Peter Hammill

The Fall of the House of Usher

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Hammill began work on The Fall of the House of Usher back in the early '70s, yet it didn't see the light of day until the early '90s as a hard-to-find European import. He didn't feel it was completely finished until 1991; hence its elongated delay. This rock opera is comprised of six acts, and is based on an Edgar Allan Poe tale with small changes to the story here and there. Unlike Hammill's other material, which is based on progressive rock, Usher has its roots in classical music. Still, it's a safe bet that longtime Hammill and prog-rock fans won't be disappointed with this classical experiment. There are lots of sweeping, churchlike a cappella vocals, which convey nearly all the album's melodies, whereas most rock fans would expect guitars and keyboards to carry out at least some of that task. Synthesizers and drums don't show up until several numbers in, so don't expect to be automatically drawn in. It takes a few listens to grasp the music and the storyline (Chris Judge Smith worked with Hammill on the libretto), with a few highlights being the early Genesis-sounding "The Herbalist" and the soothing "That Must Be the House," to name just a few.

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