MindMaze – Back From The Edge
MindMaze – Back From The Edge (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Well, here we are in the third quarter of 2014, about eighteen months after MindMaze’s debut, Mask Of Lies, surprised and delighted listeners around the United States (and indeed, the world). Since then, the band has launched a pair of highly-successful Kickstarter campaigns. The first to fund the creation of this, the second studio album, and a second that financed both a music video for “Dreamwalker” (the fourth track from Back From The Edge) and a limited-edition EP of the same name. For all intents and purposes, very little has changed about the bands heavy/power metal-meets-hard rock approach from the playful and hooky debut, save for one respect: maturation.
Back From The Edge gets rolling in power metal style with the eponymous opener, which serves as a hard-hitting tour-de-force of the band’s greatest strengths: quick-moving rhythm, easily recognizable melodies belted out by Sarah Teets, and a wealth of engaging leads and hybrid metal/rock solos from brother Jeff. I stake my power metal credibility (which, I should hope, is substantial) that my words here are not merely a plug for a friend and fellow Black Wind writer, but rather very real appreciation for the dynamic and zesty formula that MindMaze is developing.
Put simply, this band is unmistakable. Not only is Sarah a one-of-a-kind vocalist when it comes to timbre and delivery, but the band (including Symphony X bassist Mike LePond) shifts back and forth between heavy and anthemic, dark and light, and balladry and speed with a grace and smoothness that is indicative of clear songwriting vision and a deep appreciation of the band’s chosen field. It’s rare enough to hear a reasonably hard-hitting, yet melodically-minded band with a female singer, but to have one that boasts legitimately good material varying from power metal to arena rock ballads and into melodic prog territory inside fifty minutes of music is bloody nigh unheard of. For the record, I’d very much like to be corrected if I am mistaken.
While Mask Of Lies was in no way an amateur-seeming effort, the further realization of collective sound and individual potential alike is pretty stunning on Back From The Edge. At risk of offending the other members of the band: I’m here for Sarah, if that wasn’t already obvious. She sounds more confident, bright, and well-practiced than ever, and is really one of the most unique vocalists in female-fronted metal at this point. Jeff’s guitar work plays more to his strengths than ever, and he is firmly capable of his position as lone guitarist. Drummer Kalin Schweizerhof brings a renewed package of both restraint and fury to the table, and just like Jeff and Sarah, is able to exercise his creativity pretty extensively over the course of the album.
The low points on Back From The Edge are few. Mostly, I find my negativity focused upon closer “Onward”, which feels stretched and, frankly, a bit unnecessary. Additionally, I’m a big opponent of sound samples in my music. and the section in “Consequence Of Choice” affects my enjoyment of an otherwise driving song. This is counteracted by excellent, concise blasts of power in “Moment Of Flight”, “End Of Eternity”, and the potent “Through The Open Door”. Nothing tops the ten and a half minute ambition of “The Machine Stops”, however, and once again MindMaze’s longer compositions are its finest.
Any who enjoyed Mask Of Lies or even found it mildly interesting have a duty to inspect this newer refinement of the band’s sound, as do any who are interested in melodic heavy metal, AOR, or even female-fronted power metal. MindMaze’s style isn’t my usual bag, but it has me quite enamored of its expert sound and terrific charisma. I would be extremely surprised if Back From The Edge isn’t seen topping favorite lists, winning many new fans, and firmly establishing MindMaze as an underground frontrunner in the United States.
4.0 // 5