Hailing from the “great frozen north”, no not Canada but darn close, New Berlin, Wisconsin, these guys must have put those very cold winters to good use. Specially when it comes to learning to play and write exceptional progressive metal music.

What we have here is a three-piece progressive metal outfit that has chops, has the shredding guitar sound down, a thunderous bass line, and writes top quality songs and lyrics.

I’m reminded of Dream Theater’s first CD “When Day and Dream Unite”. That DT release pointed to things to come, much in the same way Anomaly does for Strange Land.

Anyone who has read my reviews in the past know that I’m often hooked by the lyrics even before my brain catches up to the music. These guys did that to me on the very first listen. “All Things Considered” starts this lyrical orgy in my mind. The depth of soul searching found in this song allow the music to be just the broth in such a wholesome soup of lyrical power. Lines like “….So many emotions, but trying to find the key, to lock back the shadows from inside my head. Trying to see if I can know the real me….” I’d like to think each of us asks ourselves the same thing.

“Unstuck” chimes in with “…Tell me why, can’t you see that this reason to be, will hold on for the rest of my life. Being unstuck in time without reason or rhyme, I believe that my Faith will end my strife.”

Can we have an Amen from the crowd please!

I could go on and on about the quality of the lyrics, but even really great lyrics without some powerfully matching music is lost in space. So Strange Land appears to have many modern, and not so modern, musical influences. Let’s see, there’s the obvious Queensryche and Dream Theater comparisons, but I hear much more. Maybe a tad of Iron Maiden in the guitar parts, some of the darkness of say Pain of Salvation, the power of Zero Hour, and the fluid grace of Fates Warning.

What we have here is a band we will hear much more of over time. I can’t wait to hear the songs on this CD with the new drummer Pete Schwartzenbacker lying down the rhythm as the one and only weak spot on this CD is the drummer. He over plays poorly in many spots. I mean if you can’t throw a 10 drum roll between a progression then leave it off. In fact, if you’re a drummer and are not as great as Portnoy, then don’t try to be.

That said, the poor drumming on this CD should not make anyone turn away from it at all. Maybe Strange Land will do a live release with Pete playing. One can hope right?

This CD has the right amount of everything. Highly complex music mixed with insightful thought provoking lyrics all tossed into a prog metal blender. Good stuff, can’t wait for more.

Rating: 7.5 of 10
Reviewed By: Stephen Ellis
Review Date: 12/16/02