There is little to link progressive rock to the paranormal, so their paths seldom intersect as a subject of my reviews. Unless of course the CD I'm reviewing happens to be a concept album with a paranormal slant. But the latest album "Das Geheimnis" ("The Secret") from the German neo-progressive band Traumhaus doesn't fall into that category. Yet the moment I slipped this disc into my player I immediately realized a paranormal phenomena was at play.
And no ... it's not a simple case of Déjà vu.
I found myself in the presence of a bona fide vocal Doppelgänger.
Doppelgänger is a German word - translated as "double-goer" - which can refer to either the Yin/Yang Jekyll/Hyde evil twin hiding within a person who can emerge, leading a parallel existence with each unaware of the other; or it can refer to two completely unrelated individuals who bears an uncanny resemblance to one another. A mirror image so close that it's nearly impossible to distinguish one from the other. Many accounts of the Doppelgänger effect have been well documented, and for the curious reader a brief web search can turn-up some amazing photographic results.
But this Doppelgänger isn't a trick of the eye - but the ear.
Alexander Weyland and Peter Gabriel exemplify the classic case of a vocal Doppelgänger - the only difference is one is singing in German the other English. There are a few singers in progressive rock who come very close to emulating Gabriel's timbre - artists like Ignacio Rodriguez of the Argentinian band Rael, Simone Rossetti of the Italian band The Watch, and Anthony 'Ant' Short of the British group Ark. But Alexander Weyland's impassioned vocals resurrect the very specter of the Genesis front-man during the peek of his progressive prime.
As you might gather from my Doppelgänger references the lyrics are in German, but the band rectifies that by including both German and the English translation of each track in the booklet and liner notes.
I only wish they would have provided a detailed list of keyboard gear used on the recording because I detect (right or wrong) analog keys like the Mellotron and MiniMoog used throughout. The effect is grandiose, bombastic, and ethereal. There is nothing quite as majestic as the Mellotron choir, and "Das Geheimnis" provides examples throughout the recording.
Without understanding a word I'm immediately reeled in by the catchy hooks and Weyland's emotional vocal delivery.
In their 12 year history Traumhaus has inexplicably released only three studio albums, with extensive time-spans between each new release. Their self-titled debut album was released in 2001, the follow-up "Die Andere Seite" (The Other Side) came out 7 years later, and now with the release of "Das Geheimnis" an additional 5 years has lapsed. But it was well worth the wait, as "Das Geheimnis" is a true progressive rock masterpiece from beginning to end.
The style of the band is heavy symphonic neo-prog awash with layers of majestic keyboards and the amazing guitar work of Tobias Hampl who can tug at your heartstrings with a single emotional sustained note or scorch the fret board with a flurry of ferocious arpeggios.
The closest comparisons would be IQ and Arena. And although the tracks never venture into the raucous prog/metal territory of bands like Dream Theater or Symphony X there are heavy progressive rock elements in the track "Frei" (Free) which remind me of the early Ark albums "The Dreams Of Mr. Jones" and "Spiritual Physics".
The album has a nicely balanced combination of shorter songs in the 5 minute range to a sprawling 27 minute epic.
The line-up includes: Tobias Hampl (acoustic and electric guitars), Alexander Weyland (keyboards, lead vocals, electric guitar, loop programming & effects), Sebastian Klein (electric and upright bass), Stefan Hopf (drum loops), and behind the skins is x-Santana and newly acquired drummer for Spock's Beard, Jimmy Keegan.
Progressive Promotions Records has made a solid commitment to transform and re-invigorate the floundering progressive rock market with emerging talent from around the globe. Already boasting an impressive stable of talented artists like Seven Steps To The Green Door, Cyril, Nemo, T, Argos, Invertigo, Elora, Retrospective, Flaming Row, Overhead, The Black Noodle Project, and Toxic Smile - PPR label now adds the band Traumhaus to that expanding list of international artists. It's going to be difficult comprising my list of Best New Releases For 2013 for Ron this year because it continually changes when a new promo from Progressive Promotions Records arrives in the mail.
"Das Geheimnis" is very highly recommended to fans of neo-prog bands like IQ, Arena, early Pallas, Fish-era Marillion, Galahad, Grey Lady Down, Ark, Citizen Cain, Abel Ganz, Blue Mammoth, Comedy Of Errors, Deyss, and Egdon Heath to name a few - as well as the above mentioned Progressive Promotions Records.
One of the best new releases this year.
Reviewed by Joseph Shingler on November 29th, 2013