Man Made Machine
"A coherent jewel of progressive Rock." - The Metal Observer

Which is more famous for Retro Thrash, Gothenburg Death and Happy Metal also has a relatively good Prog scene. In fact, CARPTREE is comprised of only two people, namely Niclas Flinck and Carl Westholm. They know each other since more than twenty years and thus they are perfectly tuned to each other, which you can tell time and again from the great harmonies of their partly quite symphonic music.

A bit of old GENESIS here and a bit of MARILLION there and you get a rough idea of what this album contains. ìMan Made Machineî is a bit hard to digest at first, but it grows with time in case you are patient enough to devote yourself to the record. A hard endeavour in this fast-moving time, those who succeed nevertheless will be rewarded with a coherent jewel of progressive Rock.
There are no neck-break displays of technical skills throughout, but rather calm, reflective sounds without any thick guitars. But the music works greatly, even though CARPTREE sounds somewhat old-fashioned. Thatís good!

Man Made Machine
You canít get better music than this." -

What an amazing year 2005 has been, musically speaking. In this year we have been treated to excellent albums by RPWL, Nemesea, Riverside, Kamelot, Spock's Beard, Kayak, Lana Lane, Presto Ballet and Glass Hammer, to name but a few. And right now I am totally captured by Man Made Machine, the third album by the Swedish band Carptree. Now I picture you thinking: A Swedish band why am I not surprised" It seems lately Sweden has the highest density in progressive bands.The problem with so many bands and releases is, many are bound to sound uninspired or similar. That could be similar to contemporaries or similar to the classic bands. To get it over with: yes, also Man Made Machine has its influences in the past. In this case you hear elements of early Genesis / Gabriel and some touches of the Fish-era Marillion, but nothing more than that.Man Made Machine caught me totally off guard, but after several spins, I love this album intensely. It breathes a slightly dark, brooding atmosphere, and creates a tension that keeps you in your chair, listening intently to what Carptree has to offer. Note that Carptree is not a prog rock only band, but use many styles and elements, that are rooted in progressive rock and the end result is a very progressive album that has its own unique sound.The two factors that give Carptree the sound they have is first of all Niclas Flinck, whose characteristic voice has been compared to Fish. Hmm, well, I agree on that to some extent.

I still find his voice a bit different, with more warmth and soul, more in the vein of Peter Gabriel. The second factor is Carl Westholm, whose piano play is nothing short of brilliant and give the songs that distinct feel. On the album they have worked with various guest musicians, and those have also contributed greatly to the final sound on the album, but are unfortunately not mentioned on the album credits, the website or the press promo sheet, so we will just have to enjoy their parts anonymously then.Although Man Made Machine is presented as ten separate tracks, you should not view the album as a collection of songs, but rather as one suite, that is divided into ten chapters. Each chapter is carefully woven into the next. Thus the band has created this mysterious atmosphere on the album, which I find so appealing. Already the opener, with the cool title "Titans Clash Aggressively To Keep An Even Score," conveys that dark, haunting feeling, which is enhanced by the use of a choir. Emotion is almost tangible in the music, which, although being very balanced and well composed, seems to come really naturally. Just listen to "The Weakening Sound," with its chilling piano and the superb vocals, and again the excellent use of the choir.

This is a highlight on the album. "Tilting The Scales" gives me a bit of a Man 0n Fire meets Porcupine Tree vibe: a modern sound, with vocal eruptions, and yet with a dark, atmospheric touch. It's a shame the other musicians are for as yet nameless, as they seem to be pretty good. Like the drummer, who shows his craftsmanship on "Burn To Something New." The beat would fit nicely in the jungle, but here, with the fat bass and synths, it is now called neo-prog Ö and absolutely the better kind of neo-prog! A totally different sound is found on "The Recipe," a short song, with as leading instrument an (sampled) accordion Ö very nice touch.Man, I could go into so much detail on each song, but I wonít Ö Man Made Machine really rules my world right now. It is such a great album, with nothing but amazing songs on it and a unique blend of styles and use of instruments. The only right thing you can do now, is buy the album and listen to it yourself. You canít get better music than this. I am only very curious if we ever get to experience this music live that would be something. But even if we only would have to settle for the CD no problem here: Man Made Machine is guaranteed to satisfy the listener.


Reviewed by: John "Bo Bo" Bollenberg, August 2003

Sweden. Again Sweden. As long as I live I will never be able to discover where the secret lies but the number of outstanding prog acts coming from Sweden is no longer to be controlled. Carptreeís self-titled debut already illustrated that the duo of Flinck and Westholm wanted to deliver a "different" kind of progressive rock, more mainstream, more with both feet in the contemporary world, more flirting with accessible parameters. On this, their second album, they use what they call the "No future orchestra," a collective of friends that they have accumulated through other Swedish acts. The result is that they can now arrange their songs in every possible direction. The opening song already proves this. "Superhero" is indeed a majestic song with not only a very catchy melody but also a very strong and powerful arrangement.With or without a huge arrangement, the Carptree material is strong enough to stand on itself. Take "Fatherís House," which in fact is built around only voice and piano but benefits from ingeniously placed orchestral sections. In a way it makes me think of part of a musical where you have a multitude of different atmospheres that together create a special result. In the choir section of "Fatherís House" this atmosphere gets very close to the eerie work of Devil Doll.

Everything is down to the vocals of Niclas Flinck who has a very "flexible" kind of voice, very theatrical, emphasising certain passages in order to leave behind exclamation marks as the music evolves. These vocals are the spine around which the Carptree body is moulded, as if a statue has been created that will stand the test of time in whatever weather conditions it is placed, whether sun or rain.As said before this band tries to emulate a new form of progressive rock by also using unconventional instruments. Take the crafty rhythm section in "Host Vs Craft" which once again contains very catchy hooks next to a perfect balance between instruments to turn this song into yet another highlight, sporting some fantastic synth solos. You have people who need plenty of arrangements and plenty of chords in order to impress and you have people who only need a blank canvas in order to impress. Such is the beauty of "Watching The Clock," which comes like a breath of fresh air by means of fragile piano playing backed with the right dose of strings, resulting in a modern waltz. Nestling in between Devil Doll and Pain of Salvation is the devastating intro to "Into The Never To Speak Of," where the song sails towards acoustic simplicity before picking up where they left off in the first place. With "Flesh" the band approaches the unique character of Peter Gabriel, combining an accessible composition with a meaningful content. Once again "Lie Down" contains a very strong, catchy melody, for sure one of the main trademarks of the duo.

A small negative point I find is the fact that the booklet means next to nothing. I would have loved to see more information about this project as obviously a lot of preparation has gone into the creation of this masterpiece. But maybe thatís just what our duo wants to achieve: to leave things open to whatever kind of interpretation happens, regardless of what the result should be. They most certainly have placed Carptree more firmly on the map and it is hoped that they see the possibility to expand this project into a band that is capable of delivering live shows in the future. It would be even better if someone out there in the big wide world sees enough potential in this work to turn it into the musical it deserves to be! For the time being Superhero will most certainly end up very high in this yearís polls. One of my recent favourite discoveries!

Superhero - Progressive Ears

îThe Swedes are really cut out for playing progressive rockî. This was the thought that came to my mind after my first listening to Superhero - the second record of Carptree. This Swedish group was founded in 1997 by Niclas Flinck (lead vocals) and Carl Westholm (keyboards). The album in question was recorded with the helping hand of No Future Orchestra: guitars, bass, drums and backing vocals. I must admit that I am truly happy that I managed to discover Carptree and Superhero. The band offers original and complex compositions, with nice arrangements and, most of all, thought provoking lyrics. The musical contents of the album could be labelled as neo-progressive rock, although to be accurate - I would say that it is TOP CLASS NEO-PROGRESSIVE ROCK.

The main weapon in armoury of Carptree is diversity. They often create melodically atmosphere, using orchestral arrangements in a very considerate way. The colour of Niclas Flinckís vocalisations slightly reminds me Fish in his best years. The vocal is most crucial in building moods on Superhero. The album contains both light songs that are full of hope and dark ones filled with dread. I love this holistic approach of Carptree, they do not try to bullshit you and do not turn their heads from the darker side of life. Summoning up: if your musical taste is confined to groups such as Arena, IQ, Pendragon you will be literally blown away by this album. If it is not, I would recommend listening to this album as well. Because it is an excellent and meaningful music. To me Superhero is one of the best releases of 2003.

Carptree "Carptree" - Progress Records
"Good melodies presented in a different, yet beautiful soundscape. The production is intriguing to say the least and some of the keyboard arrangements are among the best I've ever heard. I can assure you that this band will be talked about in the future. This album really makes me smile and I already long for the next one.
(review by Olov Andersson)