[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS
(56:46, ‘Soniq Theater’)
TRACK LIST: 1. Robin Hood 4:34 2. Pioneers and Heroes 4:24 3. Lemuria 4:33 4. Sailing Columbus 5:13 5. Richard the Lionheart 4:01 6. Maharajah 4:28 7. Uther Pendragon 4:24 8. Ancient Dreams 5:47 9. Time Loves a Hero 4:41 10. Little Cowboys 3:40 11. The Gold Diggers 5:08 12. The Ruins of Xanadu 5:53 SOLO PILOT: Alfred Mueller – all instruments & vocals
Prolusion. The studio project SONIQ THEATER is the long ongoing project of German composer and keyboardist Alfred Mueller. He's in the habit of releasing one new album each January, "Heroes of the Past" is his fourteenth production and dates back to 2014.
Analysis. There are certain prerequisites you need to be able to enjoy the music of Alfred Mueller. He produces all the music on keyboards, up to and including emulated instruments, and as he's not to my knowledge a wealthy man there are certain limitations to the sounds produced by said keyboards. In short, the music isn't of the kind or nature that will be easily enjoyed by an audiofile or someone with a keen perception on how instruments are supposed to sound. As such his music does have a limited audience, especially in progressive rock circles, while I've experienced on multiple occasions that those with a more relaxed attitude to music, what you might describe as music consumers, often enjoy his material quite a lot, if they happen to stumble upon it. The last few years Mueller appears to have established a niche for himself, creating material that to a greater or lesser extent references some of the great names in progressive symphonic rock on a more subtle level, in earlier days he did so much more prominently, and instead opts to focus more on creating atmospheric material, featuring softer sounds and subtle contrasts. In terms of style we're treated to anything from (emulated) symphonic progressive rock sporting guitar riffs and soloing paired off with multiple keyboard layers or additional emulated instruments to more low key compositions with stronger references to artists such as Tangerine Dream. In terms of listener experience in general the latter is generally more successful, I must add, as these compositions only rarely feature sounds that suffer a lot from the keyboards-only approach of Mueller. "Heroes of the Past" isn't much different from any other Soniq Theater production of recent date in terms of compositions and content, with pieces such as opening track Robin Hood and the following Pioneers and Heroes compelling, striking creations that are enjoyable despite of the limitations in instrumentation, which reveals a lot about Mueller as a composer; other creations are less enjoyable due to said limitations or because they, to my ears, become too repetitive. Lemuria is an example of such a case, a composition that works very well in sound due to its more electronic oriented, Tangerine Dream-tinged general sound, but that doesn't quite manage to work on a structural and arrangement level, as far as I'm concerned. Personally I found the concluding composition The Ruins of Xanadu to be the most thrilling creation this time around, an atmospheric composition that manages to create a strong mystical mood that stays compelling throughout, crafted by way of careful textures and subtle contrasts in what merits a description as elegant, again despite the limitations Mueller's material are subject to.
Conclusion. The music of Soniq Theater isn't one that will have a broad, universal appeal, as the limitations of using keyboards only to create a full, rich rock expression results in some odd-sounding emulated instruments. His compositions are well made however, and if you are able to mentally fill out the gaps of his atmospheric instrumental compositions and you suspect you'll enjoy an artist existing on the border between symphonic progressive and e-music that might also be described as new age, the music of Soniq Theater is available for free on his homepage.
[ SHORT REVIEWS | DETAILED REVIEWS - LIST | BANDLISTS ]