Erik Norlander


Norlander’s top drawer playing and writing abilities have been on display before on the Rocket Scientists and Lana Lane albums, but with Threshold he adds another string to his bow as the obvious successor to the keyboard wizard crown when Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman choose to throw in their respective towels... Opener Arrival proves that Norlander could have a lucrative future in film scores if he so chose, Neurosaur and Neuro Boogie will have Emerson devotees in their seventh heaven, and the title track itself is electronic music of the highest order. With nothing antiquated about it except the vintage of some of the instruments, Threshold is quite the best instrumental album of the year so far. [Frontiers]

The fact that Keith Emerson pens a lengthy preface in this album’s liner notes is impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the music itself... Norlander breathes space and nuance into these eight all-instrumental tracks... Textures range widely but maintain an evenly melodic flow, incorporating elements of classical, jazz, metal, Latin music and avant-garde electronics. The only blatant nod to Emerson surfaces with brief flourishes on No Cross to Carry. Elsewhere, Critical Mass is very much a Rick Wakeman-style workout emphasizing classically flavored pipe organ. Also of note are Neuro Boogie, a classical/jazz/swing romp on the Hammond, and Waltz of the Biots, with its mesmerizing electronic chimes. Norlander makes a strong identifying statement with Threshold. One might consider him America’s answer to Swedish wunderkind Pär Lindh. [Progression]

Emerson appears to be quite a fan and on this showing it is easy to see why. Erik obviously took Emerson’s work as a great influence and moved on. This is a keyboard album that is full of classical power and persuasion, bringing together many sounds in an imaginative and dynamic way. It is easy to forget that you are listening to an instrumental album, as these are songs and not exercises in self-indulgence. If you have ever purchased a keyboard album in the past and wondered what it would sound like in the care of a master, someone who can actually play instead of relying on trickery and sequencers, then look no further. [Feedback]

Norlander has already been highly praised at this site for his work with Lana Lane, and he’s behind multiform other projects and producer of even more... Neurosaur is the first proper track and it’s like a modern progressive version of ELP. The superb keyboard riff reminds me of the engaging Rudess/Morgenstein project, which is similar in many respects. Norlander’s effort is just as bombastic and just as cool. The sheer mixture of different keyboard sounds is stunning, and Norlander’s production is excellent as always - somewhat lusher than normal but creating a complex sound tapestry without gratuitous indulgence. One difference between this and the Rudess/Morgenstein release is real bass is used here (from Don Schiff), and fine bass it is too. But the big difference that Norlander brings to the fusion keyboard rock sound is his progressive influences. At times it even gets quite spacey and tenderly reminds me of Eloy. But Norlander doesn’t fall into traps of repetition and varies the songs nicely. Neuro Boogie in particular is like a more adventurous version of Billy Sheehan’s Niacin; while the aforementioned Waltz of the Biots is mystical and has some keyboard sounds that could easily be prescribed for removing ear wax! ...[Threshold is] quite classical in its construction, as themes are returned to and developed further and further. The occasional listen will definitely not be enough as you’ll want to listen to it over and over again to pick up on all its subtleties and fine details. [AOR Basement website, Scotland]

Erik’s pretty good on the ivories and thankfully it’s not totally a keyboard ego show... It’s not very flashy or pyrotechnic and it sounds more like two-handed playing than multiple sequences. It’s not real spacey and is very seventies in scope, kinda like the trios (ELP, Triumvirat). But honestly, I think this has more in common with Rick van der Linden’s work with Trace than with anything else. [Music Uncovered]

Prog keyboard lovers get ready to drool! I was a little weary after hearing Michael West’s solo keyboard CD, but this one has a band so I figure it would be better. It is much better. I can’t really compare it to any other keyboard-only CD; I guess the closest would be if Emerson did one... There really isn’t a bad track on this CD. Erik does a lot of interesting things with lots of different keys. Don’s and Greg’s playing is also very good. I would say that only on Neuro Boogie do the Emerson licks really come out. Otherwise Erik sounds like Erik! [Gibraltar (Ken Brown)]

The instrumental music on Threshold has the sound of the nineties but strongly leans towards seventies acts like ELP and Yes or, to be exact, the solo works by Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. In addition to Erik on all keyboards, we find drummer Greg Ellis and bass player Don Schiff. But this is nothing else than a keyboard dominated album, and what an album it is. Extremely well played with great sounds and layers that he uses very tastefully and creates melodies that make you wish they would never end. I highly recommend this high quality release. [Rivendell]

Nice atmospheres, flashing solos, strong piano playing and mighty Mellotron tapestries... Thumbs up for Erik Norlander. [Background]

A great CD of instrumental prog, Threshold draws on the prince of keys, Mr. Keith Emerson himself, without becoming too flashy. Norlander knows when to hold back. But still, this is bombastic prog, full of colours, with recurring themes, devilish grooves and most of all astonishing keyboard solos. Highly recommended. [The Delire Musical Monthly Report]

             Not since the days of ELP has a three piece ensemble created such a huge wall of sound like Mr. Norlander, bassist Don Schiff, and drummer Greg Ellis created here on Threshold. From the ominous sounds of Neurosaur, to the funky fusion of No Cross to Carry, to the classic prog of Neuro Boogie, this is a real tour-de-force. Plus, let’s not forget the ripping Critical Mass, a song that surely cemented Norlander’s place among the keyboard greats. Erik uses nothing but synthesizers on this album, and the wide assortment of sounds and textures he is able to muster up is simply amazing. This is a highly recommended classic from one of progressive rock’s great talents, and a must have for fans of keyboard-based instrumental music. [Sea of Tranquility]

This album is an analog keyboard fan’s wet dream, as a host of them are featured... Although configured as a keyboards, bass and drums trio, Norlander for the most part stays away from the ELP formula. He goes for a different palate of sounds than Emerson, more orchestral, in fact very similar to Gerd Führs of SFF. Some of the material features a spacier, cosmic sound... Norlander serves it all up with crystalline, audiophile sound. The booklet features a nice intro from Keith Emerson who tells us what we already know: Erik Norlander is one of the most innovative keyboardists around. Recommended! [The Laser’s Edge]

Again a keyboard virtuoso is born. We already knew that Erik Norlander could really play well from the Rocket Scientists albums. But Mr. Norlander frequently hides himself behind the Rocket Scientists songs, because that often suits the compositions. But know that the beast has been loosed. It comes off as real Erik ’Emerson’ Norlander. The heavy keyboard work is out front with the use of many different types of keyboards: Hammond, Mellotron, ARP, Moog, Rhodes piano, Oberheim, etc... The first two tracks and also the monumental closing piece Critical Mass stand out and let us see a very talented and diverse Norlander. The liner notes by Keith Emerson speak for themself. Attention lovers of ELP with a twist of Rocket Scientists, we have one in our midst again. [Symfo City Prog Page (The Netherlands) translated from Dutch]

Erik Norlander is another modern keyboard demi-god... It’s like a blatant trip through the candy store of electronic keyboards that makes alternative music followers completely ill... In fact, it’s the best release I’ve heard on the Kinesis label. Norlander has put together an almost tribute-like album using a battery of old and newer equipment and uses them to best effect within eight pieces running slightly over fifty minutes... Highly recommended for fans of ELP and traditional progressive rock. [Expose]

Threshold is well-executed keyboard-based instrumental music, coming over as a cross between Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman’s classical rock style and Mark Shreeve’s power synths... Following a short synths/Mellotron opening, Neurosaur kicks in with vigour, setting the scene for an album of mostly upbeat and energetic music. There’s more than a nod to ELP on the Hammond organ driven Neuro Boogie, and the final piece Critical Mass is an excellent slice of classical rock, hinting towards Pär Lindh. Elsewhere, synths and sequencers dominate, particularly on the title track and the orientally flavoured Waltz of the Biots... Plenty to enjoy then for classical rock and synth fans alike, although those preferring more spacey or new age synths should approach with caution. [Audion]

This instrumental CD echoes music made by the classic period prog bands by way of the arrangements and the instruments used. The keyboard lineup is vast to say the least, with Moogs, Mellotron 400, Hammond (& Leslie speaker), Arps and many more helping build up the huge, grandiose sound that is all over this album. 8 tracks and almost 52-minutes of majestic music that prog fans can really get into, with influences coming from all areas of progressive music. The album is fairly busy most of the time with much in the way of dynamic, powerful themes overlaid with crisp, melodic synth soloing, with a powerful rhythm section knitting everything together brilliantly. A must for all fans of keyboard-based prog music with a 70s edge. [CD Services]

Erik Norlander is the leader of one of the prestigious recent North American groups, Rocket Scientists... Threshold displays the high capacity of this musician who insists on working with complicated analog keyboards, organs and other grand antiquities for the benefit of us, the listeners. Only highly skilled and accomplished artists take this difficult path and, in the majority of cases, do not succeed once they consider the ease of using newer technologies. But Norlander does succeed in using vintage equipment, and is a master in the use of the latest developments as well. As stated in the liner notes of the album by Keith Emerson (yes, he himself!), this album has a structure that is displayed by recurring themes that return in different flavors. There are diverse variations that are played with gloriously epic drama along with heavy rhythmic foundations that offer escape from routine and repetition. Despite the sci-fi cover (by the excellent English painter Jim Burns), the Threshold trip is not always cosmic. Norlander has included folk and ethnic elements as well. Highly recommended for fans of virtuosos like Rick van der Linden, Rick Wakeman and of course Keith Emerson. [Metamusica (translated from Portuguese)]