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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Soniq Theater

Unknown Realities

Review by Gary Hill

Alfred Mueller records under the name “Soniq Theater” and has been quite prolific over the years. His music is always instrumental and always cool, but there are changes from album to album. The bad part about this particular disc is that, it seems to be weaker than most of his releases. Of course, even with that in mind, this is still quite good. In fact, the really ironic thing is, the track “Revealing a Dream” might well be the best song ever from Soniq Theater.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Longing for Freedom

Mysterious keyboard textures open this, but after this short introduction it powers out to some killer classic progressive rock sounds. I’m reminded of Yes quite a bit. This works through for a while and there’s a shrill sound that is either a keyboard or a voice (non-lyrical) that comes over the top for a short time. The track shifts from there to a bit less energized, but no less dramatic progression to continue. That shrill sound is heard again later and I’m pretty sure it’s a vocal, but no vocalist is credited on the set, so perhaps it’s a sample or something. The tune keeps getting reinvented and changed.  This is quite a satisfying and tasty tune and a great way to open the disc in style. There’s a definite science fiction film element to it at times.

Revealing a Dream
Keyboard layers open things here and then some guitar joins. This builds out from there in fine fashion with some hard rocking, yet melodic progressive rock taking the reins and driving this beast. There’s a killer staccato section that feels closer to modern prog bands like Dream Theater. It has a lot of symphonic textures in that section, too, nearly connecting it to European epic metal. However, this is certainly not heavy metal at all. It is really an awesome piece of music that has a great progression and scorching hot instrumental work. There are a lot of different movements and modes here and this thing is possibly the best song ever from Soniq Theater. At times it comes close to ELP, but at other points there is fusion built into it. All in all, this is an incredibly diverse and dynamic tune that never fails to thrill.
Revolution Hymn
Somehow this feels rather jazzy, but there’s some hard rocking sounds built into it. It’s got a lot of energy and some cool melodic ideas, but it’s probably not the strongest tune on show here. Of course, part of that’s because it had to follow “Revealing a Dream.” The mix seems a little weird, too, though. The rhythm section somehow seems a little out of place in terms of the mixing. There are some musical themes here that feel familiar, like old time melodies from some classical or folk piece of music I don’t recognize on a conscious level. There is a section later in the piece that makes me think of Yes a bit.
Cosmic Angel
Mellower sounds open this with almost a funk meets electronic vibe. Melodies come over the top as the tune continues to evolve. This is definitely mellower than a lot of the music here and feels very much like jazz.
Black Mustang
This one powers out with a screaming energetic arrangement. In a way it feels a bit like vintage Asia, but the driving bass line really separates it from that reference. After this introductory section, it shifts to music that’s more melodically involved and it actually feels almost like heavy metal in a couple places. Still, there’s a shift towards neo-classical and other sounds as this arrangement is ever shifting and really all over the place. This is a killer tune and it includes (appropriately) the sound of a horse in the middle of it.
Pavillon
World music sounds open this and they really clash at points. Once this opening section works, through, though it’s more Soniq Theater melodious music. This really has an old world feeling to it and a real Latin beat. It’s not bad, but really the weakest cut on show here.
The Nitty Gritty
Bouncy and quite jazz-like, this is an energetic little tune that’s fun. The percussion seems to feel pretty odd, rather synthetic, though. That’s not bad on the sections of the arrangement that have full instrumentation. Where it’s more stripped back, though, it detracts.
Call of the Unknown
The fairly stripped down and basic rock and roll approach of the rhythm section here leaves something to be desired. The waves of sound that come over the top at times make up for it. There are some great keyboard melodies that ensue and there’s even a jazz-like section that works out at points, too. Delivered with a more interesting backing, this would be a much stronger piece of music. Still, the killer soloing helps to elevate it despite that weakness.
Roll the Dice
Another cut that’s just OK, this one starts off a bit like a mix of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. A lot of the song is based in that same style. There’s a melodic bouncing jam that reminds me a bit Vince Guaraldi’s work in the Peanuts soundtracks.
Organic Food
This is definitely high energy and melodic. It has a lot of fusion in the mix. Still, it’s not the strongest material from Soniq Theater.
Slipping into the Future
A fairly mellow groove, there’s a lot of smooth jazz built into this beast. It’s not bad, but also not really a standout tune.
 
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