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Van Der Graaf Generator - Godbluff CD (album) cover


Van Der Graaf Generator


Eclectic Prog

4.46 | 2350 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

5 stars Usually after I hear an album a few times, I start to think about little things that I might have liked to have heard that would make an already solid release stand out just a little more. I know this is something a lot of listeners do, whether they're musical or not, according to their own subjective preferences. It's a natural process that occurs as you become comfortable with an artists material and is very common, even with some of your favorite works. For me, Godbluff is a monumental exception to that rule.

As an album, Godbluff is unique in the sense that not only is the whole greater than the sum of its parts, but every track is a masterpiece in its own right. Each one has an atmosphere and energy all its own, but they all relate to each other in an undeniably gratifying manner. A commonality in each track is an all-pervading darkness and depth of emotion. Each song's lyrical theme reflects extreme circumstances within one's life and a state of conflict, either internal, external, or both. The music compliments these ideas most effectively, as each part contains a subtle sense of driving agitation that propels the listener forward without detracting from the calmer passages. Everything from the notes themselves to the shifts of key, mood, and time signature to the instrumental timbre itself communicates artistic inspiration and emotional depth, creating an atmosphere unique to the album that haunts and enthralls the listener while augmenting the message and the fervor of the lyrics without detracting from them in any way. In short, this album contains a balanced symbiosis independent of compromise, a rare and admirable in creating album- oriented music to say the very least.

The Undercover Man is a fantastic opener. Starting softly and building progressively in texture, dynamics, and emotional fervor, Hammill leads us through a theatrical coming-of- age song that has a form more reminiscent of an overture or theatrical piece than your run- of-the-mill song. The instrumental sections help delineate the vocal passages and offer a solid contrast that renew the song's energy with each shift. By the time it concludes, you feel empowered by the dark, yet paradoxically positive energy offered by each member. Intriguing, yet inviting, this is an inspired choice for a first track.

Scorched Earth is a track of true bombast and strength. The energy of this track is very direct and engaging, even aggressive and intimidating. I believe this to be one of their strongest tracks. Complex, shifting, varied, and instrumentally demanding, this is a dense track, one you cannot hope to digest completely on the first listen. But with repeated listens comes much discovery and reward. The vocals here are more assertive than the previous track, and the empowering sensation one gets from them is more akin to the charge of battle than the uplifting perseverance through life's many changes, which is appropriate considering the track is about a soldier on the battlefield who knows nothing more than conflict any more. Truly an essential track with wonderful instrumental work, both individually and collectively when the band syncs up.

Arrow is a song that is in a constant state of evolution from the beginning jam to the slow tapering of sound as the action dies away before one final forceful cadence within the track's final moments. Hammill's most tortured vocal delivery ever suits the text so well. The lyrics depict a man running from an assassin, only to be denied shelter and brutally murdered. The darkest track on the album by far, but one of the most intriguing in the band's entire catalog. The main motive of the song is constantly developed and manipulated as the story unfolds, building to a dizzying climax as Jackson cuts loose in an instrumental depiction of the character's suffering as Hammill screams the lyrics telling of one's untimely demise. The instrumental textures here are haunting, and Hammill's punchy keys here are the perfect standout voice. I can't explain why, but the sound of that instrument alone seems to add a menacing, magical quality to the track that I feel is truly indispensable.

The Sleepwalkers has a much more mystic energy about it. Starting out playfully, the enigmatic organ drone under the bouncing soprano sax and tom hits start the song off directly and engage the listener's attention quickly before Hammill enters with his first lyrics. A song reflecting on the world around you and the people within it morphing and distorting beyond your control, the music reflects this idea by changing moods and themes with calculated regularity. These transitions, however, are seamless and natural, never seeming forced or contrived based on some arbitrary formula. The textures in some passages are lighter and more whimsical, but this deception is revealed as the next, more chaotic passage breaks loose and shatters the listener's expectations and sense of stability, in the most rewarding way possible, of course. After an ethereal moment of keyboard flourishes, the section that follows introduces a sense of tightened focus. It crescendos with each passing measure, re-energizing the listener and building up to one of the most climactic moments of the albums. Jackson soars above the other members with a fantastic solo that compliments the mix so well. No unnecessary or unjustified virtuosity in his playing; every beat of every note is truly powerful, as the strength of his playing here is the sheer edge in his tone. You don't get that kind of expression out of thirty- second note noodling and glissandos. Then Hammill reenters, forcefully delivering one of the most emotionally charged lyrical passages of the album. His screams here are truly bone-chilling. Not the kind of tortured, terrified shrieks of the previous track, but the kind of forceful shouts that will surely put a smile on your face. The original atmosphere penetrates the mix again as previous themes are reprised, Hammill reflectively delivers the final lyrical passages, and the keyboard flourishes before the driving passages return to signify a departure from the world as depicted within the lyrics, as well as a gentle awakening from the mystical world in which the song envelops the listener.

This album, according to my tastes and preferences, is one of the few albums I would regard as absolutely perfect. There is literally no conceivable change I would want to impose on any moment to alter this already strikingly beautiful formula. This album is so consistently good from track to track that I can't even conclusively select a favorite, which to me is a testament to its strength of consistency and the band's overall compositional talent. Each of these four remarkable songs is an adventure into some of the darkest textures progressive rock has ever offered, and I revel in every second of it! This is in my top 3 albums of all time, alongside Red and Selling England By The Pound. This is a masterpiece that more than deserves to be counted with the rest of the essential prog albums out there from all periods of the genre's existence, and for that reason, I award it an emphatic 5 stars along with my undying gratitude for having the pleasure of hearing this truly phenomenal music from my favorite band.

Neo-Romantic | 5/5 |


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