It’s 1971 and Peter Hammill and his band, Van Der Graaf Generator released their dark masterpiece, Pawn Hearts. The album didn’t sell it their hometown in Great Britain, but it was number one in the Italian LP charts which made them almost a household name among the Italian supporters whilst going on tour there from February, May, July, and August of 1972. Just as soon as they were receiving word-of-mouth from the Italian supporters and having a huge cult following, it all came to an end after finishing their big success tour in Italy. The band decided to call it a day during that month and year to pursue musical projects.
Bassist Nic Potter, Saxophonist David Jackson, Drummer Hugh Banton, and Keyboardist Guy Evans went on to make an instrumental album called, The Long Hello whilst Peter Hammill pursued a solo career. This is where he is definitely the anti-rock star and the prog-punk king that would have make Johnny Rotten, Julian Cope, The Mars Volta, and Mark E. Smith very supportive of what Hammill was up to. He released Fool’s Mate in 1973, Chameleon in the Shadow of the Night in 1973, and then just as the first two albums were becoming an essential tour de force, his next album would have been a project for him and Edgar Allen Poe if he was still alive. The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage is a mad scientist album. It’s like as if he was in the cave to make something that was monstrous to a shattering dynasty.
Like most sinister albums, it must have lyrics paying tribute to HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Dante Aligheri, John Stuart Mill, and the Marquis De Sade. The ways to write an album like this that paint a darker element in which is the decree destruction of a disastrous utopian city that has gone horribly wrong, but this album is a special treat to listen to from start to finish. Modern starts off with a fierce acoustic guitar introduction done by Hammill as it becomes a powerful number. During the song, there is an eerie guitar solo that becomes soft and then deafening by going maximum with rapid time changes whilst the song deals with the corporations to work in different ways to stop the end of the world.
Wilhelmina, is a piano ballad that is almost a calm after the storm which is a father-daughter relationship about the father telling her that she is the future and how life will go through their ups and downs and learning to be true and honoring your parents. Listening to this song, it definitely has singer-songwriting beauty and Peter is doing a tribute to the Hunky Dory-era of David Bowie type of lyrical emotional background. But all of a sudden it moves away from the ballad love song feel to The Lie (Bernini’s Saint Theresa) which starts off with dramatic chord changes towards the Religion of Chruch-like bullshit towards a haunting piano beauty with lyrics like ‘The silent corner haunts my shadow prayers/ice-cold statue/rapture divine/unconscious eyes/the open mouth/the wound of love/the Lie!’ it’s fierce, but it’s damn perfect.
Forsaken Gardens deals with the Garden of Childhood and finding out what happen to the joys of yesterday to war, violence, and hatred through pain. It’s a very political song that Hammill does whilst the 8-minute Red Shift which featured the late guitarist of Spirit, Randy California makes a guest appearance, does an homage to VDGG as the closing 12-minute eerie cavernous number, A Louse is Not A Home, is where Peter adapts the song in full beauty with screeches and screaming which almost could have been a part of Friedkin’s 1973 classic, The Exorcist. Love it or hate it, give this a few tries to get into.