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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Soniq Theater

Vision Quest

Review by Gary Hill

Each album from Soniq Theater continues the general musical concept of progressive rock mixed with fusion. Still, each one has a rather unique identity. This disc is probably more like Yes than anything else in the ST catalogue. Some is closer to Rick Wakeman and some closer to the whole group Yes, but there is quite a bit of material that seems in that general vein. Still, there are tracks that don’t come in that territory. Whatever you want to call this, though, it’s a strong album that’s very entertaining.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2012  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Vision Quest

Keys open this in a repetitive pattern before more dramatic sounds are heard over the top. It grows out from there in fine fashion. Then a bouncing sort of element takes it in another direction. It evolves out from there moving through a number of changes. There are some great keyboard textures built into this number. There are some segments here that make me think of early Electric Light Orchestra, but the bulk is probably closer to something Rick Wakeman might do.

Mourning Soul

As this one starts it feels pretty similar to the previous cut, but it works out to a sound that’s closer to fusion. At times I’m reminded of Jean Luc-Ponty. At other points, Pat Metheny is a reference. There’s a cool piano solo section, that has other elements, too. As this works through varying changes it really becomes some killer jazz with a great groove.

Ninive

Here is an especially effective instrumental that does a great job of combining progressive rock with fusion. It’s interesting that each of the first three cuts have identities that are largely different, yet they feel consistent. It’s like the three are different faces of the same sound. This is probably my favorite of the three, though. The rhythm section is energetic and driving and the melodies are captivating. The lush arrangement is quite tasty.

The Hobbit

Rick Wakeman is definitely the most obvious reference here. This one is a cool cut that has a lot of changes and some great melody lines. It’s not completely different from the music that preceded it, but it certainly has its own sound. I think this one might be the best of the bunch so far.

Looking for the Gates

This cut is good. Unfortunately, by this point, it’s all starting to feel a bit too much alike. This is certainly more in the progressive rock vein than it is fusion. It’s not bad, but just doesn’t have enough identity of its own. There is a cool timing switch segment, though. There is also an intriguing change up later with a percussion dominated segment.

The Ancient Philosophers

The section that opens this is a big change, feeling like Yes. Then it drops to a section that’s got some world music and classical textures. This is a number that brings real musical change when it’s needed the most. There is almost a movie soundtrack element here. As this continues to build it turns out towards more purely prog sounds and it gets quite potent. There are definitely some short bits of guitar that seem to call to mind Steve Howe at different points in this number. It’s definitely one of the high points of the set and manages to combine some pretty disparate sounds into something that’s cohesive and consistent.

Jonathan Seagull

Appropriately this starts with the sounds of seagulls. It works out to some cool fusion from there. It’s a lot like Tangerine Dream and while not as big a change as the previous number was, is different enough from the earlier tracks to set it apart. Those seagulls return at the end.

Half Moon

I love the keyboard sound that starts this off. It works out into something pounding and energetic. This is a fun number that represents another bit of variety. It’s another highlight of the set and includes some tasty keyboard sounds. I particularly enjoy the retro keyboard sounds that are heard mid-track.

Heavensent

The final cut is also the strongest of the set. Of course, it’s also the only number with vocals here. It starts with a rather odd sounding segment, but then evolves to a mainstream progressive rock sound that’s accessible and tasty. There are bits of instrumental music included in the midst of the number here are there. Sections highlight guitar playing and others seem along the lines of Rick Wakeman with keyboard dominance. This is a great way to end the set in a way that has the listener poised to hit “repeat.”

 
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