The original line-up of STRANGE LAND was made up of members from two Wisconsin bands called LABYRINTH and FISHBOY back in 1998. It only took the guys six short months to write eleven original compositions and found some success in the MP3.COM progressive charts. In 2001 the band released their debut album ANOMALY, followed by an E.P and a spot in the PROG/POWER USA music festival in 2002. In between now and then STRANGE LAND have had a few member changes and released another couple of albums, but because this is a review and not a biography weÕll skip forward to present day where the band have released their next album titled CATHARSIS.
The first thing that I noticed about the album was how good it all sounded for only a three-piece band. Obviously they used plenty of studio overdubs, but itÕs still quite rare to hear anything decent from a prog-rock power trio these days. I guess 'decent' is a good word to use as it really does sum up my feeling toward what I heard. It's nothing mind-blowing, are there are certainly many better prog rock releases this year but CATHARSIS is a 'decent' effort and worth exploring if you are in to all things progressive.
Musically CATHARSIS treads a line somewhere between the edgier side of prog a-la QUEENSRYCHE, KINGS-X, FATES WARNING and SAVATAGE, and the more accessible commercial side of prog a-la RUSH, MARRILLION, YES and KENOS. I did have a bit of a problem with some of the vocals in places, for example when the group harmonies come in during THE MEN WHO SPENT TOMORROW it all sounds a little messy and out of tune. This problem unfortunately is a bit of a running theme throughout the album and there are numerous places where the vocals really spoil an otherwise excellent song. A vast majority of said vocal issues show up during the harmonies, which to me says that they need to use somebody else in the studio that can harmonize a bit better.
Songs 7 through to 12 make up the CATHARSIS suite and while each is a short sharp tune, together they make for a bit of an epic prog piece.
STRANGE LAND are definitely on to something, and as musicians are well above the average joe, but I think for anything bigger to open up for them in the future the vocals need some refining, not replacing, as the basis is certainly there, but just some professional refining to help bring them up to the level of quality that the music demands. CARTHARSIS is still a worthy album of your time and should please a lot of less fussy prog rock fans.
Written By ZeeZee
Rating : 7/10