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Erik Norlander - 2016 - "Surreal"

(56:16, 'Think Tank Media')


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TRACK LIST:

1. The Party's Overture 7:52
2. The Galaxy Collectors 10:34
3. Suitcase and Umbrella 7:08
4. Unearthly 8:48
5. Surreal 10:46
6. El Gran Final 11:08

LINEUP:

Erik Norlander Ц keyboards 
Mark Matthews Ц bass 
Nick LePar Ц drums 
Greg Ellis Ц percussion 
Alastair Greene Ц guitars 
With:
Don Schiff Ц cello, bass, Stick
Mark McCrite Ц guitars 
Jeff Kollman Ц guitars 
Lana Lane Ц vocals 

Prolusion. US composer and musician Erik NORLANDER is a well know name in the progressive rock scene, as a member of the US band Rocket Scientists, for his tenure in John Payne's Asia, to a lesser extent as being a part of the Roswell Six project, but perhaps most of all for a solo career that has been ongoing for more than 20 years. "Surreal" is his latest studio album, and was released through his and his wife Lana Lane's label Think Tank Media in the summer of 2016.

Analysis. Symphonic progressive rock is a genre that, I guess, will always be associated with Erik Norlander. He knows the inns and out of that type of music rather well, to put it like that, and on this latest production he explores landscapes of that orientation in a fairly standard way. This isn't an album for those who enjoy an artist reaching out to break down barriers and conventions as such, but if you're a fan of quality progressive rock that by and large stays within the symphonic direction this is a CD with your name on it, allegorically speaking. The six compositions at hand provide us with five different flavors of the genre. We have the opening The Party's Overture, alternating between light and elegant sections sporting piano and gentle instrumentation, paired off with more majestic guitar and keyboard arrangements, while the following track The Galaxy Collectors mainly revolves around a pumping bass and drums hard-rock foundation for the various keyboard, organ and guitar solo runs to play upon, with some nice additional instrument flavoring and a few variations to the main ongoing hard rock based foundation. Suitcase and Umbrella explores a more careful landscape, mournful and elegant, while Unearthly is a creation exploring a variation of sounds and effects that create a mood and an atmosphere appropriate for the song title. The elegant, recurring percussion and keyboards theme merits a special mention on this one. Title track Surreal alternates between gentler ballad-oriented sections and more majestic keyboard-driven passages, the former mainly the ones featuring the vocals of Lana Lane, and the latter mainly the instrumental sequences, while the concluding El Gran Final returns us to a pumping bass and drums hard rock foundation for the organ, keyboards and guitar to use as a foundation for their various solo runs and harmony interplay. The talents of Norlander as a keyboardist are clearly highlighted throughout, be it in careful, delicate piano motifs, ethereal floating atmospheric textures, soaring or surging keyboard arrangements of various kinds or the classic, vintage organ in tight interplay with the electric guitar, both when in support as firm guitar riffs as well as when harmonizing in solo runs. As this is a mainly instrumental production, the title track being the sole composition sporting vocal passages, this may limit the reach and scope of the album, but all in all, a solid quality and most satisfying album by Norlander, doing what he does best in an open and inviting manner.

Conclusion. Instrumental progressive rock albums may not be a staple diet for all fans of progressive rock, but for those who enjoy such productions in general and the ones honing in on symphonic progressive rock in particular, Erik Norlander's most recent studio recording should be met with a statement of satisfactory by the greater majority of that crowd. A solid album through and through, perhaps a bit safe and sound in terms of style and performance, but it's still a pleasurable experience to encounter craftsmen using their expertise and experience in creating the kind of material they are best at producing.

OMB=Olav "Progmessor" Bjornsen: September 14, 2016
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Think Tank Media
Erik Norlander


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