Receiving the Lifetime Achievement Awards at this year’s Prog Awards, and as I’ve always mentioned with supporters including Mark E. Smith of The Fall, John Lydon, and the late great David Bowie, Van Der Graaf Generator’s music is still challenging. Either you like it or you don’t. This blogger has always admired and supported their music since discovering them on the Prog Archives website 11 years ago. This year, they have released their 13th album on the Esoteric Antenna label entitled, Do Not Disturb.
It is a raw, throttling, sinister, and jaw-dropping album I’ve listened to. One of the things that I love about their new album that while it has the classic Van Der Graaf Generator album, I almost get this feeling that while it might be their last album that they have finally come full circle. I went ahead and bought this album on The Laser’s Edge website last week, and let me say, this is a perfect album and recommended to get show that while as a trio, it shows that they have the goods.
Opener, Aloft brings layered-clean guitar melodies up into the skies from a flight of fancy. Then the music goes through different feels in the song. It’s calm, mid-tempo, and heavy. Alfa Berlina starts with traffic noises, backwards tape, and then echoing reverb of Peter Hammill’s voice as if it was recorded deep in the darker tunnels inside a cave.
The lyrics on here tell the story of the band’s journey they were for 49 years and next year marks the 50th anniversary of their formation. There is the evil vocals that Hammill delves into and I can imagine I can close my eyes and imagine this is almost done in the styles of A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers from the Pawn Hearts album. Shikata Ga Nai is this eerie Accordion instrumental with a Free-Jazz avant-garde composition as it segues into (Oh No! I Must Have Said) Yes.
It’s one of my favorites on the album because of not just some of the heavy riffs on here, but it’s almost a small return of Peter Hammill’s character, Rikki Nadir. Not only that, Peter is channeling the styles of Alice Cooper with the double-tracking vocals. Then it turns into a walking jazzy rhythm thanks to Hugh’s bass lines, laid back tempo from Guy Evans, and Hammill’s guitar goes from Bluesy to a snarling Fripp-sque beast!
This composition is Heavy Jazz-Rock with effects that will make you ear levels go up. Room 1210 is almost like a one-man haunting rock opera. It tells the story of a haunting room number of a hotel that feels very much like the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining. But it tells a short story of this man’s life being isolated from the world, but then his life is in danger and being caught of his own shadow. And then becoming one of the damned human race at the very end.
Brought to Book is a reminiscent of a roller-coaster ride between H to He Who Am the Only One-era with brushing drums and done the styles of The Emperor in his War Room while Almost the Words is a doing turned riveting rhythm section for the keyboards going a spacey voyage. The closer Go is an emotional mourning farewell as if to say thank you to the fans who have been there from day one and inspiring younger generations for years and years to come.
With Hugh Banton’s ominous church-organ setting almost inside a gothic cathedral and Hammill singing the goodbyes as the last line “There’s the thing for all you know/It’s time to go.” You probably might need some Kleenex for this chilling ending and knowing that it’s time to move on.
For me, I have enjoyed Do Not Disturb and it could be Van Der Graaf Generator’s message to say thank you for the journey that we’ve been on and through all the good and bad times, you have supported us. As I’ve mentioned before earlier in my review, if this is the band’s last album, then the band have finally come full circle.