Peter Hammill
The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage


4.5
superb

Review

by Jethro42 USER (5 Reviews)
December 13th, 2013 | 63 replies


Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A refinement and perfection of the model established on Chameleon In the Shadow of the Night.

The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is maybe the best solo effort of British singer songwriter Peter Hammill, a sort of a lost Van Der Graaf Generator album; A big part of the album features the cast from the progressive rock band Van Der Graaf Generator with Hugh Banton (organ, bass), David Jackson (sax, flute) and Guy Evans (drums) and takes on a slight more classic Van Der Graaf vibe. Each member plays his part very well in the musicality. The melancholic feeling and the emotive, intense Peter's voices are always present, and the listener is involved in a sad and opressive sensation sometimes. Dark and nostalgic, it is the most symphonic solo album from Peter Hammill.

This is the second of Hammill's classic trilogy that issued in the wake of Pawn Hearts and which starts with Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night that has more acoustic approach, and ends with In Camera that carries on deeper in the extremes of sanity and experiment. Albums were released during a hiatus in the activities of Hammill’s band VDGG between albums Pawn Hearts and Godbluff. That being said, Peter Hammill was much more than just the pianist/ lead singer for VDGG; he was the creative force behind the band. Instead of a guitar as the lead instrument, Peter Hammill and his companions use the masterfully played organs and the killer saxophone of David Jackson to lead the fray. This makes for a very interesting listen if you're not used to anything but a guitar being at the front. The intensity and haunting atmosphere of VDGG’s sound is present everywhere.

Hammill presents some pretty dark imagery with his emotive voice, gentle guitar, and his piano accompaniment. Hammill's imagery is so vivid and his delivery so compelling, it's hard not to feel his pain. He never feared venturing into dark, suppressed parts of the soul. In general, solo Hammill is concerned with more personal matters, while the band's songs deal with broader themes. But the music reminds very much on VDGG throughout the record, specially the dark atmosphere of the songs. The material is extremely moody and expressive and the lyrics are very dark and depressive, but at the same time they are more ingenius and matured than ever. Peter Hammill stamps his authority all over the album, and at the same time he wildly exorcises his own personal existentialist ghosts.

The album, just like VDGG's material, is a very experimental one. Very vocal driven, the music matches the lyrics everywhere. There are a few instrumental breaks, but the vocals are up front almost all the time. This can easily be seen in the lyrics sheet. Musically ahead of his time, Hammill is clearly a master with words, weaving them carefully to fit his vision. As to the Hammills singing, it is obviously a love it or hate it situation. Hammill's voice is a very distinctive element of his music. He sings in an emotional, often even dramatic way. When he wants you to be scared, you'll be scared. He is so full of conviction in his delivery, as he is on all his performances. It must be very difficult to sing an entire show like this, since the voice is going from here to there in many tones, always in a very theatrical way.

The Silent Corner & The Empty Stage follows in the same vein as its predecessor Chameleon, only this time assuming a more agressive disposition. The opening track Modern shows you exactly that right away with its delirious guitar layers (some sound really creepy) and frantic singing about the dehumanizing side of modernization. There are some great moments of sensitivity with Wilhelmin, a love song that shows Peter’s lighter side, which features some profound insights into how it feels to look into the eyes of your first baby. Next is the dramatic and intense The Lie. Peter's singing suits the lyrics incredibly well on here. The lyrics have a profoundly religious theme, and with a brilliant echo effect, the track even sounds like it was recorded in a giant cathedral. The use of dynamics in this song is phenomenal, and the grand piano has never sounded quite so grand.

Most of the songs deal with loneliness and isolation in our world, most clearly in Forsaken Gardens. It’s a song VDGG would play after the Godbluff reformation. Hugh Banton, Guy Evans and David Jackson can be heard here. The rocky middle section provides the backbone to this track. The release of the next one, Rubicon is a welcome relief. It is acoustically driven and peaceful with some poetic beauty. Red Shift is a delightfully eerie piece with spacy psychedelic overtones. The masterpiece as it could easily have been lifted from a VDGG album is the longest and closing track: A Louse is Not a Home, with its theme of isolation and incipient madness, alternately strangled, spitting and quietly intimate vocals, Jackson’ saxophone and eerie keyboards, strongly deserves a place in the collections of all Van der Graff/Hammill adherents. This one would be perfectly at home in Pawn Hearts.

The complex and deeply poetic lyrics require attentive listening and firmly place Hammill in the creative avant-garde. His vocal performances are electrifying and suit perfectly his convolute texts. All of Hammill's best vocal styles are on display, from dark and tormented, to calm and beautiful. The Silent Corner & the Empty Stage is an almost perfect album and it covers a wide range of emotions and moods throughout. It presents Hammill's art in the best possible way. Once again, it's probably the most VDGG sounding record that he did. The Silent Corner is an album balancing his uncontrollable urge to rock out with his usual songwriting cleverness with skill, and it’s a good introduction to the world of Peter Hammill.


user ratings (50)
Chart.
4.2
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Except for the ProgJect works, three years gone since my last review was done. It's of course another slice of progressive rock.

MO
December 13th 2013


22677 Comments


and awesome progressive at that good stuff jethro

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Take a closer look...It's more like a silent corner and an empty stage. haha



and cheers Fripp and MO.

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah it's in my top 3.



Thanks for your pos guys.

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

''add to his'' would be better?

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

What's your top 3 tracks here?


1- A Louse is not a Home

2- The Lie

3- Forsaken Gardens



Zettel
December 13th 2013


661 Comments


Three years gone since my last review was done...


...and I come back right in time to witness this miracle. I enjoyed reading, well done review. I keep telling to myself that I should listen more to prog rock, but I do not think I have heard any metal or rock in more than a year.

Pos'd.

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks for that correction, Captn.



@Zettel;sup buddy! Thank you man. And you're just on time to assist to that miracle indeed. As for progressive rock, for some people, it seems that prog requires a certain predisposition as it can be pretty demanding, I can understand it. I for myself maybe am listening too much of prog and not enough to a few other styles so I feel unbalanced myself.

Zettel
December 13th 2013


661 Comments


@Jethro:

Yeah, what were the odds?? Anyways, back to topic, I have the utmost respect for progressive rock, especially the TRUE progressive rock. To be honest, I think I hide behind electronic music, because I cannot face directly REAL challenging music, hahaha.

I do have enjoyed prog rock in the past --as we have talked before--, but it is not the type of music I find myself coming back to. However, I do like keeping track of the scene, or at least, learning a little from the knowledgeable people like yourself, perhaps to pick up one or two recommendations at some point.

It was a nice surprise to see you writing back again. Cheers, mate!

KILL
December 13th 2013


81232 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yea cap hard prolapse



awesome review anywho jethro and a great choice, nag didnt help one bit?

DrHouseSchuldiner
December 13th 2013


5643 Comments


need to jam

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

...learning a little from the knowledgeable people like yourself, perhaps to pick up one or two recommendations at some point.


@Zettel; I would not take the chance to recommend you something that you would not listen to, the aim being to get you closer to prog. But when I have some ideas, I will be happy to give you some into your shoutbox.

As for the knowledgeable person I'm supposed to be, it's more because I'm curious than anything else.

rockandmetaljunkie
December 13th 2013


8224 Comments


Very enjoyable reading. Congrats prog master.

JamieTwort
December 13th 2013


26988 Comments


Great review Jethro; pos'd hard. You've come a long way with your reviewing since your previous reviews as a solo writer (without the help of Nag).

greg84
Emeritus
December 13th 2013


7608 Comments


Great review, man.

The artwork is funny.

Digging: Slipknot - We Are Not Your Kind

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

@Jamie; Thanks man, and yes, more than 3 years since I wrote my french review on Harmonium, and more than 4 years since my very first one.



And it makes me feel weird not having Nag with me. He's quite busy himself getting to finalyse his Genesis discog, plus he also has a ProgJect review on the shelf.



Thanks Rockandmetaljunkie.

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Greg. The artwork is rather embarassing haha



thanks for your help in obtaining it though.

JamieTwort
December 13th 2013


26988 Comments


I should have said you've come along way since your first 3 reviews as I can't comment on your French review as I'm not well versed enough in that language to understand it haha.

Jethro42
December 13th 2013


15945 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The only reason left to visit that Harmonium thread would be to listen to that music and reveal your impression ;)

JamieTwort
December 13th 2013


26988 Comments


I've heard it dude, it rules, although I don't hold in quite as high regard as a lot of other people seem to. It's an excellent album but it's not quite up there with my favourite prog albums.

Having said that I do need to give it another listen soon as it's been a while since I last heard it and there's still a chance it might grow on me some more.



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