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Soniq Theater


Review by Gary Hill

Soniq Theater is one man, Alfred Mueller, and this guy is talented! His newest release to fly under this banner is Enchanted, and it's full of all the instrumental progressive rock sounds and changes that you could possibly expect for one album. This thing is firmly planted in 1970's era prog, but it's also original and unique. The disc (as all the albums from Soniq Theater) can only be ordered as a CD-r from Mueller's site. Now, while there are those who might not be pleased with that formatting, it does allow him to give some seriously nice pricing when you order more than one disc at a time.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at

Track by Track Review
A keyboard flourish leads this one off. As the percussion and other instruments enter it begins to feel a lot like something from Emerson Lake and Palmer. It moves through several changes, but never really moves away from its keyboard oriented instrumental prog approach. This one is very intriguing piece of music. It's dramatic and a great choice to start off the album. It turns a little funky later in a nice changeup. At just over four minutes it's rather amazing how much is packed into this dynamic number.

Sorcerer's Apprentice
This song, like the last one, has a bit of ELP-like texture to it. It's more of a hard rocking dramatic format as it opens, though. Then it shifts into something more akin to Yes. It launches out into a fast paced prog-instrumental excursion that combines those sounds with old time cinema music and other elements to carry forward. This turns more hard edged after this playful segment, then gets very lush in its arrangement as it rounds the next corner. It drops to a neo-classical piano segment then comes up with prog fury a bit like King Crimson before dropping back to an even more impressive piano solo. This one then moves back out into a full band treatment that has both an ELP texture and more modern prog leanings like Dream Theater. This one is incredibly dynamic and moves around corners so quickly as to be hard for a reviewer like myself to keep up on documenting all the changes. Let's just say that this one is a killer instrumental with lots of great prog textures and changes. It will definitely keep you on your toes. There is even a full on jazz approach thrown into the mix.

Coming in with a folky prog approach, this one is fast paced, but not extremely hard rocking. It features a non-lyrical female vocal line and a bit of Celtic texture. With an almost new age feel to it at times, this one is less dynamic in terms of rapid-fire changes than the songs before. I'd have to say that my one issue on this one is that those vocals, that remind me a bit of the ones on Pink Floyd's "Great Gig In The Sky," are rather annoying to me.

The King's Enchanter
At over twelve minutes in length, this one is the longest cut on show here. It comes in rather tentatively, but turns to more hard-edged ELP like jamming in fairly short order. Then we are off on another fast moving series of changes, but in some ways this one is also a bit more static than the first couple tracks. It includes some exceptionally tasty musical performances. There is one section here that reminds me a bit of Asia - the band, not the continent. I really like a later keyboard dominated segment, too. It has a very interesting texture and then cuts to a somewhat dissonant jazzy piano solo. Other artists who I hear at points on this one include Yes, Styx and Jean Luc Ponty. This even includes a jazzy little vibraphone type segment that has a great retro texture. There are also some Wakeman like keyboard sounds interspersed here and there. It is definitely an entertaining ride. A horn section (synthetic I'm guessing) shows up later on this, as does several more killer keyboard solos. I particularly like the piano melodies that play over the energized segment leading to the outro. That closing segment is very neo-classical in texture.

The sounds of nature are the first things heard on this track. After a time a dramatic and very beautiful keyboard segment begins to build up from there. This runs through for a while then gives way to a very solid yet rather catchy progressive rock melody line. This one has a pretty, but mysterious feel to a lot the music. The keyboards definitely dominate this piece of music.
Horus Eyes
Frantic and a bit hard-edged, this one is very dramatic fast paced prog. It has a bit of that ELP texture to it, but there are definitely other sounds there as well. It drops later to a mellower keyboard dominated section. This segment has a lot of Rick Wakeman type textures to it, but the more playful variety of Wakeman's sound. It turns later toward the more dramatic of Wakeman's solo work and some choral type vocals are laid over the top. Then it moves out into a keyboard solo that really feels like it could have fit in nicely on Wakeman's Journey to the Centre of the Earth album. In fact the whole arrangement here seems to fit that general concept. As it carries on, though other elements from earlier in the piece return. When you consider that this song is less than four minutes in length it's another where it's hard to believe Mueller could pack so much into so little time.

Dramatic neo-classical piano starts this, but after a brief intro in this style it shifts to something that is more akin to space music. Then the two elements merge to carry the track onward. This ends and a rhythm that makes the song feel like it's going to explode replaces it. Rather than exploding in the way this seems to indicate it will, it moves out into a very dramatic new segment that has elements of the earlier modes along with a good chunk of both classical and jazz music. This one turns into a staccato pattern that is very effective. It moves through a number of variations on these themes in its less than five minute length. I am quite fond of the segment where it drops to just piano and the fast paced romp that follows.

Nanga Parbat
Once more keyboards begin this, laying down sheets of sound in a carpet of texture. Eventually an electro-rhythm comes in. Unfortunately, the synthetic nature of this takes away from the song a bit. However, as the keyboard solos over the top with almost Rick Wakeman like sounds it regains some of what it lost. As Mueller moves it away from there, though, the problems with the "drum machine" type sound become more apparent. Still, another melodic keyboard solo, this time feeling a bit more like Keith Emerson, helps the number regain its footing. Of the disc, though, I would have to say that this number and "Morgana" are the two that leave me the most cold.

Lizards and Wizards
With a title like that one can see where progressive rock's reputation of being for people who play Dungeons and Dragons is perpetuated. This starts with an enveloped keyboard sound, then other layers of keys emerge. As the song proper kicks in, though, it is one of the most effective on show. This rocker has a lot of excitement and fury as it winds through its oddly angled turns. There are moments that mind call to mind King Crimson while at other times the listener might consider the tried and true Emerson Lake and Palmer. This also has some of the crunchiest guitar that is presented here. I'd have to say that of everything on this CD, this is my favorite. I also hear some Herbie Hancock, ala "Rock It!" here. This one is really tasty.

Amazing Bells
As one can imagine this one features a lot of keyboards that are textured to sound like bells. It comes in rather mellow in texture and grows organically. At times this reminds me a bit of Pat Metheny. I also hear some Mike Oldfield in the arrangement. It has some cool moments and gets more lush and powerful at times. While this track is good, I think Mueller could have chosen a better disc closer (perhaps just flip positions between this song and the last). Still, this works reasonably well in that position as sort of a cooling down mode.

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