for some five years VdGG's oeuvre (the core of it, from "H to He..." to "Still Life", not in chronological order, though), I now own their music as an indispensible part of classic prog rock. And from all these four awesome albums, I must conclude "Still Life" their masterpiece for I find it is like a summary of all the best these four talented musicians were able to do with the exact balance of musicality, progressiveness, virtuosism and dark tones that any of the other three albums exceeded in one or other way.

Pilgrims kicks off with admirable organ phrasing and ambient which grows and grows till acquiring epic proportions and grandiose musicality, all of it repeated with variations on the second verse and coda.

The title theme begins in soft dark tones which turn into lyrical as Hammill unwraps his poetry on the text, a reflection on life's meaning. Then it changes with verse three to a more dinamic tempo and the band, mostly the rhythmic section, reach perfection. A perfect match of music to text.

I think never before has Hugh Banton's organ sounded better than in this album,and "La Rossa" is an example of it with its beautiful intro. After one minute, the band explodes and now we know we are in front of one of the strongest, more complex and achieved of the album's tracks, which means of VdGG's tracks. A (white) hot point. After six minutes, a short fugue resets us at full speed till the last cry : "Give me life!" with superb soloing from Banton and Jackson.

It is not my purpose to review every single track in the album, but I thought this incredible side A was worth reviewing. Just two tracks occupy side B, which continues in the mood of its reverse. "My Room" beeing more lyrical with beautiful jazzy arrangaments from Jackson while "Childlike Faith..." is a short epic reaching over twelve minutes which again reflects on life's basic questions. Hammill getting philosophical at full.

I guess those gap years the band took between "Pawn Hearts" and "Goldbluff" and the tour that followed that last album were the perfect conditions for the band to rebloom and provide us with a significant prog rock masterpiece.

Five stars without a doubt. Somewhere in South Spain, 17/07/2014.

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1413 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by MyDarling95

5 stars What can I say for Pawn Hearts? It is mind-blowing, one way or another! Many people find Van Der Graaf's records irritating, confusing and mad, but come on! That is the special flavor of this band, and it is over the edge in this one. Each and every song is filled with the pure essence of this band, from the classical sax's play of Jackson to the insane voice of Hammill.

Pros: +Lemmings: I cannot say this is beautiful, yet it is exciting and enjoyable. +Man-Erg: another crazy voyage from the mellow to the crazy and back and forth... +A Plague...: a real reference to prog!

Cons: -Wierd (I have to say it). -Takes a lot of listens to get into it.

Veredict: although this one stays a little short for me compared to my favorite VDGG album, "H To He, Who Am The Only One", I simply cannot give "Pawn Hearts" anything less than 5 stars, it is a complete masterpiece, a prog rock reference and 3 songs that stay in your mind a long, long time, cheers! It isn't the correct album to start, but every VDGG album from "The Least We Can Do..." to "World Record" are worth to be checked.

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 The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1977
3.62 | 430 ratings

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The Quiet Zone / The Pleasure Dome
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by TerryDactyl

4 stars I'm into lizards and I'm into snakes and I'm into Peter Hammill probably more than I should be. But I can't help it, see, he amazes me with his quixotic weirdness and those wonderfully wubulous words that sort of make me feel like a sandwich at Karen Carpenter's bedside. I want to be eaten by this music, see, I want to be devoured by it, and yet it NEVER quite does more than nibble, or pull off a bit of crust.

For some reason this record really does come close to pushing my baby carriage over the cliff, though, and I like it...alot. It is a "pop" affair, as far as VDG/G could be POP but that's really not saying much because this is as far away from a Donna Summer/Michael Jackson duet produced by David Foster as it is from England's Newest Hitmakers. This is exceedingly weird music, though I guess it's not as weird as the earlier stuff, but what about the way "The Habits of A Broken Heart" just sort of melts away from it's rather catchy beginning into a...well, whatever that is? I also love the "Sphinx" song, sounds like Bowie meets a Narwhal in Hell, and I'm personally glad that it does, I needed that sound in my life when I first heard this album, and I still do for that matter. It isn't the most played VDG/G record I have, but it gets rotation a few times a year (which is about all anything gets at this point) and I always enjoy it thoroughly, except that one part...you know the one I mean, where that one thing happens and other things that shouldn't happen happen too?

Oh, and also there's a violin. Really, a violin! Makes you almost not miss the saxophone, but not quite. Good stuff, probably not going to make anyone's top ten albums of all time or anything (but it really probably does make someone's list of awesomeness) but a good, solid record from a raving lunatic about the effects of Space. Listen without prejudice was the name of a George Michael album.

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 ALT by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 2012
2.48 | 126 ratings

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ALT
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by thenightfly

1 stars First, let me say that I'm not a die hard Van der Graaf Generator fan, and have only recently gotten into listening to them. I'm only 19 years old, so I don't know if I'm qualified to review this band, but I'll give it a go. :)

Now, I grew up listening to mostly video game music, which we all know is mostly instrumental and sometimes ambient. Despite a song not having lyrics to sing, it can be proven to be pounded into our memories just as much as a song with a catchy chorus or memorable lyrics. I mean, how many of us remember the Super Mario theme? Anyway, what I'm trying to say here is that a instrumental song can be proven to be just as powerful as a non-instrumental song as long as that instrumental song has a...:

1) Catchy beat / rhythm

2) Doesn't bore us to sleep (though calming songs are fine, what I mean is that the song keeps us entertained throughout)

3) Has interesting and intense instrumental parts

4) ...actually goes somewhere

Okay, now that's out of the way, let's get on with this album!

...man, I guess Van der Graaf Generator doesn't want to follow my steps because this is indeed a poor album. Some would argue that some of these songs go somewhere, but to me, they most definitely don't. All this album is to me is just a bunch of jam sessions and extended reject openings for various Van der Graaf Generator songs. The question I want to ask is, why bother making this? I mean, this album screams pointless. Basically, it's like an Ummagumma tribute, and though Ummagumma was a bad album, this tribute makes us that hate Ummagumma want to play it all day long just to get this crap out've of our heads, which shouldn't be hard, as none of the songs on "ALT" resonate in the brain very long.

Agree or disagree to my review, and if I'm not the only one that feels like this, please reply! :D

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 The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1970
4.03 | 661 ratings

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The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy

5 stars Coming to this album after hearing all the classics that followed first I didn't have high expectations but I have to say that this album is one of the best surprises in a long time. VDGG wasted no time on this first true album of theirs rocketing from proto-prog psychedlia to a full blown progressive monster.

This album showcases the musical talents of each member showing no problem taking on a fully developed darkened atmosphere replete with Gothic organs, dual saxes, full on jazz-fusion with layered symphonic effects and extremely pleasant melodic developments with frenzied freak-outs appearing in the mix. Add all the interesting strange time signatures and diminished doses of psychedelia incorporated with the rest and it is in effect the most experimental album I can think of for 1970.

In addition, Peter Hammill really goes to town in both the lyric and vocal departments. I am absolutely astounded by how well this album comes together and flows seemlessly from beginning to end despite the healthy number of influences on board. Highly recommended as THE first stop on the Van Der Graaf express.

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1413 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by thebig_E

3 stars I might be going against the popular opinion on this site, but this is not one of the best progressive rock albums to me. This is a highly-rated album that I don't really like, for a couple of reasons. All of the songs start off nicely but soon go into dissonance and darkness; maybe not the music for me since I like Yes and Genesis. Also, the production makes the music either too quiet or too loud. This is probably a nitpick but it just doesn't sound right to me. Some of the softer parts like the "killer lives inside me" bit off "Man-Erg" are quite good. The group's members are all talented and I will admit Peter Hammill has an interesting voice.

Track 1: "Lemmings (Including Cog)" - This is an okay opener. It sets the dark tone of the album right away. One negative point that I have with it is that the song doesn't really end so much as die down. It is still an acceptable opening track. 6/10

Track 2: "Man-Erg" - Now this is my favourite song on the album. As I mentioned before, the "killer lives inside me" chorus is very good; emotional and dramatic without sounding preachy. It actually reminds me a bit of Elton John. The track slows down a bit at the 5 minute mark and has some lovely saxophone playing in this section. 8.5/10

Track 3: "A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers" - I like some parts of this song, mainly the beginning and end. The song starts out as another ballad like the previous song but goes into the doomy atmosphere again. The section at the end with guitar solo and static electricity is probably the best part of the song for me. This is a good song as well, just not as consistent. 7/10

I would still recommend that you check out this album to see if you like it. 3 stars: Good, but non-essential.

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 The Aerosol Grey Machine  by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.26 | 415 ratings

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The Aerosol Grey Machine
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy

3 stars A good historical relic of a debut by one of the prog giants that falls more into the proto-prog category than full blown progressive rock which would come very soon. This album was supposed to be a Peter Hammill solo album but it seems Hammill and original member Chris Smith were coaxed into signing a contract with Mercury Records who then began to take control of the band and refused to let them record but yet wouldn't let them record with other record companies. So this in effect is a Hammill album that was released as a VDGG one to release them from their contract.

After all that despite being English, their debut was only released in the US and received hardly any promotion at all. This is not a bad album by any means but after falling for the albums of the classic period, I find this a tad lukewarm for my tastes. There are some great tracks but many that are snoozers. You can hear some of the sounds that would become classic VDGG taking form here and this is really a must hear for any true fan. It's apparent from the get-go that Hammil is a unique singing force in the musical world.

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 Pawn Hearts by VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.42 | 1413 ratings

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Pawn Hearts
Van Der Graaf Generator Eclectic Prog

Review by The Mystical

5 stars Van Der Graaf Generator - Pawn Hearts

Pawn Hearts is very different to my usual progressive rock favourites. The general sound of the album is dark and aggressive, and these are not attributes that are generally found in my favourite prog albums. All three of the Pawn Hearts' epic length tracks are a brutal assault on the ears and the conceptual ideas are communicated with a jazz-tinged rhythmic drive, which gives the album an aggressive touch. The compositions in this record are infused with avant-garde harmonic ideas, and the album's dark sound is characterised by juxtaposition of timbres, emotive lyrics, and a heavy emphasis on rhythm.

The exact concept of Pawn Hearts is unclear. However, main themes that are visited by lyricist and vocalist Peter Hammill are clearly those of power and control, human nature, and one's identity as a part of society. There is a clear protagonist who is explored in each of the three tracks, and his character undergoes development that is communicated through Hammill's vocal flourishes and timbre. The lyrics of the album could be said to represent different perspectives of Nazism, dictatorship, and other such methods of control. The most obvious reference to this idea is the opening track, Lemmings, where the protagonist witnesses those that he is close to, following the crowd as they jump to their doom. The whole album revolves around the protagonist's resistance to the crowd of "Lemmings" as they fall to their fate, presumably at the hands of leaders, and the emotional turmoil that is caused by the solitude that follows. Hammill wastes no time in establishing the metaphors that the story is based around, with an immediate reference to a "game", where the "Lemmings" are used as "Pawns", jumping to their doom in a scenario that is left ambiguous.

The album opens with the hostile and dramatic Lemmings, a perfect beginning to the album. This track is both composed and performed with conviction and aggression, and Hammill's performance remains one of the most convincing vocal deliveries in progressive rock history. The "Cogs" section is as close as any 70s band can get to a death metal breakdown, combining a slow tempo with an aggressive rhythmic emphasis and dissonant timbres to create a very disturbing musical portrait of a dystopian world. Guy Evans' superb drumming is featured here, his meticulous approach to timing giving the piece a solid backbeat and highlighting the jazz influences that characterises the band's sound. Despite the abundance of hostility, there is still an air of positivity in the message of the song, with the protagonist's final message being "What choice is there but to live, to save the little ones?"

Man-Erg is a welcome contrast to the malicious sound of Lemmings. The track opens with a gentle piano opening, which is followed by Hammill's soft vocals. This track visits the idea of conflicting feelings, personalities or ideals, with the protagonist describing the "killer" and the "angels" that live inside him. The character, arguably the same character that is explored throughout the album, is experiencing inner turmoil and could be said to be struggling with an important decision. There is a more melancholy flavour to this track, which is supported by the musical allusions to the previous track, which provides musical contrast. The song develops into many different sections, each with their own contrasting musical characters, and these are all combined and revisited in the final minutes of the song to provide dramatic juxtaposition and to bring the piece to a fitting conclusion. Side one is brought to a dramatic close with Hammill's final wailing statement, "I'm just a man, and killers, angels, all are these, Dictators, saviors, refugees, In war and peace".

A Plague of the Lighthouse Keepers is a very different creation. This side-long epic combines the emotions that are visited in the previous tracks, only this time there is a sense of manic urgency and an increased use of dramatic tension (most notably the saxophone's imitation of a fog horn). There is an unfortunate lack of consistent motifs throughout this piece, but fortunately this allows room for development and exploration of new melodic territory. The collaboration between the vocals and keyboards really shines in this piece. This final chapter sees the protagonist watch from his "lighthouse", as all of his peers jump like Lemmings into the untold situation, which he has struggled with in each of the tracks. He feels lonely in his decision to defy the crowd, and seeks signs of direction and significance in his solitude ("You'll begin to wonder if the points of all the ancient myths, are solemnly directed straight at you..."). Toward the end, our protagonist surrenders to the control of the crowd and jumps into the situation that he has defied, seeing the epic concluded in a swirl of keyboards. The music here is more extreme in its juxtaposition of moods, but it is less effective in creating dramatic tension than the subsequent tracks. There are many more dissonant passages here, contrasted with several emotive collaborations between the keyboards and Hammill's vocals.

It is very rare to find an album with such raw emotion as Pawn Hearts. Both the composition and the performance of this album are drenched in unconventional emotive devices, creating an album which is brooding, aggressive, and desperately melancholic. Hammill's vocals are in top shape, and his performance on each of these tracks is outstanding, emphasizing each contrasting section with a unique approach to timbre and extended vocal techniques. The sound of this album is much more mature than the band's previous releases, yet there remains a freshness that adds excitement and vigor. It is evident that each of the members of the band were fully engaged in the recording of the album, and Peter Hammill's vocals are delivered with excitement and engagement that can come only from a passionate connection to the lyrical content.The standout track is "Lemmings", with its frantic and aggressive delivery and its eternally relevant message of the defiance of mass manipulation.

Pawn Hearts is the darkest musical experience that the genre of progressive rock has to offer, and is an essential addition to any serious progressive rock collection.

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