Erik Norlander - Into the sunset - 2000
After having achieved some success with his participation with Rocket Scientists and Lana Lane, the keyboardist Erik Norlander ventures in his second solo album after "Threshold". In this case, the partners of Norlander are Tony Franklin (bass and former partner of classics as Jimmy Page in The Firm and David Coverdale in Whitesnake), Greg Ellis (drums), Cameron Stone (cello) and the omnipresent Arjen "Ayreon" Lucassen (guitars). For the vocal section we have the most elegant voices in the moment: Lana Lane, Edward Reekers (Kayak), Robert Soeterboek and the former Purple Glenn Hughes. A formula that, like you can see, comes close to the one used by Arjen Lucassen in Ayreon. Before starting the critic itself, I want to say that this formula is already beginning to be tiresome. Before it was the countless tributes to dozens of bands, later the all-stars bands (Platypus, Liquid Tension Experiment, Explorers Club), and now we enter in the trend of composers that are surrounded by good and grateful musicians. With this I don't mean that the albums are bad, at all, but these games end up being boring.
In fact this is a quite good album. Erik Norlander is an important part of the Ayreon concept since he is in charge of the keyboards, hammonds and other analogue instruments. Therefore Into the sunset is a work in which Erik deploys all his potential at keyboards, which becomes more patent, as we will see, in the instrumental moments. The CD opens up with "Sunset Prelude" (3:17), a pyrotechnic instrumental that combines a lot of guitar dexterity with epic keyboards that remind from the very first Shadow Gallery with much more technique and imagination. The end of the piece even reminds of Jethro Tull. "Into the sunset" (5:34) is the first sung piece. After an introduction a la U.K. the song develops close to Aor (of quality, but Aor after all). The work of Norlander is worth highlighting along the song and, mainly, the long instrumental intermezzo in which a piano gives way to some good moments of the whole group, concluding with a superb solo of hammond and moog. "Rome is burning" (6:05) is a piece made for (on your knees, please) the VOICE of the hard rock Mr. Glenn Hughes. Norlander is not silly and he benefits from the voice of Hughes in a song that oozes the scent and flavor of Purple-Rainbow. The keyboards and the sharp hammonds toss smoke during the whole piece, the solos are effective and effectist. A short and very epic instrumental "Fanfare for the dragon isle" (0:50) precedes "Fly" (7:53) a piece that that begins very potent, with enough rhythm changes and that finishes in an epic mid-tempo with moments of special hardness sparkling with very Emersonian keys. It would not be a prodigy of originality if it was not for the instrumental final section with keyboards and synths that makes us forget what we listened earlier.
A much better thing is "Dreamcurrents" (4:38) an impressive instrumental show in which Norlander shows he is one of the chosen references for the keyboards of this new millennium. Surprisingly this track impacts more in the piano than in the keyboards, so the quality of Erik is more patent. If to the pleasure of the piano we add Cameron Stones cello the result is magnificent. We return to the vocal pieces with "Lines in the sand" (5:11), one of the least surprising compositions in the whole album. Good virtuous hard rock. "On the wings of ghosts" (10:29) is, without a doubt, the most elaborated song in the album. With connotations of epic filmscores, epic poetry in the beginning, numerous excellent instrumental moments and an unforgettable end. After the short, beautiful and solemn hymn sung by Lana and very wisely titled "Hymn" (1:18) and a review of the second song "Into the Sunset reprise" (1:32) we move into the last instrumental piece of the CD "Sunset postlude" (2:25), with more demonstrations of keyboards. For the European fans (finally something that Japanese don't have) there is a bonus track "Neurosaur" (5:27) in which Norlander pays tribute to all his heroes, as the sound of the keyboard sounds to Emerson, Wakeman and even to Pär Lindh. Surprisingly it is the riskiest piece in the whole album, even having a beautiful sax solo.
In definitive Into the sunset shows that Erik Norlander is one of the best keyboard players in the international scene and that he plays all keyboards because he dominates them all. In my view this CD will satisfy many, as lovers of hard rock will like it and, of course, it will impress the lunatics of supersonic keyboards, with instrumental songs and long developments in the vocal pieces. Maybe this, besides its possible success, is a failure, as the quality of Erik should be captured urgently in a robust instrumental CD to the purest style of Emerson or Wakeman, which could be really astonishing and elevate the category of Erik until the infinite.