To my mind, this is one of the top 5 greatest prog albums ever made, by the greatest prog band of all-time! (my opinion only)
The natural follow up to Pawn Hearts (1971), Godbluff (1975) is the bands comeback album after a three year hiatus. It is a more accesible, but equally dark and challenging album.
Van der Graaf Generator are often pigeonholed alongside prog legends such as Yes, Genesis and Pink Floyd but they resemble none of these bands. Their nearest spiritual peers would be King Crimson. They are purveyors of dark angular gothic prog rock experimentation. Peter Hammill's primal scream vocals alongside the bands jagged edge time signatures could throw you if you are new to the band.
It must be noted that Hammill isn't merely a vocalist, but a PERFORMER of lyrics. Cited as a major influence by John Lydon he posesses a vocal range that can whisper sweetly one second then scream in fury the next. The sheer amount of lyrics contained within the four tracks on this album stand it apart from many other records of its time.
The album opens with a sort of prog ballad ''The Undercover Man'', gentle flute and whispered vocals make way for drums, organ and saxophone which build gradualy to create a full rich backdrop over which Hammills vocals are thrown. The playing in the middle section of this song is very powerfull and strident without being overpowering. Running in at over 7 minutes long it's a perfectly crafted piece of work and a stunning opener to the album.
The next two tracks ''Scorched Earth'' and ''Arrow'' find the band in a darker more aggressive frame of mind. Hammill's vocals are angst ridden and in classic VdGG style multiple tempo changes dominate the proceedings. The ensemble playing is tight whilst allowing each instrumentalist room for self expression.
The albums closing track "The Sleepwalkers" opens with a highly infectious sprightly riff on organ interspersed with saxophone. Hammill then weaves his vocal around the riff which playfully morps through a jazz like movement which is followed by a demented cha-cha. The closing section of the song finds Hammill, Banton, Evans and Jackson playing in great unison creating a powerful musical maelstrom in true VdGG fashion to close this brilliant album.
It's a shame that VDGG have never received the (larger) recognition that other Prog Rock bands did, their sound is unique and has yet to be duplicated.
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