MindMaze - Back from the Edge - (9/10)
Published on September 28, 2014
In 2013 a young band from Allentown, Pennsylvania, caused quite a stir with its debut Mask of Lies. MindMaze had garnered plenty of laudations for their powerful, yet intricate power metal, taken to the next level by front lady Sarah Teets. The quality of their debut landed them a deal with Swedish Inner Wound Recordings, who now are giving the band a wider opportunity to bring their metal to the masses. And since their debut the band was even able to enlist none else than Symphony X bassist Mike LePond to join the crew (who seems to need ten bands at a time to feel properly busy…) and their second album Back from the Edge.
While MindMaze can undoubtedly be placed into the power metal category, they stand far away from the genre standards, bringing in a latent progressive tendency, but rather enriching their sound without sacrificing any of the accessibility or crossing over into prog terrain. Sarah’s vocals also play an important part in this, staying away from the usual vocal trappings (thanks, Shawn) of female fronted power metal bands, with her powerful voice and most of all the band’s ability to have her vocal lines stray from the same-old they manage to elevate the already excellent music even further.
Something some bands of this style tend to forget is that it is not just enough to have a good riff or an interesting melody, but that a great song needs flow, dynamics and energy and here Back from the Edge excels in pretty much all departments. The opening title track displays all of the above, packed into an uptempo setting and Sarah delivering the first of the outstanding performances on the album. Pretty much all tracks showcase these dynamics and beautiful melodies, albeit in different settings, such as heavy “Dreamwalker” or very varied “End of Eternity”, yet to really experience the full strength of the Americans, you ought to look at the two long songs of the album, “The Machine Stops” and “Onward (Destiny Calls II)”.
Not trying to take away from the other tracks, but these two are where MindMaze really leave much of the competition behind. “The Machine Stops” clocks in at over ten minutes and sets out with a beautiful interplay between piano and guitar and you don’t even miss the vocals until they set in at the 3-minute mark, but when they come in, they fit in seamlessly. The song goes down to slow passages as well as full double-bass attacks, but with such effortless flow that the ten minutes are over in a blink and all you want to do is hear it again, a masterpiece. And “Onward (Destiny Calls II)”, the continuation of the closer off Mask of Lies, is sweeping widescreen metal, with soaring melodies, tasteful flute and a great build-up towards the end.
Embedded into a clear and powerful production as well as yet another beautiful cover artwork, Back from the Edge most definitely delivers on the promise Mask of Lies had made last year, with inspired musicianship, mature and dynamic songwriting and a stellar vocal performance that will send quite a few like-minded bands back to the drawing board, a true winner and hopefully a herald for a bright future!