MindMaze - Mask of Lies - (9/10)
Published on February 17, 2013
Metal never ceases to amaze me – the sheer quality of talent we have and what new talent keeps pushing the established acts. Enter MindMaze from Allentown and their debut Mask of Lies that is yet another piece of proof that the future of metal is still in good hands. The Pennsylvania-based quartet is rooted in power metal, but branches out here and there into neighbouring fields to great effect. Starting out as Necromance they decided to rename themselves in 2012 and this is their first full album (after two demos as Necromance) and it is nothing short of amazing!
One of the defining factors of Mask of Lies is the voice of Sarah Teets, who possesses a very strong, expressive and clear voice, which stands head and shoulders above many of her contemporaries that prefer the more frail approach, which definitely would not fit the variable and powerful music of MindMaze. And from the get-go of up-tempo opener “Never Look Back” she manages to shine, commanding the listener’s undivided attention and leaving her mark on the track together with the Maiden-inspired guitars for a great start to the album.
Where MindMaze show their maturity is their ability to embed very catchy melodies into maturely structured songs, which show variety in tempo and atmosphere, tasteful keyboard accents to enhance the overall song, the clever use of acoustic guitars and, of course, the highly efficient use of Sarah’s voice. Rare for a power metal band, these Americans shine the most, when they go epic, since all three long songs of the album, namely “This Holy War”, “Dark City (Dreaming This Life)” and “Destiny Calls” all show remarkable dynamic shifts that flow with amazing ease and are among the best tracks you will find within this genre this year!
As mentioned before, one key element to MindMaze’s brilliance is the use of the acoustic guitar, which shows up in several songs and is incorporated into the set of dynamics that Sarah’s brother Jeff Teets brings into the compositions, either as a brief respite, as a means to enhance the atmosphere or just to add another texture and dimension, elevating it from pure ballad accompaniment to a key ingredient in the band’s sound mix. And if you just want to hear two reasons why MindMaze are one of the brightest rising stars in the genre, take 11-minute “Dark City (Dreaming This Life)” which sets out with the acoustic guitar, which then alternates with pretty heavy riffing, surprises with some Spanish guitar in the middle section that gives way to a heavy instrumental section, following the bleak lyrical content into a mini-soundtrack full of dynamics, and 9-minute “Destiny Calls”, where the acoustic guitar and flute give it a folky feel at the beginning before tightening the crank and speeding things up into way heavier territories, all the while convincing with strong and powerful vocals, dynamics and great lead guitars.
Strangely enough some of the shorter and more compact songs seem to have a few minor issues in keeping things distinct (do not worry, though, there definitely are no duds on this album), but with debut albums being seen as a first step for young bands, Mask of Lies is a leap for MindMaze and more than worth your time. Be one of the people who knew about this band before they got signed, because this quality just can’t go unnoticed!