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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blinding darkness, 2 Aug 2010
By 
The Aging Forehead (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fall of the House of Usher (Audio CD)
This is a wonderful monstrosity of an album. Edgar Allen Poe's story is given exactly the right treatment within this musical genre - akin to a darker and electronic Sondheim or Lloyd-Webber - and it is a crime that this is now a rare recording, when it should be being celebrated worldwide by all those with a love of the theatrically dramatic and the musically gothic.

Reviewers were initially unfair to this album - no doubt comparing it to more immediate and fashionable pop and rock in their pile - and this combination of dissappointing reviews (though few actually bothered at all)and low marketing exposure (if any) meant that few - other than already established Hammill fans - would be aware of this. However, it it still not too late for this record to get the recognition it truly deserves.

The album tells the story of Poe's Usher family in a very direct way, with Chris Judge-Smith (the writer of the libretto) even lifting exact passages from Poe at times, giving an astonishing lyrical intensity throughout. It begins fairly sedately - prettily even - but soon an overwhelming sense of dread emerges as we are introduced to the madness of the Brother Roderick and the desperately bleak situation he shares with his sister Madeline. However, despite the gathering gloom that (rightly) pervades this story, Hammill injects fantastic multi-layered melodies - that resemble rock songs more than classical opera most of the time, despite the lack of guitars here - and after several plays, these become fascinating and addictive and stand up individually even without the context of the whole album. On first hearing, I thought the album to be too long, but with repeated listens, I realised nothing could be ommitted.

All the players here are on top form - and the juxtapositions of voices such as Andy bell (of Erasure) and Lene Lovich really work - but the real master here is undoubtedly Hammill himself, who has given himself a platform to really go over the top with his vocal range, pushing it to the limit, and immersing himself in the insanity of the character that is Roderick Usher. In particular, there is one acappella track (the voices of the house) that is almost beyond belief in its power and ambition. There is little room for subtlety here, but it isn't needed amidst this delerious and ecstatic performance, that actually benefits from its wilful abandonment - and without any crude rock schtick that plagues some 'rock' opera - and is, in its own way, remarkably sincere.

So, all in all a major achievement in my opinion and a great tribute to it's source material. If you genuinely like the dark and the gothic, and are open-minded enough to listen to songs that tell stories and are bereft of straightforward rock structures - then this is for you. If you like the idea of a story about friendship and love that is also about inbreeding and incest, insanity, decay, destruction,comas, burial alive and death - shot through with cobwebs and candles, organ music and the breathing of bats in the walls - then you will love this.

Every Poe cliche is there, as you would expect, but Hammill renders them all afresh with his vivid musical imagination, casting a mischievous and blinding light on the gloom. Backgound music it is not - and no, not one guitar solo. Genius nevertheless - and for the moment, absurdly under-rated.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HAMMILL,S MASTERPIECE, 21 Feb 2009
By 
R. Pievaitis "aka richard meadows, BleedTheField" (communing with the arcturians above new mexico) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
last week i wrote a very long but extremely interesting review re. this cd for posting on amazon.well it has not appeared as of now.maybe it was too long,whatever the reason lets try again but i am not going to the length of before that took to much time and effort to do and i am not prepared to spend all that effort again if my work is not then published,maybe amazon could explain why some of my reviews seem to dissappear into the ether,they could be too complex for them ?
anyway this time around i will simply say that this record ,if put out by any other more well known artist would be hailed as a worldwide masterpiece.
if my other earlier review ever does turn up it will explain the convoluted background to its birth.
nevertheless,what you have here is a long form opera,about the edgar allen poe story about the usher house and residents.
the music and lyrics are fabulous with andy bell( yes him of erasure fame ) taking on and winning with one of the main roles of montressor.hammill does usher and voices of the house.
this is not for everyone but for those of you with an open mind(should i say ears !)you will be in for a challenging listen.
over 73 minutes of music and gothlike atmosphere will unfold for you.
very well produced by hammill himself and consisting of minimal instrumentation ( compared to mainstream methods),if this was put out by steven sondheim or lloyd webber it would set broadway /west end on fire.but it isn,t however this does deserve a much wider listening audience exposure and i reckon even some prog rock/alt rock fans do not even know of its existence.
so,i,ve now done my bit for its exposure and promotion,you do your bit and buy it.
but don,t blame me if you don,t get it- keep at it - more listens are rewarded,best with headphones,lights out and candles on- get the atmosphere right and you will be drawn in( i hope).bear in mind this is not chart stuff,not commercial,very extreme stuff so be prepared.
you have been warned but to those of you ready to open up, happy voyage.
lol
richard
p.s. i do hope my original post comes up as it gives you alot of the back story which is in itself very intriguing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, gothic masterpiece, 8 Dec 1999
By A Customer
Peter Hammill's opera based on the Edgar Allan Poe tale was first released in 1991. The recording was, by his own admission, dry and cramped. Now he has re-recorded his own vocal parts, added massed guitars instead of sampled keyboards, and made a number of other improvements. The result is akin to the restoration of the Sistine Chapel ceiling! This is a difficult, demanding work, but it amply repays the listener's patience.
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Fall of the House of Usher
Fall of the House of Usher by Peter Hammill (Audio CD)
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