Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Van Der Graaf Generator - H to He, Who Am The Only One

Van Der Graaf Generator
H to He, Who Am The Only One


Released 1970 on Charisma
Reviewed by zmnathanson, 28/01/2009ce


Their third album which was a follow up to The Least We Can Do Is Wave to Each Other, sees VDGG in a whirlpool of horror and science-fiction's twisted view of freak out music. H To He, Who Am The Only One features five tracks and as the band lets out a screeching roar as Peter Hammill tells the tales of different epics of Murderous Fishes living the sea searching for human flesh, A Room with No beginning at the end of the door, An Emperor's city crashing down upon him in his War Room, you get the idea. The group features Bassist Nic Potter's pre-punk prog sound on his guitar, David Jackson's hellish sound on the sax, Hugh Banton's twisted tour de force sounds on the keyboards, and Guy Evans playing the drums and keeping the tempo going for the band following along with him.

When you listen to this, you're thinking 'oh it's just a rip off of King Crimson', guess again, this isn't. It's almost a darker version of hell on this. And for Peter Hammill, let's say that he knows the score of not being a mainstream star and the punks like John Lydon, Mark E. Smith, and David Bowie admiring him of his work and the successful job that he's doing either as a solo artist or with VDGG. He took the Prog genre and he realized that he wasn't going to sing about King Arthur or sing about a Yoga god-like warrior, he is the true storyteller of a prog version of Edgar Allen Poe. And once you add guest guitarist from King Crimson Robert Fripp to the band, you got yourself a full weekend to get yourself stoned like a motherfucker.

Anyway, let's get to the music. The music is fucking weird and dare I say a masterpiece and the strange twist that would give Star Wars a run for its life with the Sci-Fi horror epic, Pioneers Over C. The album begans with the explosive Killer, as Peter sings about a blood and tasty sharp evil fish looking for something to crave on as David's sax fills the void while Hugh Batnon's intense keyboard solo sends a chill down your spine and Peter singing the line 'And I too am a Killer!/For Emotion runs a deep as flesh!" A perfect beginning number to get you crawling on your knees and bowing down to the masters and the shark-like killing fish. Soon, things get stranger and evil at the same moment after the opening track. The ballad House with No Door, which is almost based on Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray, is very beautiful you can tell that Peter is singing about the main character who lives in an 18th century mansion who has now isolated himself with paintings of himself as he grows into a deep depression of cutting himself from everyone that he knows and loves while David Jackson's lushful flute solo sets the scene and Hugh's Piano does almost a jazz relative melody on the number.

The dark epic of gorefests, The Emperor in his War Room, gets more serious and heavier. The intro starts as a slow downbeat tempo, then becomes a hellish upbeat jazz fury with a monstrous sax solo, keyboard technqiues, and Nic Potter's bass lines while Robert Fripp comes in the midsection of the last 2-minutes laying down sinister guitar work. There is a moment in the piece where Fripp takes over as the band follows him as if they were following in the footsteps of King Crimson. And then the screeching shriek of 'the impartial knife sinks in your screaming flesh!' and then the band comes back in on the introduction and you know there is no turning back as it ends with Hugh Banton's keyboard note on the G major. Lost: The Dance In Sand And Sea/The Dance in the Frost (you never get a huge title like this before right listeners?!), an 11-minute epic in all of its prog glory which deals with death and being a loner without anyone to love. With Hammill lends out a voice of calmness, the band do some heavy improvisation along with Banton's organ going in a 3/3 time signature by going up and down while Evans plays the drums by using the bass drum and the hi-hat following the sinister sounds of David Jackson and Hugh by doing some Crimson influential sounds to the mix. And then it becomes a military drum beat in the midsection in the midsection as Peter wails it out with 'You know that I need you/but somehow I don't think you see my love at all' (You ain't going to hear this at a goddamn homecoming high school dance you prom date fuckos) And then the band do a Jazz waltz which is a relative tone to John Coltrane's My Favorite Things in this beautiful Prog ballad. The end of the last few minutes and 35 seconds, the band do a freak out improv in a bizarre time signature of 4/4, and then ending with a shock of suprise with David's sax going up like a fucking madmen and ends with a crescendo.

The sci-fi finale which is based on the front album and the inner sleeve cover done by Paul Whitehead, who worked on the cover of Pawn Hearts and Peter Hammill's first solo album Fools Mate, Pioneers Over C, a story of space travelers who left their home planet in 1983 to search for a new planet in the galaxy but are stuck in the outer space in a post-apocalyptic land of their universe being destroyed in flames which features some heavier darker tones from the group as Peter sings a very folky relative tone on his acoustic guitar about the lost astronauts in their spaceship in the outer space similar to David Bowie's Major Tom. The band do some ambient atmospheric jazz work again as David steals the show with his sax going up and down and then it becomes very spacey from Hugh Banton's organ and then an avant-garde twist to the mix. It then becomes a dark-like sound in the midsection as the sax sets the scene into oblivion and a sonic attack of him alone doing some strange notes on the instrument before the band go into a Floyd-like sound swirl of chaotic annihilation. Hammill's double-voice track goes weird and becomes a psychotic luantic at the moment the band comes in and do the 4/4 jazz time signature and ambient mood again. And then, ends with a sour note of pure fucking brilliance from the instruemnts as the astronauts commit suicide.

The album, H to He, isn't just a prog album, but more of a pure beauty, sinister, weird, and dark. Some of the time it is fucked, but awesome in a Prog-Punk way. Its still one of my favorties along with; Pawn Hearts, The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other, Aerosol Grey Machine, Godbluff, and Still Life. If you need 5 stars on this album, you need to get 6 more for this.


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