Progress Records have a knack for discovering solid European progressive rock bands, and Sweden's Soniq Circus are certainly no exception. Their debut self-titled CD is a melodic, symphonic, and often times hard rocking good time. While influences such as Saga, Dream Theater, Genesis, Yes, and Rush (especially the vocals) can easily be heard, the band sounds like they are trying hard to find and define their own style. Crunchy guitar riffs, intricate drum work, and vintage prog keyboard sounds permeate the upbeat "Bright Future", which sees lead singer Calle Lennartsson and guitarist Marcus Enochsson really working hard at delivering a truly layered and harmonious vocal attack, driven home by the heavy prog arrangements. There's a certain playful, almost pop underpinning that you can hear on each piece which almost reminds at times of Spock's Beard or A.C.T., that despite the rocking edge the band conveys there's always a lightheartedness that adds a special warmth and charm.
Mathias Beckius drops in plenty of Moog & Mellotron sounds on the atmospheric "Revolution", and he does his best Tony Banks impression on the lovely "An Idiot", painting the song with tasty organ, synth, and string textures while Lennartsson delivers a powerful vocal performance. Stay strapped in though, as the band kicks it into high gear at the midway point and rocks out pretty hard to finsih out the tune. This piece is one of the four songs on the CD exceeding 8 minutes in length, and the band is proving early on that they can handle the epics quite well. Enochsson's lush acoustic guitar evokes pastoral images during the intro to "Chain of Consequences", but the song quickly becomes a symphonic, almost progressive metal number, featuring crunchy guitar riffs, stabbing synth lines, and the tight grooves from drummer Christer Ugglin & bassist Markus Milsson. The CD ends with the bombastic "Colliding Stars", a heavy number led by Enochsson's beefy riffs and searing lead lines, plus the Jon Lord-ish organ tones from Beckius. It's a real gem and a great way to close out the album.
For a debut, this is some pretty impressive stuff here. Soniq Circus have all the tools to play with the big boys on the modern prog scene, so it will be interesting to see them grow and mature as a band from this point on. If you like symphonic prog with a hard edge, this will be a no brainer purchase for you and comes highly recommended.
1) Overture (3.14)
2) Welcome (4.44)
3) Bright Future (8.26)
4) Revolution (5.10)
5) An Idiot (8.23)
6) Chain of Consequences (8.58)
7) Collliding Stars (8.47)