MindMaze - Resolve - (10/10)
Published on April 24, 2017
Clear your head
MindMaze are one of the most exciting new USPM bands to come along in recent years. Hailing from Allentown, PA, they have been developing and refining their melodic, powerful, riff-driven style of power metal for some time now. Resolve is their third full-length album (second on Inner Wound Recordings) and their heaviest and most ambitious concept yet.
The album opens with beautiful acoustic strumming before launching full-throttle into the strong heaviness that exemplifies “Reverie” and the album as a whole. The guitar tone is thicker and more down-tuned than before, putting this album more in progressive territory. If you know Jeff Teets and you know guitars, you can tell he used his Les Paul on this album. The riffs have that distinctive heavy wooden quality that comes out of those beauties. Hell, even Jeff’s solos have gotten better. Despite the much heavier approach, the power metal gallops are still part of MindMaze’s sound. There are fewer of them but you can still hear them throughout the album.
Listening to the one-two punch of “Reverie” and “Fight the Future” tells you exactly what kind of album Resolve is and why it is the band’s best work to date. It is a heavy record that tows the line between progressive and power beautifully. Rich’s bass lines have gotten so much better since Mask of Lies. Not only are they more audible but he actually has some really cool lines in “Fight the Future” and “Sign of Life,” which is an excellent straight up rocker. Mark Bennett also turns in a stellar performance behind the kit, showing his speed on “Shattered Self” and his creativity on “Twisted Dream.”
The biggest thing that elevates Resolve high above its competitors is the diversity and much greater emphasis on strong composition it showcases. In the past, there have been flourishes of this like with the “Destiny Calls” saga but this album has a much stronger keyboard presence, including the trusty 70s progressive rock organ as well as lovely piano. MindMaze have always had fairly strong compositions (e.g. “The Machine Stops”) but they have gotten even stronger and come to the forefront more often on this album with songs like “Drown Me” and “Release,” which features lovely acoustic work.
This all culminates in the album’s closer, “The Path to Perseverance,” which is by far the band’s most ambitious composition to date clocking in at 11:34. It weaves together all the elements that make this album great into one incredible, epic composition with killer riffs, nice acoustic work (including tambourine), a lovely keyboard section, very creative guitar and bass melodies, and perhaps Sarah’s best vocal performance to date. Is it their crowning achievement? It is quite possible but only time will tell for sure. One thing is for sure, this incredible composition leaves you wanting more with your jaw on the floor.
MindMaze have really outdone themselves with this new album in every area, instrumentally and vocally. Sarah’s voice has always been fantastic but something about this album really showcases her range and stretches her as a performer. Many female vocalists opt for the operatic/soprano approach or the beautiful, super clean approach. Sarah’s voice lands firmly in the space between those two approaches, at times exuding beauty and grace while showcasing plenty of power and range. She is rather like a modern day Valkyrie in that regard, exuding beauty, strength and power with a take no prisoners attitude.
Resolve is a little like a Wagner opera and a little like a Dream Theater album, but without the bloodshed of the former or the pretentiousness of the latter. In fact, you could argue that this album takes the very best parts of both of those worlds and puts them together to create something that is both new and better than the sum of its parts. What MindMaze have created here is something can only be described as a masterpiece. This is the album to beat in its genre and a strong contender for album of the year.