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Erik Norlander - Music Machine CD (album) cover


Erik Norlander


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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.

Report this review (#19246)
Posted Monday, July 5, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars Im impressed with Eric Norlanders Knowledge of what sounds good as opposed to trying to sound like the second coming of Bach.This album has everything space music,hard rock,proressive rock and metal not to mention a song by Buck Dharma one of my favorite American Guitarist of the 70's and a pioneer of progressive metal with Blue Oyster Cult.Too bad Eric Norlander isnt a bigger name here in the states.It just goes to show the lack of knowedge of the American music fan once again.
Report this review (#19247)
Posted Saturday, August 7, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Testosterone keyboard.

Erik Norlander is doing what he does well. Not super well, but dang well. When I popped this into my player the 1st time, I thought immediately:'This guy's good, but I heard it somewhere...' Yep, I read after that he played for Ayreon many times, and it shows. Good thing though, I always thought that his work with Ayreon was the icing on the cake that made it so memorable. It started pretty well for me. noticed a very deep foot print of the glam/ neo/ metal of the 80's (again?! What's with that decade?). While my teeth grinded, I also read so collaboration with chubby fingers Yngwie and I understood the course it would take. Okay, alright. And then I heard the lyrics, and I didn't know if I had to laugh or cry. I chose laughing for your information, but I did appreciate the music a lot.

Norlander writes very cheesy lyrics, really man (Beware the Vampires, Music Machine, Johnny America and it goes on and on...), okay I can deal with that. Know why? Because he's not the only one (Ayreon, Spock's Beard, Par Linhd Project, Shadow Gallery). So in this case, the best thing to do is to focus on the music, shall we?

The music is good for metal and pompous gothic keyboard lovers, and even sometimes quite good, but unfortunetaly never topping the kings of metal operas (Nightwish, Ayreon, Within Temptation). But being second fiddle in this case still means lots of speed metal solos (eh..) and some of the best keyboard fireworks in the buisness. This guy's mean serious buisness on the synths! No kidding, he shreds his Korg Triton like Malmsteem does it on the Fender Strat! Chicks dig out the finger calluses, right?

The album suffers and benefits the same thing: it's lenght. It's long enough to find some annoying filling but it's also long enough to create reliable material and memorable tunes or keyboard solos. So you have to press skip sometimes, but there's enough stuff in it to find something you'll like quite often.

Amateurs of DragonForce will appreciate.

3.5 stars

Report this review (#161714)
Posted Wednesday, February 13, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars I have mixed feelings about this CD. While it is very good as a concept album and very well crafted, it is definitly less progressive than Into The Sunset, his previous work. The hard rock side of Norlander prevails on this double album: it seems there is no coincidence that he recruited such hard rock stars like Kelly Keeling and Scott Kail to play the main parts. Ok, his sound is still prog, no matter what. Epilogue: Sky Full Of Stars is, in its ten minutes, one of Norlander's most beautiful prog instrumentals. And his keyboard playing is amazing and creative as ever.

Yet I was expecting more. As a concept album I found the storyline to be a little lacking originality. The playing, vocals, production and mixing are all top lotch. Not all the songs really work, but mostly they do. the album flows is even. but I really wish he had done something more epic and should explore more his obvious huge talent as a songwriter.

All in all, a good album. A mix of classic rock, hard rock and prog. If you like those styles then go for it. But if you want to see more prog parts, you should listen to Into The Sunset before tackling this one.

Report this review (#171296)
Posted Saturday, May 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
3 stars "This is the story of Johnny America, a new kind of music machine"

Just like David Bowie's classic The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, Erik Norlander's Music Machine is a concept album about an imaginary Rock Star. The storyline and the lyrics of this "Heavy Metal symphony" are sadly rather cheesy and full of cliches, but the music itself is mostly very good. The styles involved on this massive double album include traditional Heavy Metal in the vein of Deep Purple and Dio-era Black Sabbath, Classic Rock, Neo-Classical Metal, Progressive Metal, Power Metal, Hard Rock, Blues Rock and energetic keyboard-driven Symphonic Prog in the vein of Emerson Lake & Palmer.

The guests include Mark Boals (who also provided vocals for Yngwie Malmsteen), Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (of Blue Oyster Cult-fame), and drummer Vinny Appice (who played with Black Sabbath and Dio), and several others. The backgrounds of these musicians give you further clues of what you will find here. Ayreon's Metal Operas, that relied on a similar set of styles (and to which Norlander contributed), might also provide some hints. Though, thank goodness, Music Machine is not as sprawling and all-over-the-place as Ayreon's works, I am sure that it will appeal to many of the same fans. The vocalists and instrumentalists involved are all very good, but the foremost instrument are Norlander's brilliant keyboard playing.

There certainly are some great moments on this album but also a few weaker moments. With a running time of one hour and 46 minutes, you tend to get a little bit exhausted towards the end even if it is mostly very good music. Had the cheesy storyline been toned down somewhat and the running time been brought down to fit on a single disc, Music Machine could probably have attracted a higher rating from me. But as it stands it is just a good, and not a fantastic, follow-up to Into The Sunset. Both of these studio albums are definitely recommended, but the live album Stars Rain Down is more consistent and provides a nice cross-section of tracks from these two albums plus some of Norlander's best works from other sources.

Report this review (#759757)
Posted Monday, May 28, 2012 | Review Permalink

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