The U.S. has a healthy Prog scene, many inspired and educated musicians have graced us with intelligent music while others see it fit to bombard technicality without mercy neglecting the atmospheres and heart of the song. My experiences with sub levelled American Prog Metal bands are rather limited since I’ve always been into the bigger names in the genre. Some bands that are worth mentioning would be ALL TOO HUMAN, the upcoming and talented DEAD SOUL TRIBE and the deceased THE QUIET ROOM.
Now added to the list are Milwaukee’s STRANGE LAND, a trio of dudes on a mission to play within the original concept of Progressive Metal, innovation is not what they have in mind but these guys have an identity of their own, which is more than what could be said about the material ALL TOO HUMAN brewed for their “Entropy” album. Their second release “Blaming Season” probably won’t pass as “newfound” or “classic” but as a brainy, melodic, accessible, technical and atmospheric album it has all the right moves and succeeds in delivering the goods.
You can hear the traditional influences from the get go but interestingly enough STRANGE LAND is much slower, almost sludgy at times if you listen closely to the tempos, less experimental and less calculated even if a few lengthy solos and instrumental bridges are practiced. Unnecessary rollercoasters and firing complexity doesn’t fascinate these guys, the song comes first and that’s the primal and organic method of creating a good album. And because keyboards aren’t much of a player, the bass is highly audible and nasty bringing in a vibrating foundation for the guitars to build upon.
Starting with “Obliquity” and “Cause And Defect”, you’ll notice the band concentrates heavily on cementing a wall of down tuned riffs and mid pacing drums but make room for various time changes and slick guitar’n’bass harmonics suspiciously close to DEATH’s over the top technical swansong and finally, surprising with brief Power Metal runs when you least expect it. “Marionette” gets the award for best song off the album because of the impressive arrangements during the verses and acoustic played pre chorus with the colourful vocals, a real standout song in my opinion. “In A Mind” paints a sanctuary of tranquillity, the vocals, again, work well with the un-mazed song writing and controlled melodies, nice ballad. Without showing too much of prowess the band is able to make some heavy and diversely textured songs that don’t rely on forced musicianship.
“Blaming Season” is an album that’s always in progression but never gets eccentric and confusing and although it’s clear as to where they come from musically, I think they’ve struck a nice balance here and possess an organic vibe that’s entirely their own. So if you like the genre but can’t deal with the massive progressiveness of the big league players, STRANGE LAND might be something for you, Indie Prog Metal worth discovering. (Online September 28, 2005)