Album Reviews

Issue 2020-063

Interview with Tom Brislin of Kansas

On the release of the band's 16th studio album, DPRP's Patrick McAfee catches up with Kansas' newest member, keyboard player, vocalist and songwriter Tom Brislin for this Inter-Duo-Review.

DPRP: Hi Tom, thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions for the Dutch Progressive Rock Page. It is much appreciated! I've just had my first few listens of The Absence of Presence and all I can say is: "Wow!!" I honestly can't remember the last time that I heard a new album from a classic rock/prog band that was as good!

TB: Thank you very much. We're all excited about the new release. We would love to be out on the road, but as things are, I'm grateful that we have this way to stay connected with our audience.

You've always brought a varied amount of musical influences to your work. What was your introduction to progressive rock and are there musicians/bands in the genre that were a particular influence on you?

I grew up in a house where my older siblings had great rock record collections. Some of the first music I heard was through albums by Foreigner, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Yes. Yes' music was definitely my introduction to progressive rock, but I didn't think of it too differently from the other music I was hearing at the time. As we got into the 80s, I discovered the radio and all the pop and new wave artists of the time. I've always had that music as well as the 70s rock as a big part of my musical background.

You've previously done great work touring with bands like Yes, Camel, The Syn and Renaissance! What did you most enjoy about those experiences and how did the opportunity arise for you to join Kansas?

Since Yes was such an important influence on my development as a musician, it was at first a surreal experience to be there on stage playing the classics with them. Fortunately I had become accustomed to touring big stages with Meat Loaf in the years leading up to the tour, so I was able to focus on the music without too much distraction. It was through Yes that other progressive groups discovered me. Yes led to Camel, which led to The Syn, which led to Renaissance. I enjoyed recreating the classic sounds and performing for these groups, and yet I am mainly driven by the creative side of music. Apart from my own work with Spiraling and as a solo artist, it wasn't until The Sea Within that I had a real opportunity to write and collaborate in the progressive style full-on. The Sea Within's performance at Night of the Prog in Germany in 2018 eventually led to me getting a phone call from Phil Ehart of Kansas. They wanted me to join the band as a bona fide member, with an opportunity to collaborate with the band creatively, as well as to go on tour.

As I mentioned, I feel that The Absence of Presence compares favorably to the best Kansas albums. You contributed significantly to the songwriting on this release and your keyboard work is often front and center. Was the history of the band an intimidating thing to try and measure up to when making the album?

I think that the most challenging aspect when writing songs is to pass my own test. We're always our own toughest critics, right? The guys in the band were very encouraging and positive, which I think helped me want to take more chances with the songwriting. I was also still learning the band's live material, so having all the classics from Point of Know Return in my head, certainly helped me understand the language of Kansas' music.

When touring resumes for Kansas, hopefully in the coming months, are there plans to include a good amount of material from The Absence of Presence in the setlist?

We are planning on including some! I'll leave it at that.

Kansas press photo

As noted, you were a part of The Sea Within with Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Marco Minnemann, Daniel Gildenlow and Casey McPherson. I had the opportunity to review the band's debut album back in 2018 on DPRP and enjoyed it. Are there any additional plans for that band?

The door is open. The main challenge is time and availability, as prolific as everyone is. I did a guest appearance on Jonas' upcoming project The Backstage. It was a lot of fun getting to explore the jazzier side of things.

I was lucky enough to see you perform with 'Spiraling' a few times at Calprog shows in CA and I am a big fan of the Transmitter and Time Travel Made Easy albums. Your 2012 solo album, Hurry Up and Smell the Roses is also excellent. You have mentioned that Spiraling has disbanded, but with the unfortunate Covid-19 situation and the lack of touring, has it provided you the opportunity to record any solo material?

I thank you for the nice words about Spiraling and my solo album. During the time off the road, I'm taking a very free-form approach to writing. The important thing for me is to just create freely. An idea may become something good for a future Kansas song, or it could be more of my solo style. I try not to overthink it and just let the ideas flow.

Considering that your career started more in the world of power pop, did it surprise you at all when prog audiences embraced Spiraling?

I knew at the time that the prog audiences were welcoming, at first because of my stints with Yes, Camel, etc. I was thrilled to see so many from this community support what we were doing at the time. There was always a little bit of prog in the band's DNA, and it didn't hurt that we would turn around and play Sound Chaser amidst a more streamlined, song-based set of music.

You've had quite the interesting and diverse career. What are you the most proud of in your musical career thus far?

I may be biased because it's just coming out, but I'm quite proud of the work we've done on The Absence of Presence. It's a thrill to be a part of a band with such a rich history as Kansas, and to now be part of the story with this document in hand. I'm quite fond of the Yes Symphonic Live DVD as well, as it brings back great memories.

Tom, thanks again for taking the time to answer DPRP's questions. I've been a fan of your work for many years and though I had high hopes for the new Kansas album, it truly exceeded my expectations. I believe that fans are going to be ecstatic about it.

It's much appreciated. I'm grateful that you've stuck with me along this interesting musical journey. Thanks!

Tom Brislin press photo

Also check out Menno's interview with Zak Rizvi here.

Duo Review

Kansas — The Absence Of Presence

Kansas - The Absence Of Presence
The Absence Of Presence (8:22), Throwing Mountains (6:21), Jets Overhead (5:17), Propulsion 1 (2:17), Memories Down The Line (4:38), Circus Of Illusion (5:19), Animals On The Roof (5:13), Never (4:51), The Song The River Sang (5:06)
Theo Verstrael

I had started listening to Kansas long before their slightly too-cheesy monster hit Dust In The Wind made them world famous. Carry On, Wayward Son from the Leftoverture album was played regularly on Radio Caroline back then. It lured me to them and for many years I became a really big fan. Within a few months of hearing that song for the first time, I had purchased the three albums that preceded Leftoverture, of which I particularly liked 1976's Masque. The unique combination of soft and hard guitars with violin was magical and would prove so for quite some years.

However, with the departure of Steve Walsh resulting in the very dull, masculine Vinyl Confessions album in 1982, all subtleties in the music vanished and I lost interest in the band, only to return briefly for the really good In The Spirit Of Things album. Its successor, Freaks Of Nature, was horrible again to my ears and I also disliked the cover of that album; so I gave up.

Then in 2016 and Kansas released The Prelude Implicit. Apart from being completely surprised that the band was still active, I was also amazed that the reviews were so good, both here on DPRP and elsewhere. So I gave them another chance and understood immediately why the reviews were that good, as the captured all that I had liked in this band. Clever and varied compositions, numerous interplays between electric guitar and violin, an energetic rhythm section on full drive and a new and really fantastic singer who proved to be a more-than-worthy successor to Steve Walsh. It all made that album a glorious return of this classic band. As a result I obtained all albums that I had missed since 1988, only to find out that they proved far less horrible than I remembered them.

It's four years later now and we have a new Kansas album with a similarly-remarkable title as its predecessor: The Absence Of Presence. The line-up has slightly changed again, for keyboardist David Manion is replaced by Tom Brislin, well known for his work with Yes and Renaissance. But fortunately Ronnie Platt stayed on lead vocals as well as the magnificent David Ragsdale on violin, Zak Rizvi on guitars, Billy Greer on bass and vocals. The line-up is completed by the two remaining founder members, Richard Williams on guitars and Phil Ehart on drums and percussion.

So my expectations were high, not the least because the album comes with a really fabulous, bright blue front cover painting. Yet the first spins were not what I expected, although the start of the album couldn't be better. The title song is absolutely awesome and is Kansas at its very best. The song starts with soft piano and violin and after some 20 seconds the band comes in to play a mini-overture with multiple breaks, slow and fast parts, a fantastic vocal melody and great musicianship on violin and guitar. Think of Cheyenne Anthem (from Leftoverture) or Song for America (from the album of the same name) to have some comparison of what this great song sounds like.

But after that thundering start, my first impression was that the band fell back to that mediocre, hard rocking AOR-style of the 80s that I had loathed so much. But many good albums need and deserve more spins to creep under your skin, and so it is with this new one.

The second track, Throwing Mountains, is a slow-burner as it first sounds like a highly-energetic hard rock thing but evolves into a very fine rock anthem. The intro is standard hard rock with loud guitars and organ but then the violin comes in and the song becomes really melodic, with a quiet verse and a very energetic chorus. The singing by Platt is really phenomenal here and Ehart does a very fine job in the middle part of the song when he is drumming slightly against the melody. The overall instrumentation is powerful but very fitting.

Animals On The Roof, Jets Overhead, and Circus Of Illusion are the other energetic power tracks that really need several spins to fully appreciate the melody, the breaks and the solos that make them stand out. Far from mediocre songs.

A surprising track is the instrumental Propulsion 1; a short track dominated by Brislins' keys in a very good Jon Lord fashion against loud guitars. It is in itself already a very nice track, bringing about different moods in just over two minutes but it also serves as the perfect introduction to one of those brilliant ballads only Kansas can play. Memories Down The Line has such an appealing vocal melody and chorus that I wouldn't be surprised if it becomes another big hit for the band. Platt sings phenomenally here, Greers' bass and Brislins' keys form the solid base, while there is a heavenly violin and guitar solo in the middle and towards the end. As if one such brilliant ballad isn't enough, they also recorded the almost cheesy ballad Never, as if to prove that writing such songs is not a coincidence.

The only negative thing I can say about this album pops up in the last song, The Song The River Sang. It is the only song in which Greer does the lead vocals. The song is written around a fine, pulsating rhythm played on drums and piano and has some nice breaks. But when the band is in the midst of a nice fierce double guitar with violin duet, it is suddenly all over. First I thought it was a fault in the wav-files but it was certainly meant to be, that the album ends like that. A strange and really unsatisfying way of ending an otherwise very satisfying album.

With The Absence Of Presence Kansas proves, in the best possible way, that this incarnation of the band can still carry the flame of American progrock. Both Ehart and Richards have every reason to be proud of taking the risk when restarting the band with new band members some five years ago. It may have taken me a while, but this is an immensely enjoyable album for both old and new Kansas fans.

Patrick McAfee

Kansas is one of those bands that inevitably takes me back to my youth. Their albums from the mid 70s to the early 80s were a significant part of the musical landscape of my teenaged years. At the time, the band was a staple of American rock radio and Leftoverture and Point Of No Return were my introduction to progressive rock. Kansas has since gone through many changes, with each incarnation adjusting to the times, while attempting to stay true to the core Kansas sound. Rarely has any line-up accomplished that feat more successfully than this current one. The Absence Of Presence is an unabashed nod back to those great early albums, but it also proves that the band has a few new tricks up their sleeves.

Kansas is currently comprised of original drummer Phil Ehart, bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, vocalist/keyboardist Ronnie Platt, violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale, keyboardist/vocalist Tom Brislin, guitarist Zak Rizvi, and original guitarist Richard Williams. The Absence Of Presence is not one of those disappointing modern albums from a classic rock band. It exudes a purpose and is clearly the work of musicians who still have something to say. All of the songwriting comes from newer members, Rizvi, Brislin, and Platt and they bring a fresh, but respectful perspective to the music.

The excellent opening title track is a reminder of what makes Kansas great and immediately amps up the old-school prog quotient. It also puts the listener on notice of what's to come. Throwing Mountains and Jets Overhead are powerhouse songs that compliment the band's classic sound with a strong and modern rock edge.

Propulsion 1 is a short but notable instrumental that leads into the exceptional ballad, Memories Down The Line. The nostalgia element is turned-up for Circus Of Illusion and Animals On The Roof, both of which display the band's established penchant for melodies, and for choruses that resonate. Never is a ballad that would have likely been a commercial hit single for them back in the day.

The album closer, The Song The River Sang is a discernible change of pace. Featuring Brislin on lead vocals, the back-half instrumental section of the song is reminiscent of Red era King Crimson. A great end to an extremely entertaining album.

The performances are superb, the songwriting is excellent and there is a strength to this material that I've not heard from Kansas in many years. Every member brought their A-game and it is clear that the stars aligned for The Absence Of Presence.

Approaching their 50th year of existence, Kansas has accomplished something that can't be taken lightly. They have released a new album that can stand proudly with the best works of their past. Bravo!

Kaprekar's Constant — Meanwhile

Kaprekar's Constant - Meanwhile
Deception (5:09), Kissing Frogs (3:28), The Fever Tree (4:19), Dali’s Key (4:32)
Theo Verstrael

UK-based Kaprekar's Constant, already known because of that intriguing band name, took the prog world by surprise with their 2017 debut Fate Outsmarts Desire.

The line-up of the band has remained unchanged and comprises of Bill Jefferson and Dorie Jackson on vocals, Al Nicholson on guitars, mandolin, keyboards and piano, Mike Westergaard on keyboards and piano, David Jackson (yes, that one from VDGG …) on saxophone, flute and whistles, Nick Jefferson on bass and Mark Walker on drums and percussion. Their combination of typical English prog with stunning melodies, their wide arrangements with a floating alternation of instruments, and their awesome vocals, combined with clever and appealing lyrics on original subjects, brought them immediate success and numerous excellent reviews.

Their debut scored no less than 9.5 here on DPRP. Its 2019 successor Depth Of Field was judged equally high, with references to bands that I really like such as Big Big Train.

So why didn't I check them out before?

A new chance came when this EP was offered for review. It contains four tracks written by Nicholson, Jefferson and Westergaard. Two of these (Deception and The Fever Tree) were formerly released as bonus tracks on the special edition of their last album. Demands for these tracks were so high that they decided to release them separately, together with two new tracks.

And that was a really good idea.

Listening back to their two full-length albums, the wide, varied and complex musical arrangements are characteristic of Kaprekar's Constant to date. Well, hardly anything of that nature is found on this EP. On the contrary, the music here is quite modest, thus focusing on an totally different side of the band.

Take for instance the opening track Deception, inspired by a small island in the South Shetland Islands close to the Antarctic Peninsula. It starts off with just a quiet piano and tin whistle, before a fabulous synth chord comes in. These first 20 seconds already offer everything to make this a fine track. Then the vocals, that start after half-a-minute, connect perfectly with the music and a really fantastic track unfolds. The pace is slow, the mood is melancholic and tranquil, the arrangement lush but modest. An electric guitar plays against the dual vocal melodies in a perfectly fluent way, a gorgeous soft saxophone adds textures and it all ends as it started, with quiet piano and vocals. What a beautiful song!

Kissing Frogs is another quiet song and primarily just Dorie Jackson singing against a piano and keys background. Her rather low but very warm voice, reminding me of Heather Findlay and even Christine McVie, floats in a very natural way around the subtle piano notes. The arrangement is stripped of anything superfluous and that suits this small song perfectly. The strong vocal melody simply doesn't need more musical accompaniment. This song is very far from what we have got to know from this band, but what a gem.

The instrumentation on The Fever Tree gives it a summer feeling that is very comforting. It is built upon an acoustic guitar riff, over which flute, a great tropical trumpet and keys add different layers through which the electric guitar fires some single notes.

Dali's Key is composed around a very appealing synth theme that keeps returning during the song. Keys, acoustic and electric guitar are the only instruments used here and again nothing more is needed. The tranquillity of this small song is just superb.

Although the EP is short in duration, all the music on offer here is more than worth the purchase. The greatest asset of all four tracks is the excellent combination of the vocals, with the modest instrumentation. Both Bill Jefferson and Dorie Jackson do a terrific job both solo and in the harmonies, whilst the band plays just the right notes at the right time and simply nothing more. The arrangements are genuinely perfect in all their apparent simplicity.

Therefore this EP is nothing but a real gem, rather uncharacteristic for what the band has done so far, and yet perfectly suiting this young, talented band. They may become one of prog's leading bands. Very highly recommended.

Marhold — A Homemade World

Marhold - A Homemade World
Sunrise (1:19), Homemade (8:45), Our Mind (4:17), Hymenoptera (2:52), Whirls In The Sky (3:18), Intervention (2:01), Icy Sun (4:27), Power Of Nature (5:03), Break Out (4:51), Trapped (7:07), The Always Spinning Wheel (6:53), World Is Crashing Down (5:17)
Andy Read

This is my second discovery of a promising, new female-fronted band in recent months. Following the blues-based crossover rock of Ptolemea, we jump across to Switzerland for an impressive debut album by the snappily-named Marhold.

After developing their sound across four EPs and a healthy stack of live shows, this is an accomplished collection of songs. It will interest those who enjoy rock music that straddles numerous styles, with the focus on a top-class singer (the addition of violin as a lead instrument is another plus-point).

It was the eye-catching whiteness in the video for opening single Our Mind that first caught my eye. The brightly-futuristic design of A Homemade World's CD artwork also impressed (I'm getting tired of the endless stream of 'dark' album covers!). A professional web presence, great photographs and an above-average Youtube channel continued to draw me in.

The clasically-inspired piano of Sunrise caresses you into the album, before Homemade lays the band's cards on the table, with its blend of pop-rock and more subtle rhythm changes, led by Marc-Alain Gertsch's mix of acoustic and lead guitars. His soloing here and throughout the album is superb.

There is a lot to explore in this track, all led by the ear-catching voice of Aleksandra Poraszka, who is able to shift effortlessly from a pop-rock style, to some near-metal screams. Here the violin is used to add textures, elsewhere, as on the instrumental Hymenoptera, it is more forthright.

And it's this variety and attention-to-detail that makes this album stand out. Through the suvvern bluesy vibe to Break Out, the tribal beats and didgeridoo opening to Trapped, the rock-balladic The Always Spinning Wheel and onto the Sk8er Boi guitar in the closing anthem World Is Crashing Down, Marhold wears its strong melodic heart on many different sleeves. The way that the four central songs (Whirls In The Sky to Power Of Nature) all bleed into each other, shows a clever compositional bent. In effect this is one long song, in four parts.

I've tried hard to find a good comparison vocally to Poraszka, but I can think of no-one who quite matches her in style. For those who like comparisons, I can say that Marhold is definitely more in the vein of Flyleaf, Paramore, Halestorm and Avril Lavigne, than Nightwish, Lacuna Coil or Magenta, although the greater range of groove, dynamics (and of course the violin) means that A Homemade World stands somewhat on its own unique terrain.

As far as I can see, this is the first English-language review of this album (until now, only Swiss and German websites seem to have picked up on the talent here). Marhold is a band deserving of a worldwide audience. Remember where you read about them first!

Pain Of Salvation — Panther

Pain Of Salvation - Panther
Accelerator (5:31), Unfuture (6:46), Restless Boy (3:34), Wait (7:04), Keen To A Fault (6:01), Fur (1:34), Panther (4:11), Species (5:18), Icon (13:30)
Matt Nevens

Some bands simply refuse to be defined, categorised or labelled. Some bands make music only for themselves and refuse to bow to the pressure of their fans, or the current trend. Some bands reinvent themselves with each and every release, yet continue to be mesmerising in everything they do. Sweden's Pain Of Salvation tick all of the above boxes and more.

Since their inception in the early 90s, Pain Of Salvation have never released the same record twice. Their somewhat sporadic approach to creating music of intensity and emotion has won them a dedicated following of fans the world over, and they are recognised as one of the top progressive bands in the world today.

From their masterpiece, A Perfect Element, from 2000, through the complexity of Be, up to the incredibly well received, In The Passing Light Of Day, from 2017, the band have always pushed the boundaries of progressive music, covering everything from metal, to jazz, and even rap on occasion. Their music is encompassed by frontman Daniel Gildenlow's poetic, intense and often provocative lyrics. His voice drips and oozes with emotion at every turn. He is an intimidating presence and an all-round superb frontman, and with Panther, their eleventh studio album, Daniel and Pain Of Salvation show us once again why they are so widely respected.

One of the things to consider when critiquing any piece of music, or art, or anything for that matter, is whether something you simply do not like is deserving of a poor review. This is almost never the case. Instead, one must take a step back and attempt to perceive the art from the point of view of someone who might find it really interesting.

You see, I must admit that I've never totally understood POS. I enjoy every release they put out, there are always moments of absolute bliss to be heard, but I've never quite found them as appealing as a lot of people do. Until The Passing Light Of Day was released, I haven't had any of their material really connect with me since 2002's Remedy Lane. The Passing Light Of Day, for me at least, showed a rejuvenated sound and a slightly more accessible feel to the music. It was their first album in a long time that I really wanted to return to over and over again.

But if you know anything about POS, you'll have already guessed that Panther is nothing like their previous album. This time round the metallic guitars and aggressive hooks have been replaced by an almost industrial-sounding atmosphere. There are still plenty of heavy moments, suh as the ferocious opening of Unfuture, but there is an overall sense of restraint on this record. And it works brilliantly, to give the album a sense of consistency. It also flows incredibly well.

The etherial vibe of Restless Boy is a great example of this. The drums are almost muted, yet carry that signature, out of time, polyrhythm sound that POS are well known for. The vocals are masked by a vocoder, something which is used a lot throughout the album, and the chorus has a raw, gritty feel to it as it builds into a brief moment of chaos before the track abruptly ends.

Panther is a concept album, something POS are very familiar with. To save me rambling, I'll simply use a quote from Daniel himself. The album primarily deals with the "contradictions and conflicts between so called normal people and those who are wired entirely differently." Gildenlow goes on to say: "I guess a lot of the songs that came out, dealt with not being part of the norm of society. We live in a time where we are aware of people not fitting the norm and we're doing everything we can as a society to acknowledge all of these individuals, but at the same time, they're more disowned than ever, more medicated than ever. The album is painting pictures of a world, I guess. If this were a movie, it would be scenes from a city. It's set in one city, and it's populated by dogs and panthers, the so-called normal people and the spectrum people. That's the setting for the entire album."

This seems like a very relatable subject for many people in the current climate, myself included. The emotional impact of this constant search for one's identity can be heard perfectly on the track, Wait. This is one of the albums stand-out pieces and one of the most heart-wrenching songs POS have ever written. Daniel's vocal performance here is outstanding; one of his best ever. Even the use of auto-tune, something usually not heard in this genre, is done deliberately and just works to improve the atmosphere and add another wonderful layer to the song. The chorus invokes the idea of hopelessness, of life slipping by, while you helplessly watch, unable to react. It's an incredibly powerful song and serves as great representation of the album as a whole.

Another highlight is the opener and lead single, Accelerator. Beginning with poly-rhythms, underlying guitars and a hauntingly-dark synthesizer, the song pummels along at a blistering pace. Vocoders are prominent once again, especially with the backing vocals, and provide an extra depth to the song. It builds into a wonderfully epic climax, as everything melds together in a classic Pain Of Salvation moment.

Later in the album, Species is another particular highlight for me. The opening acoustic guitars and vocals are incredibly catchy. I found myself at work the other day, singing this to myself without even realising it. There is some absolutely sublime fretless bass work from Gustaf Hielm during the second half of the song, and the whole track is a real grower, maybe more so than any other track here.

There are a couple of tracks that, no matter how hard I try, I just can't connect with. Firstly, the title track strays just a little to close to Slipknot territory, with its aggressive rapping. This is a style that Gildenlow has done before, even as far back as Remedy Lane, but with the electronic elements, the slightly cringy chorus, and lack of much else, I found myself skipping this song after a while. It does have a certain catchiness to it, but not in a good way.

I was also disappointed in closer, Icon. This 13-minute epic just never gets off the ground. It begins promisingly, it builds a fairly intense atmosphere, reminding me of Steven Wilson in places, but the middle section of the song meanders on for far too long, and despite having some nice vocal melodies, and an unexpected guitar solo, the song just doesn't do enough for me. It ends up repeating itself and isn't the huge statement it should have been, to close what could have been an incredibly powerful album.

Despite this, Panther is still a great record overall. The individual performances from Gildenlow, Johan Hallgren, Leo Margarit, Daniel Karlsson and Gustaf Hielm are all absolutely flawless, and each member is also credited with vocals. The production is dark and brooding, yet crisp and clear. This album sounds huge in places, and is also beautifully restrained when it needs to be.

I don't think this album is going to be particularly controversial among Pain Of Salvation's fan base, as I imagine most will absolutely love this record. And rightly so, this is a great album with many great moments. I just personally feel it could have been much better in places. But still, the talent on display here is undeniable. This band have honed their art over almost thirty years and it shows. Whether you like them or not, Pain Of Salvation will always demand your attention, and Panther is no different.

Traumhaus — In Oculis Meis

Traumhaus - In Oculis Meis
German version: Das Erwachen (2:14), Bewahren & Verstehen (8:22), Der Vorsprung (6:13), Entfliehen (5:22), Viele Wege (4:47), Der Neue Morgen (7:41), Verstehen & Bewahren (5:34), Die Dunkelheit Durchleuchten (8:58)
English version: The Awakening (2:14), Preserve & Understand (8:22), Walk On Yourself (6:13), Escape (5:22), So Many Ways (4:47), The New Morning (7:41), Understand & Preserve (5:34), X-Ray The Darkness (8:58)
Ignacio Bernaola

This is a band that I had never heard of, and I'm glad that I took a bit longer to consider this review, because I've had the opportunity to listen to the album more times than usual and my score has risen since my first listens. So let´s talk a bit about Traumhaus and this deep album.

Traumhaus is a German band founded in 1994 under the name Zweeback, adopting their current name only a few years later and releasing their self-titled album in 2001. The Hinaus EP came out in 2005 and Die Andere Seite was released in 2008. After a five-year hiatus, Das Geheimnis was published and got a very good 8.5 out of 10 in our review.

This is their new effort called In Oculis Meis. As you have realised, all of their albums have been released in German but this time the band have decided to record the album twice, with a German and an English version. Well, I suppose the German version is the original?

This is not the first time a band had decided to do two versions of the same music but I honestly don't get it. I'm sure the band feels more comfortable in their mother tongue, and there has to be one original language for the compositions. I understand they want the non-German listeners to understand the concept of the album but it would be enough to have the lyrics printed in both languages. I don't speak German but I prefer the German version of the album, as I did with the Swedish version of Opeth´s last album. It may be my subconscious, because the songs are very well arranged in English, but it is what I feel.

In Oculis Meis is about our modern world and how to cope with it. I guess Traumhaus could write In Oculis Meis Part 2 in a few months! Musically this is very rich and diverse, with many details that reveal themselves after each listen.

It is not easy to focus on one particular kind of progressive rock genre because they can have progressive metal, touches of hard rock, neo progressive and even some alternative rock parts as on _Viele Wege _. *Arena* was the first band that came to my mind but also *IQ*, although is not difficult to find different references.

I prefer not to describe the album song by song but Bewahren & Verstehen and its instrumental version Verstehen & Bewahren are a really good combo that helps the album keep its atmosphere. Die Dunkelheit Durchleuchten is a personal favourite, being also the longest track, closing the album. You will find yourself enjoying really great guitars and keyboards along the whole album and powerful vocals, mixing theatrical parts with stronger arrangements and catchy choruses.

Note that I only speak for the German version of this album. As I said before, I don´t know why but I like it more. The English one is (almost) exactly the same, so my score would be the same, but one can't deny the feelings.

I'm now trying to find some time to go back to this band's catalogue. It seems that their previous albums are softer than In Oculis Meis but they are also growing on me. Do yourself a favor and listen to this band because they have much to offer. In my case I will be returning to this album for sure.

Album Reviews