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WEBCounter by GOWEB    

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   ERIK NORLANDER
Music Machine
2003
Think Tank Media
http://www.eriknorlander.com


rating: 5/5

Disc 1: Rise
1. Prologue: Project Blue Prince
2. Music Machine
3. Turn Me On
4. Heavy Metal Symphony
5. Tour Of The Sprawl
6. Andromeda
7. Letter From Space
8. Lost Highway
9. Soma Holiday
10. Return Of The Neurosaur
11. Project Blue Prince Reprise

Disc 2: Fall
1. Fanfare And Interlude
2. Beware The Vampires
3. The Fire Of Change
4. The Fall Of The Idol
5. Metamorphosis
6. One Of The Machines
7. Fallen
8. Johnny America
9. Music Machine Reprise
10. Epilogue: Sky Full Of Stars

The name Erik Norlander may be unknown to some, but after this release his name should be on every prog fans lips. He has been participating on Lana Lane's (his wife) albums and a guest musician on some Ayreon albums and has released two solo efforts prior to this one. This new one being a double concept album about rise and fall of a genetically engineered rock star. The list of participants on this album is to say the least, rather impressive: Mark Boals, Kelly Keeling, Scott Kail, Vinny Appice, Virgil Donato, Tony Franklin, Buck Dharma and Gregg Bissonette to mention some. If Norlander's skills and talent as a musician and a composer weren't crystal clear prior to this album, they most certainly will be once you get to hear all the oddities and wonderful complexities offered on the album. Musically, maybe hard rock spiced with some heavy metal, some Ayreonish and Spock's Beardish touches, barrels of progressive elements with Norlander's wonderful keyboard wizardry layered on the front might give you some idea what this all is about.

The first disc starts off with a rather weird intro with the obvious synth on the forefront. After that the actual opener "Music Machine" kicks in and tells us the basis of the story and the music is proggy hardrock with catchy melodies (this description actually goes for quite a few tracks on the album). The next one "Turn Me On" features the new wonder Scott Kail on vocals and his performance is amazing. The closest comparison I can think of is probably Robin McAuley (MSG) and the music varies from hardrock to prog rock to some instrumental passages. "Heavy Metal Symphony" is quite straight forward traditional mid paced heavy metal tune. "Tour of the Sprawl" is an amazing showcase of how to combine heavy guitars, instrumental passages progressive rock and amazingly catchy melodies. At first "Andromeda" reminds me for some reason of a musical or a dance movie (?) but it soon turns into crisp rock mixed with very beautiful slow parts and progressive hooks. "Letter from Space" is an extremely beautiful instrumental ballad with very moody melodies. Then you're suddenly sitting next to a counter in a dingy bar in the middle of nowhere. There are only a few other customers and it's raining and dark outside. There's also a band playing a song about lost love in a very depressive and sad way. The song itself is rather beautiful, but all you can think of is the bottle of whiskey in front of you. That's the impression I got from "Lost Highway". The first disc ends with three songs that are a real finger-flexibility test.

Also the second disc starts off with an instrumental with moody melodies. "Beware The Vampires" is akin to the good old hard rock. "The Fire Of Change" is actually closer to girly hardrock, but also features atmospheric synths, fingerbinding soloing and damn fine melodies. Heavy metal is the name of the game on "The Fall Of The Idol" that carries a really ill-fated overall atmosphere. "Metamorphosis" is again a proof of the talent of the musicians. Norlander and Donati kick the crap out of you with just the synth and the drums regardless of wheteher you're in the toilet or not. "One of the Machines" is an amiable rock tune that has quite catchy melodies. "Fallen" starts off with a rather massive synth wall and grows to be a ballad with longing and sorrow written all over it. The synth is (once again) prominent on "Johnny America" which is melodic and peaceful, yet it carries the atmosphere of the nearing end. The 10-minute album ending epic "Epilogue: Sky Full of Stars" is again absolutely so beautiful that it doesn't make any sense.

Productionwise the album is near perfect with only one "but". That one being the drums that occasionally sound somewhat weak. The playing itself is naturally perfect, but the drums have probably been mixed too far in the background at times. The whole album lasts for almost two hours but there aren't any moments where one would want to press the skip-button. Sure the whole album in all its glory takes a few (and a few more) listens to fully get into, but believe me, it is well worth it! Every fan of melodic and/or progressive rock has to check this album!

submitted by Aleksi 11.07.2003

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