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ROCKET SCIENTISTS

Symphonic Prog • United States


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Rocket Scientists biography
ROCKET SCIENTISTS marks the beginning of the career of the talented keyboardist Erik Norlander back in the late 80's when with the guitarist Mark McCrite decides to form a band.

According to some critics, ROCKET SCIENTISTS are responsible of a new stage in the evolution of Neo Prog, but in my opinion they went much further and explored different sounds including Hard Rock and some Metal but their main structure is 100% Symphonic.

But before talking about the band it's important to mention a bit of Erik Norlander, the brain behind the band, he was born in 1967 in Hollywood California, since he was a kid started to study Classical music and the Jazz, but his main influences (In his own words) were found in Prog Rock mentioning Rick Wakeman, Jon Lord, Keith Emerson, Mike Pinder and Geoff Downes, as we see the eclectic spirit of his music was present from the start.

After 3 or 4 years of founding ROCKET SCIENTISTS, the and releases their first album "Earthbound" (1993), with the assistance of Dom Schiff (Bass and Chapman Stick) and Tony Amato (Drums), who soon became part of the band but of course we can't forget Erik's muse and wife Lana Lane. This debut album is a bit simpler and less challenging than the rest of their production.

Their second album "Brutal Architecture" features the definitive lineup with Norlander, McCrite, Schiff and Amato, representing a leap in their career, still we can find some poppy moments but the structure and sound is pure Symphonic.

Still the band released two more albums "Earth Bellow and Sky Above" an excellent live album released in 1998 and in 199 the heavy "Oblivion" again with Lana Lane and almost two different lineups being Norlander and McCrite the only members who play in all racks.

During the early 2000's Norlander, McCrite and Schiff dedicated more to their solo career until 2006 when they release the double album "Revolution Road" which presents a much more mature band with much more ambition, we only need to hope they won't make us wait much more before a new release because the evolution of the band has been simply impressive.

Iván Melgar Morey - Perú

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RefuelRefuel
United States of Distribution 2015
Audio CD$6.84
$5.21 (used)
Supernatural HighwaysSupernatural Highways
Think Tank Media 2014
Audio CD$8.73
$4.63 (used)
Looking BackwardLooking Backward
Box set
Think Tank Media 2007
Audio CD$59.98
$49.98 (used)
Revolution RoadRevolution Road
Think Tank Media 2001
Audio CD$12.61
$10.06 (used)
Oblivion DaysOblivion Days
TDNE 2003
Audio CD$46.86
$11.98 (used)
earth below and sky aboveearth below and sky above
Think Tank
Audio CD$99.98 (used)
Revolution Road by Rocket Scientists (2006-10-18)Revolution Road by Rocket Scientists (2006-10-18)
Think Tank Media
Audio CD$96.26
Refuel by Rocket Scientists (2014-08-03)Refuel by Rocket Scientists (2014-08-03)
United States of Distribution
Audio CD$47.08
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ROCKET SCIENTISTS discography


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ROCKET SCIENTISTS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.99 | 24 ratings
Earthbound
1993
3.65 | 44 ratings
Brutal Architecture
1995
3.88 | 75 ratings
Oblivion Days
1999
3.54 | 47 ratings
Revolution Road
2006
4.22 | 31 ratings
Refuel
2014

ROCKET SCIENTISTS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.97 | 10 ratings
Earth Below And Sky Above
1998

ROCKET SCIENTISTS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ROCKET SCIENTISTS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.78 | 8 ratings
Looking Backward
2007

ROCKET SCIENTISTS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.87 | 20 ratings
Supernatural Highways
2014

ROCKET SCIENTISTS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Refuel by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.22 | 31 ratings

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Refuel
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

5 stars These rocket scientists have a message for you. After all the years since the 1993 debut release, there is one thing that has always been an axiom of the band: It's all about the song. Though a prog band at heart, Rocket Scientists place heavy emphasis on song-writing and not just progressive instrumental flare.

Here's another album that attracted my attention by the cover art. I gave it a cursory listen on iTunes, I think it was, and thought it was a bit too poppy. Their older material seemed more interesting, especially "Oblivion Days" but those older albums were expensive imports. I kept "Refuel" on standby in my Amazon shopping cart for nearly a half year before finally deciding that I had to start somewhere with this band and this album was affordable.

Lucky for me, this album has turned out to be as outstanding as the cover promised. At first, I'll admit it was the pop (mainstream-ish) melodies that I heard and I wasn't blown away just yet. But I felt that it was an album I could listen to from start to finish as the level of music and song-writing quality remain high throughout. When I finally came round to listening to this album intently for the purpose of writing a review, I actually fell into a busy period when night after night I would listen to the album but return home from work too late to think of writing a decent review. As a result, it became a custom for a few days to just listen to the album again and again, and I discovered that I didn't mind at all.

The album kicks off with one of three instrumentals (actually four; I'll get to that). "Refuel", "Regenerate" and "Galileo" all show off the band's instrumental talents with some great compositions that allow for keyboard and guitar solos. "Regenerate" has become my favourite, and the official band video shows Don Schiff playing lead on his NS/sticks.

The rest of the album is song-oriented but what a selection! Yes, there are more pop-like catchy chorus melodies and mainstream approaches to song-writing. But there is variety as well and also some terrific instrumental sections in the songs. Some tracks like "Martial" and "Cheshire Cat Smile" are easy to latch onto and quickly become memorable for their melodies and use of cello or horns. Horns! Darn but those horns in "Cheshire Cat Smile" are uplifting and cheer-inducing!

A couple of other tracks like "It's Over" and "Fading Light" start off sounding like the album is going into mundane mode, especially after the gripping "Martial" and the prog delight "Regenerate". However, these songs are hiding some unexpected surprises. "It's Over" transforms partway in and becomes a rather impressive track after all, and "Fading Light" plays clever tricks with abrupt tempo and melody transformations.

The songs vary in length from the longest track, "Rome's About to Fall" (8:15) to the brief cello/viola/acoustic guitar instrumental, "Reconstruct" (1:30) that leads into "Cheshire Cat Smile". The longer tracks do make room for more impressive instrumental work.

While I say impressive, I don't mean complex or technical. Rocket Scientists Mark McCrite, Erik Norlander, and Don Schiff keep the show on the road and working with the song rather than going off on any wild tangents. There are several guests as well as instruments outside of the usual guitar/keyboard/bass/drum set up. I've mentioned cello, viola and horns (trumpet and trombone) already. You'll also hear contra bass, piccolo, and mandolin as well as many keyboards like Hammond organ, clavinet, and Wurlitzer electric piano. I think Rocket Scientists have put everything in to creating and capturing the sound that they wanted for each song. And yes, the sound quality is great with each instrument easy to pick out and the music only ever feeling cluttered once during a build-up and just before the release.

So, yes, I am thoroughly enjoying this album and I felt at last compelled to seek out other albums. I soon found their EP "Supernatural Highways" and my first choice "Oblivion Days" for reasonable prices and have them on order now. I hope they will prove to be as much pleasure to listen to as "Refuel". I wouldn't say it's an essential masterpiece but it is a terrific album in my opinion.

 Refuel by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.22 | 31 ratings

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Refuel
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Rocket Scientists is a group of american musicians who balance their sound between Erik Norlander´s symphonic prog tendencies and Mark McCrite pop sensibilities. And it seems that, in the end, McCrite´s influences are more proeminent than Norlander´s. At the excellent, all instrumental, EP Supernatural Highways that preceded Refuel in a few months, wheren you can find the band in full blown symphonic prog mode, I was expecting more of the same in their next full lenghth. But that was not to be. Definitly, this is a much more "song" oriented stuff like most of their previous works.

Please, don´t get me wrong: these are surely sophisticated and well crafeted tunes, with several styles and moods. Besides, Norlander´s majestic keyboards are all over them. The band even brought some novelties like a brass trio to some tracks. It was also nice to see Don Schiff showing off his talents on cello, violin and mandolin, besides his already impressive work on the N/S Stick and bass. In other words: with all the pop leanings on much of the songwriting, you´ll still finds lots of progressive stutff here. Even some jazz and latin music bits can be heard here and there.

My only gripe about this record is that, after the monumental 26 minute epic title track of the EP, there are only three instrumentals on Refuel, all of them short ones. In fact the longest song here barely hits the 8 minute mark. Again, this is not a bad sign, and overall the songwriting on this album is excellent. There are no fillers. Still, considering the tremendous talents of all involved, they could have been a little bolder and take more risks. Where is the fuel to propel this rocket higher to the stratosphear?

If you like melodic prog rock with terrific performances and tasteful arrangements, this is surely for you. On the other hand if you´re looking for long instrumental passages, improvisations and jams, you might get disappointed. For my tastes, I liked Refuel a lot.

Rating: 4 stars.

 Supernatural Highways by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 2014
3.87 | 20 ratings

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Supernatural Highways
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

4 stars A very interesting EP from those american prog rockers. There are only trwo tracks and both are unavailable elsewhere. As a novelty, they also are both instrumentals. The massive title track is the longest and most symphonic piece ever recorded by Erik Norlander & co: 26 minutes of pure prog heaven wiht everything you might expect thrown in: terrific vintage sounding keyboards, fine and subtle guitar lines, mood and tempo changes, lots of percussions and even a cello and a NS stick solo! It is ok that it sounds like a bunch of themes put together (including the title track of Norlander´s Into The Sunset solo album), but still the whole piece stands well together and has a cohesive delivering. It was a very nice surprise and I´m very glad that I got it.

The other tune is a quite faithful cover of the theme from the James Bond´s movie On Her Majesty's Secret Service, complete with dramatic brass parts from guest players Jon Papenbrook (trumpet) and Eric Jorgensen (trombone). Norlander was always careful with his choices of covers and this is no exception.

I was quite pleasantly surprised with this "big single" (over 30 minutes of music in just two tracks!). I really hope this powerful release is setting the path for future Rocket Scientists albums!

Rating: between 3,5 and 4 stars.

 Oblivion Days by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.88 | 75 ratings

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Oblivion Days
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars 1997 sees the Rocket Scientists of Norlander/McCrite/Schiff along with drummer Amato touring throughout the States and visiting Europe, leading in 1998 to the first live album of the band ''Earth below and sky above''.However heading to the next album only Norlander and McCrite appeared to be among the official members of the band, although both Schiff and Amato were involved in the recordings.Bassist Tony Franklin (Derek Sherinian, Tadashi Goto, Docker's Guild, Arjen Anthony Lucassen on guitars, Lana Lane on vocals and Greg Ellis on drums, all helped during the sessions and ''Oblivion days'' became reality in 1999, released on the Dutch label Transmission.

The band worked on its style and developed their modern sound even more, ''Oblivion days'' is a tad heavier compared to ''Brutal architecture'', which is pretty reasonable, when seeing all these guests associated with the heavier stylings of Prog Rock and Metal music.But their arrangements kept going through symphonic paths with KANSAS being one of the dominant influences and what was quite exciting was the fact that all of these flashy synthesizers, angular guitar moves, rockin' edges and pounding grooves were combined with the mighty sounds of the Mellotron and the organ in several tracks.Of course Rocket Scientists remained basically a Prog Rock band and certain pieces move even deeper to the classic offerings of the old groups (like the very GENTLE GIANT-esque instrumental ''Archimedes'') and they even explored the sound of Jazz Fusion at times with neurotic keyboards and more technical playing.At this point they remind me a lot of NEAL MORSE's personal efforts minus the poppier tracks, a heavy, symphonic sound with endless instrumental space for time signatures, soaring synths and punchy guitar solos, bombastic orchestrations and a fairly symphonic orientation.Plus Norlander was always keen for some cinematic arrangements and powerful electronic explorations and he shows it in almost every single track in here.

The timeline was moving forward for the sake of Rocket Scientists.They leave the 90's with a very strong effort, a mixture of Heavy Prog and old-school Symphonic Rock, performed with tension, passion and dynamics.Nice and strongly recommended stuff...3.5 stars.

 Brutal Architecture by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.65 | 44 ratings

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Brutal Architecture
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars After ''Earthbound'' the line-up of Rocket Scientists was officially expanded to a trio with Don Schiff now performing as a regular member.With Tony Amato again behind the drum kit the group recorded the sophomore effort ''Brutal architecture'', while an agreement with Kinesis had been obtained and the album was eventually released in 1995 on the US label.

''Earthbound'' showed only traces of Rocket Scientists' talent, who's potential starts to be unleashed on this second work.The style became more complicated with longer and more demanding arrangements, while the retro references are more evident and the respect to the masters of the past is clear throughout the listening.Norlander's shifting keyboards, from dark Mellotrons and nostalgic organs to Electronic-inspired synths and even clavinet, are the main reason for the change, next to the technical delivery of a good rhythm section and the enough room for instrumental exercises.Melodies are not absent either with some nice guitar solos by Mark McCrite, while a more accesible approach is still apparent on several tracks.But even these contain a nice amount of good interplays or more symphonic keyboards.The result is an album close to the likes of GLASS HAMMER, AJALON and AKACIA, having an evident US Prog feeling.Vocals are both sensitive and expressive, similar to the diverse musicianship.Additionally Norlander's piano reveals plenty of Classical orientations, that sound absolutely great next to the melodic Neo/Symphonic Prog of the group, which can get very dramatic at moments, showing a nice composing ability and an even brighter future.

''Brutal architecture'' marks a huge step forward for the US group.The music is still a bit unoriginal, but the change towards more elaborate, retro-inspired and intricate compositions was definitely the right move.Recommended, especially to fans of Neo Prog and 70's Classic Prog.

 Earthbound by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 1993
2.99 | 24 ratings

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Earthbound
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by maryes

2 stars "Earthbound" first studio albun from ROCKET SCIENTISTS in my opinion is a kind of disk comparable inside the band career just as "Killroy was Here" from STYX or "A" from Jetrho Tull, or in other words a weak and almost inexpressive work, and in very lowest level than their subsequent releases, as for instance the fantastic "Oblivion Days" from 1999, and certainly if you hear in first place this third album and after "Earthbund" (as in my case), probably not recognize the same band. Due to this considerations and in spite the musicians quality, my rate is only 2 stars !!!
 Looking Backward  by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Boxset/Compilation, 2007
3.78 | 8 ratings

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Looking Backward
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Earthbound reprise

This rating and review is not for the full 5 disc box set Looking Backward, but only for the individual disc of the same name. This disc is part of the box set but it is also available separately (through iTunes). The box set also contains re-mastered versions of the three studio albums Earthbound, Brutal Architecture, and Oblivion Days, as well as a DVD. For my reviews of the original studio albums see the individual album pages, but as I do not own the box set I cannot comment on the DVD.

The disc contains re-recorded versions of older Rocket Scientists songs. The bulk of the material originally appeared on the band's 1993 debut album Earthbound; Earthbound, Picture Show, Pythagoras (here subtitled 'unbound'), Minstrel Saviour, When Sorrow Falls, and Carry Me Home, were all originally on that album. These new versions were recorded in 2007 and are greatly expanded and generally improved upon, though the 1998 live album Earth Below And Sky Above (not part of the box set) already contained new arrangements of some of these songs similar to those found here. Earthbound reprise is new for this present album.

Brutal Architecture is represented by a new version of the excellent Mariner. This version was recorded in 2003 and features Kelly Keeling on lead vocals instead of Mark McCrite. Though I prefer Keeling over McCrite, I think that the best version of this song is the one that appears on the Erik Norlander solo live album Stars Rain Down (also featuring Keeling's vocals). Dark Water parts one and two - the first of which is recreated here - originally appeared on Brutal Architecture (while parts three and four originally appeared on Oblivion Days). Looking Backward contains parts five and six of this instrumental.

Finally, there are two remixes of songs that originally appeared on Oblivion Days. These are Escape and Break the Silence.

Overall, I enjoy this disc every bit as much as the four proper studio albums by the band. The best introduction to Rocket Scientists remains the aforementioned live album Earth Below And Sky Above, but Looking Backward is a worthy addition to any Rocket Scientists collection.

 Revolution Road by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 2006
3.54 | 47 ratings

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Revolution Road
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Ptolemy

Seven years after Oblivion Days, Rocket Scientists returned with this double album which to this date remains their latest one. In the meantime, Erik Norlander had recorded and produced as many as three studio albums under his own name as well as several albums with Lana Lane (for which he wrote much of the material). The other guys from Rocket Scientists were involved in many of these projects as well. Needless to add, this was a very prolific period for these people. All of this also translated into a more mature album in Revolution Road. The Pop side of the band is still present, but overall they adopted a rockier sound for this one. They also abandoned the misguided attempts to sound contemporary on Oblivion Days.

Personally, I think that making a double album was overkill. Had they condensed the material into a single disc it would have been a stronger album. The included a cover of The Moody Blues' Gypsy (Of A Strange And Distant Time). It is a good one, but I don't see the point of making a double album if you have to include covers to fill it out. As it stands, Revolution Road is about equal in quality compared to the previous three albums by the band, all of which I have given the same rating. All three albums are good but they all have their respective advantages and shortcomings.

There are no weak tracks as such here but also no tracks that stand out from the rest. It is an enjoyable and pleasant listen, but not particularly memorable. The musicianship is very high as always, but it seems that Norlander used his best compositions for his solo albums and Lana Lane's many great albums.

Just another good Rocket Scientists album

 Oblivion Days by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 1999
3.88 | 75 ratings

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Oblivion Days
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Archimedes

Oblivion Days is Rocket Scientists' third studio album hailed by many as their best. I agree that in some respects it is superior to the previous two, but in other respects the opposite holds true. Erik Norlander's keyboard playing is once again magnificent and the several drummers and bass players also do a great job in providing a powerful rhythm section. Lead guitar is also delivered by multiple people this time including Ayreon's Arjen Lucassen and Lana Lane's Neil Citron. Lana Lane herself provides some backing vocals on a few tracks.

Even though the band's sound became heavier with this album, there is once again a strong Pop flavour. This Psychedelic Beatles/Pink Floyd influence does not always sit comfortably with the keyboard-driven Symphonic Prog elements drawing on Rick Wakeman/Keith Emerson. In addition, there is this time around an attempt to sound more contemporary which I don't like. All of these diverse elements create an interesting and dare I say unique mix that occasionally works really well. But at other times less so, I think.

But the most important factor is the quality of the material. Out of the vocal numbers, the title track stands out. Break The Silence is a good track as well on which the guitar sound reminds of that of King Crimson's Robert Fripp. But there is nothing on this album to compare with the tasteful grandeur of the excellent Mariner from the previous album. The instrumentals are the best here including parts three and four of Dark Water opening and closing the album respectively. And once again there is an instrumental named after a famous scientist in Archimedes.

Another good album from Rocket Scientists, but I think they peaked with the previous Brutal Architecture and the live album that followed it, called Earth Below And Sky Above.

 Brutal Architecture by ROCKET SCIENTISTS album cover Studio Album, 1995
3.65 | 44 ratings

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Brutal Architecture
Rocket Scientists Symphonic Prog

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
Special Collaborator Symphonic Team

3 stars Copernicus

The first six or so minutes of this second studio album from Rocket Scientists is a pure delight to my ears, but when the vocals enter my interest drops like a stone. The poppy, laidback, Beatlesque lead vocals of Mark McCrite mix like oil and water with the superb Symphonic Prog sound created by Erik Norlander's wonderful keyboards, McCrite's lead guitar, Don Shiff's stick, and Tommy Amato's drums. Whenever they remain in instrumental territory they do a wonderful job on this album, but the vocal passages don't always work for me. They are not bad as such, far from it, but the vocals doesn't always fit in with the rest. Also, I generally prefer more powerful vocalists. It's a matter of personal taste.

It is certainly true that this album is more progressive compared to the first and in many ways more mature. Some songs from this album would go on to become mainstays in Erik Norlander's repertoire both with Rocket Scientists and with his own band. The symphonic ballad Mariner is the foremost of these. It is a great song that since has appeared on several live albums. Personally, I prefer the version featuring Kelly Keeling on lead vocals on Norlander's excellent solo live album Stars Rain Down. The instrumental Dark Water parts one and two appeared here for the first time (while parts three and four would appear on the band's next studio album). Norlander would later put all the Dark Water pieces together into one long piece on his Galactic Collective album.

The Brutal Architecture album was followed by a live release called Earth Below And Sky Above (named after a line in the song Millennium 3). This live album featured songs from the band's first two studio albums including Dark Water part one, Wake Me Up, The Fall Of Icarus, Millennium 3, Mariner, and parts of the title track from the present album. Also the Japanese CD-version bonus track Stardust was performed with Lana Lane on lead vocals. Personally, I generally prefer the live versions of these songs over the studio ones - especially in those cases where lead vocal duties are left to other people.

Still, Brutal Architecture is a good album in its own right with many great moments. I would even say that it is Rocket Scientists' best studio release. But as I have been insisting, one of the abovementioned live albums might be the best place to start.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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