Traumhaus - In Oculis Meis

(CD 2020, 48:42, Progressive Promotion Records PPRCD081)

The tracks:
CD1: (German)
  1- Das Erwachen(2:13)
  2- Bewahren Und Verstehen(8:12)
  3- Der Vorsprung(6:11)
  4- Entfliehen(5:21)
  5- Viele Wege(4:45)
  6- Der Neue Morgen(7:36)
  7- Verstehen Und Bewahren(5:32)
  8- Die Dunkelheit Durchleuchten(8:52)
CD2: (English)
  1- The Awakening(2:13)
  2- Preserve & Understand(8:12)
  3- Walk On Yourself(6:11)
  4- Escape(5:21)
  5- So Many Ways(4:45)
  6- The New Morning(7:36)
  7- Understand & Preserve(5:32)
  8- X- Ray The Darkness(8:52)

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Here is a blast from the past for me. I remember listening to Traumhaus, who have been around for about twenty years, when their first album came out. This German band is a quartet and from the very first line-up / album, only keyboard player and singer Alexander Weyland is left. He is accompanied nowadays by Tobias Hampl on guitars, Ray Gattner on drums and Till Ottinger on bass.

After the first two albums, which both brought passable symphonic prog, I lost track of them. In prog magazines their name would turn up and I knew that they remained active over the years, releasing a couple of albums which seemed to have taken a heavier direction towards progmetal.

Reviews of their early work made comparisons to Anyone's Daughter which I never understood. Playing prog and using German lyrics alone is not enough to make that comparison - and by the way, why not compare Traumhaus to Novalis who have a longer track record in German sympho? Anyway, Traumhaus on their first albums had a sound that was much closer to 1990s neo prog than anything that Anyone's Daughter did in their German period.

After receiving their new album In Oculis Meis, I was really curious. How would the combination of German lyrics work with their new, heavier, musical direction? Symphonic prog with German lyrics has proven to work very well on many occasions (at least I like it, I know that many listeners do not like German vocals). Metal with German vocals makes me immediately think of Rammstein, which is sometimes quite okay, but not per se what I am waiting for... Alternatively, there are German bands (e.g. In Extremo, Schandmaul) playing a combination of heavy folk music with German vocals which also works fine, but will progmetal with German vocals work as well?

It turns out that it does. But Traumhaus has done something to solve the dilemma elegantly. The new CD is a double album. One disc presents the German version (which I presume is the original) and the other a version with English vocals. The music is exactly the same, so the listener can decide which is the preferred alternative. The English vocals are really good, warm and without any pronounced German accent. The vocals (and the music) remind me of another German group that straddled the boundaries of neo progressive rock and the heavier sides of prog but I can't put my finger on which one. I think it was Lorian (one great album, Virginal Minds from 1995 - have to listen that again soon). Might also have been Last Turion, which was another great German band from the mid-1990s, but I am digressing.

While I had read that Traumhaus had gone over towards progressive metal, I would say that if we have to put them in a category musically then a description should be more correctly a fusion of neo progressive rock and progressive metal. Let's take Dream Theater as point of reference there for the progmetal side, but less technical. For the neo progressive elements, I still hear a heritage from the 1990s (in a positive way), but maybe also bands as IQ or Arena, although the latter only as a very vague point of reference, probably triggered by the fact that they also have grown heavier over the years.

I do not want to give a rundown of all the tracks on the CDs, especially because the album (whose title means “In my eyes”, I believe) feels to me to be one whole track with tunes and atmospheres that seem to be recurring - and they are definitely when Bewahren Und Verstehen becomes the instrumental Verstehen Und Bewahren.

One piece that I do want to single out is Walk On Yourself/Der Vorsprung. This track is one of my favourites because of the melancholic bend in the melody, and it also the track that probably illustrates best why I prefer the German version over the English, although I have a hard time putting words on this, I guess you just have to listen and then agree or disagree with me. This tracks also features a super lush synthesizer solo in the second half of the piece that will please every sympho-fan.

The album brings rather catchy and accessible melodies which can be a strength. Some of the songs stuck with me for many days and played in my mind. However, this also can become a weakness on some occasions because things may wear quickly. An example is Viele Wege/So Many Ways which has a catchy chorus that loses some of its attraction after repeated listening (at least for me). This in the end influenced my rating... I was initially prepared to give four stars to the CD, but decided to go just a bit lower:

***+ Carsten Busch (edited by Dave Smith)

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