SEA OF TRANQUILITY

On its second CD, Blaming Season, the Milwaukee-based trio Strange Land immediately storms your speakers with its Rush-meets-King's X brand of progressive metal, attacking opening song “Obliquity” with crunchy melodic guitar chunks, a monumental vocal performance and a down-tuned bottom end. And “Obliquity” isn't even the best song on the album. That honor would go to “Dear Helena,” featuring a massive, all-too-brief chorus, and “Alone We Go,” an Enchant-like mid-tempo song that reveals a different angle of this band. Singer, bassist and keyboard player Chad Novell's gargantuan voice is the perfect foil for guitarist Sean Gill's fancy and complicated fretwork. With Strange Land's rhythmic machinations so key to its ominous sound, though, it's slightly troubling that the band still can't keep the seat behind the drum kit filled. Esteban Gonzalez, who recorded Blaming Season, has since been replaced by original drummer Brad Klotz - a move that may result in Strange Land bridging the sound of its more traditional prog-metal debut, 2001's Anomaly, with that of Blaming Season.

This record, while occasionally plodding (such as some passages on the nine-minute “Cause and Defect”) nevertheless reveals a band with great prog-metal promise. More songs like “Dear Helena," “Alone We Go” and the memorable closer "Below the After" just might do the trick…