Strange Land 5:20 PM (Scheduled for 3:45 – 4:45 PM)

This was a new band, but it consisted of others we had already seen that day. As it turns out, the lead singer, Chad Novell, played the keyboards in Orphonic Orchestra. He may have put his hair in a ponytail, but he wasn’t fooling anybody. Most of us knew it was him. The remainder of this outfit consisted of the Gill/Klotz duo, only this time Gill’s guitar was electric while Klotz utilized a more extensive set of drums.

After going to bed at 2 AM the night before and getting up by 9 AM for a two hour drive, I couldn’t keep up with the pace of song-after-song/band-after-band. I required a short break, and as a result, I missed ten minutes from their set. It appeared that Gill and Klotz were iron man musicians and didn’t mind playing whether they were on offense or defense. They were comfortable on either side of the field.

Unlike the earlier shows, they set up quick. Bands, in general, did a lot of their own rigging and these guys were fast at hooking, trapping, and gathering their cords.

Early in their set, Strange Land went into the centerpiece of their most recent album, which was entitled, “Cause and Defect.”

Strange Land’s package consisted of bass, keys, and drums, but it was different from Kopecky. Elements of this band reminded me of Pallas and King’s X. So far, these guys were the best the festival had to offer.

With a fan blowing from behind, Novell’s hair could be conceived as an elfin angel, the bringer of life, or the angel of death.

These guys were very tight and provided surprisingly good harmonies. They obviously understood the technical aspects of music and in turn, executed well. Likewise, they had an ear for what could be deemed appealing. On top of that, they were capable of changing the tempo with ease.

One song reminded me of “Mother” from Danzig (now featured on the video game Guitar Hero). They went from an inevitable crash landing to an airborne coast within seconds. All the while, they plastered the audience with some great riffs. I could also hear aspects of Testament in the mix. Whatever this song was, it was long.

By this time, I was in thought, pondering how this festival had exceeded my expectations tenfold. This band in particular increased the enumeration.

They performed the back half of the first album, Anamoly. One of their biggest fans was in the audience. They knew he’d like the next song and looking in his direction said, “John, keep it in your pants.” The inside joke was crude, but it was still funny. The child in us had laughed out loud, and it could be heard throughout the theater.

The next song was bitter and filled with hate. “Sorry... Was this a Death Metal Fest?” Novell asked. At the same time, Lou Ferrigno would have thought his body wax was stolen when Gill put on a guitar painted in Incredible Hulk green. In this song, it was hard to make out the lyrics, but the underlying theme was definitely nasty. Novell enunciated each word, but it was impossible to hear what he was singing over the heavy beats. It wasn’t all appalling as I really liked Klotz’s drumming in this piece.

Even with the lateness, I got my fill and appreciated the balladic portions interlined with denser metals.

Around this time, Novell, the head honcho, saw me taking notes. This wise guy of sorts stated that he didn’t know he was being graded. When I looked behind me, I realized I was front and center, and all by myself. The rest of the participants were too shy to take a closer seat once it was underway. I was in my own world and must have stuck out like a sore thumb. Later when approached in the lobby, you could tell they were intent to find out if they were going to get supportive press. As for this indeterminable instance, he exclaimed, the next song counts for 65% of our grade. Lucky for them, they did well in the midterm.

As an aside, I wonder if the name comes from Robert A. Heinlein’s book Stranger in a Strange Land.

Anyhow, they eventually got louder and angrier. They teetered between progressive, metal and rock, and a wall of sound. In addition, they did this abruptly cool switch between bass and keys.

Towards the end, they provided another selection from the first album (I got the impression that this one was better rehearsed). They chose a song they hadn’t played in awhile, but had pulled it out and worked out the kinks over the course of the last couple gigs.

The climax was called “Distorted Grandeur”, and it incorporated terribly interesting melodies alongside a rhythm guitar. This was probably their all-around best song, or at the very least, it was their most practiced. You could say they were proficient with this piece as it was both played and sung well. There were lots of smooth segues in this melodic power rock. Parts of it made me think of Dream Theater’s “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”. Brilliant harmonies and changeups were bestowed upon us before the conclusive wrap up. At one point, Novell’s lone voice swam in a passage a-cappella before the big finish.

In hindsight, Strange Land might not have been familiar, but it was intuitive to my ears. I vote to see this act again in forthcoming years.