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Erik Norlander - Music Machine CD (album) cover


Erik Norlander



3.70 | 43 ratings

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5 stars This "Music Machine" from keyboard deity ERIK NORLANDER is a twin-disc concept rocker that fits stylistically somewhere amid symphonic metal, artfully atmospheric synth-prog, and melodic hard rock. The album's story --the Rise and Fall of a preternatural pop/rock prodigy named Johnny America, the "music machine" to which the title refers-- is intriguing and smartly crafted, as anyone familiar with Norlander's writing would expect.

As always, however, the real story is the songs. They do not all possess the transcendent spark of Norlander's very best work, but they are forceful, artful, and engaging rockers, excelling in depth, breadth, dynamics, and nuance. Performances by Kelly Keeling and Mark Boals (vox), Buck Dharma and Neil Citron (guitars), Vinny Appice and Gregg Bissonette (drums), and Tony Franklin (bass), among others, further bring both artistic mass and propulsive drive to Norlander's epic saga. Highlight songs include the sweetly tempered thunder of "Heavy Metal Symphony," the electro-funked depth of "Tour Of The Sprawl," the sparse and subtly disconcerting "Lost Highway" (perfectly voiced by BOC's Buck Dharma), the driving rock of "Beware The Vampires," and the soaring melodic metal of "The Fire Of Change" and "The Fall Of The Idol."

Very occasionally, the melody of "Music Machine" seems to take a back seat to plot furtherance (as is common with concept albums), and some fans may find that Norlander's polystylistic architecture results in some unspectacular hooks or textures. The musical themes that span the set are more than strong enough to support its construction, however, and the overarching brilliance of the album leaves very little room for criticism. Some listeners may not always like Norlander's stylistic synthesis, but his stylish synthesizer is stellar, and the album maintains coherence throughout its range, which is no mean feat.

Ultimately, "Music Machine" is a triumph. For serious fans of symphonic metal or progressive rock, it is a remarkable work from a remarkable artist.

| 5/5 |


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