Norlander, Erik - Music Machine

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Think Tank Media
Catalog Number: PSV0990972
Format: CD
Total Time: 106:17:00

Be advised. Listen to this music, then listen again.

At first listen there are some nice songs, lots of synthesizer - perhaps too much -, some nice pop-rock tunes, and some really pleasing moments. It all seems rather nice if not particularly special. But I'd hoped for a follow up to Erik Norlander's excellent Into The Sunset, a more traditional progressive metal album, and one of my favorites.

Then you read the liner notes and listen again, and you know that there's more to the music than you'd thought - and even though there are many different musical styles and numerous contributing artists, there's a solid consistency to this nearly 2 hour epic. You're still aware of those synth tones, but you're getting used to them now. Erik prefers melody over flashy playing, and strong songwriting over artsy meandering [Amen brother!] and by now you're very aware that some of the tunes have barbs like fish hooks and will stick in your mind for days.

So you listen a few more times and you realize that this rock opera is right up there with the very best of them. You're taken on a sonic and an emotional rollercoaster and you live with the main character, Johnny America. This album is bombastic and ambitious, in the vein of an Ayreon or early Queensryche. Erik Norlander is a synth expert, and has, in fact, developed sound designs for several major-brand synthesizers. But as good as the synth work is, it would have been nice to hear more of Erik's excellent piano, Hammond and Mellotron sounds.

Music Machine is a double CD concept album about the dramatic rise and fall of a genetically engineered rock star, a corporation-created "music machine." In fact, the first CD is called "Rise", and the second is called "Fall." Silly concept, but it's a lot of fun and it works well.

For this project Norlander took a leaf from the book of many-time collaborator Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), and recruited an impressive compliment of excellent contributing artists, and 13 musicians appear at various stages on the 21 songs. The different tracks on Music Machine span a huge range of musical styles and you'll hear ambient electronica, symphonic progressive rock, solid prog-metal, and even liberal dabs of pop and southern blues. You'll also hear sophisticated structures and a lot of complexity, and despite the range of sounds and the creative input of those 13 artists, the keyboards bind the suite together through several strong thematic elements that pervade the album, giving it an excellent balance and consistency. For me a big disappointment was the lack of female vocals, so the wonderful sounds of Erik's wife Lana Lane are surprisingly absent.

There are too many tracks to describe them all, but I felt there were a few standout tracks: "Lost Highway" could have been lifted from your favorite Eric Clapton or Gary Moore album. Bluesy rhythm and tone, slow and deliberate, with a wonderful, long guitar solo in the middle.

"Fallen" is keyboard-rich, with simple bass and acoustic accompaniment, a sad, catchy ballad that will have you humming along with it after the first verse.

"Epilogue: Sky Full Of Stars" is the all instrumental closing track, and my absolute favorite. It is long and slow and consistent and the melody is melancholy and whatever you were doing, you'll just stop and listen, entranced, for the full 10 minutes. I would be tempted to buy the album for that track alone.

There are strong Wakeman and Emerson influences on this album. In fact Rick Wakeman wrote a very complimentary review in the liner notes - and guess what he said? "?this is not music to be listened to once ? it will take numerous listenings in order to absorb all the intricacies and nuances?"

Get this album and - like Rick Wakeman and me - keep listening to it. For me the repeated listens caused it to grow from a mediocre 2.5-star rating to a highly recommended 4.5 stars - and it would have been a full 5 stars if those synth sounds hadn't monopolized so many tracks.

Disc 1: RISE: Prologue: Project Blue Prince / Music Machine / Turn Me On / Heavy Metal Symphony / Tour Of The Sprawl / Andromeda / Letter From Space / Lost Highway / Soma Holiday / Return Of The Neurosaur / Project Blue Prince Reprise

Disc 2: FALL: Fanfare And Interlude / Beware The Vampires / The Fire Of Change / The Fall Of The Idol / Metamorphosis / One Of The Machines / Fallen / Johnny America / Music Machine Reprise / Epilogue: Sky Full Of Stars

Erik Norlander - keyboards

contributing musicians:

Kelly Keeling - vocals
Mark Boals - vocals
Scott Kail - vocals
Robert Soeterboek - vocals
Donald 'Buck Dharma' Roeser- vocals, guitar
Peer Verschuren - guitars
Neil Citron - guitars
Vinny Appice - drums
Gregg Bissonette - drums
Virgil Donati - drums
Tony Franklin - fretless bass
Don Schiff - NS/Stick


Rocket Scientists - Earthbound (1993) (OOP)
Rocket Scientists - Brutal Architecture (1995)
Threshold (1997)
Rocket Scientists - Earth Below And Sky Above (1998)
Rocket Scientists - Oblivion Days (1999)
Into The Sunset (2000)
Music Machine (2003)
Threshold - Special Edition (2004)
Stars Rain Down (2004)
Seas Of Orion (2004)
Rocket Scientists - Revolution Road (2006)
Hommage Symphonique (2006/2007)
Rocket Scientists - Looking Backward (2007)
The Galactic Collective (2010)

Live At St. Petersburg (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: October 19th 2003
Reviewer: Duncan N Glenday
Artist website:
Hits: 1960
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]