Review Summary: Three reasons why Van Der Graaf Generator never quite managed to make the same impact on the general public of the 70’s as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes did
Reason 1:Van Der Graaf Generator are a band that defines the darker side of progressive rock. Each of the four tracks on the album tells their own tale of tortured minds, ancient battles and dark fantasies. The lyrical work from Peter Hammil is one of the core aspects of the music and embodies each track with a feeling of individuality. Each of the lyrics in turn hold their own literary merit and are reminiscent of looking into the mind of a madman.
Reason 2: The music here is just as dark as it’s subject matter. Herein lies one of the albums biggest strengths: How the music supports Peter Hammil’s vision. If for instance he is singing about a dark twisted world on the edge of our conscious as he does on “The Sleep Walkers”, the music will transport you there. Other examples that can be found are the ending of scorched earth with its wailing and screaming keyboards, as though to signify the death of a warrior in battle, and the melancholic atmospherics of “The Undercover Man” which take you back to the pain of growing up and accepting adulthood.
Reason 3: Godbluff differs from a traditional progressive rock album, in that it is not a concept album and there is little to no use of electric guitar. The band instead opts to make the Saxophone and Keyboards as their main instruments of choice and this manages to succeed in ways that the electric guitar would simply not be able to. In “Arrow” a wailing saxophone plays over an eerie drumbeat and sounds desperate, almost tortured. Because the lyrics involve both of these emotions by the bucket load, it succeeds in supporting the music by magnifying the emotions conveyed.
If there is a track that sums up the album as a whole in one package, so to speak, it would definetly be “The Sleepwalkers” Here everything the band has been trying to achieve works. From the emotion and atmosphere and the lyrics that speak of a dark twisted fantasy world. The same ingredients are used on all the other tracks and the result is a progressive rock classic and the definition of more Avant Garde progressive music done right.