MindMaze – Mask Of Lies
Mask Of Lies
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
MindMaze is a four piece melodic heavy/prog outfit from Pennsylvania whose debut album, Mask Of Lies, has received a bit of buzz in the depths of the internet recently. Mashing influences from several metal genres together to form a solid amalgamation of styles, the band builds its sound around the potent alto of Sarah Teets and the guitar work of junior sibling Jeff Teets. Now’s the time to insert my customary remark about how picky I am with female-fronted metal, I suppose.
However, MindMaze an exception to that rule, and the greatest exception yet this year, in fact. I only keep bringing up this point to emphasize just how right some bands (such as, clearly, this one) get it. Sarah and MindMaze successfully defy a number of typical complaints that I have about female vocals, and I’d like to list them briefly. First of all, there are no pitch issues when Sarah swings into the high end of her range; secondly, her voice is strong, as strong as any male’s in its confidence and command; and finally (and perhaps most importantly), she is “one of the guys”. To specify: I mean that, both in the album and in live videos that I viewed, Teets is not singled out as a sex object, nor does the band’s music suffer in deference to her voice. She earns her pass via the same talent that the rest of the band exhibits – and that talent is substantial.
I would describe MindMaze’s sound as quite smooth and easily listenable, especially when it comes to the group’s moderate progressive tendencies. Several songs, especially “Cosmic Overture” and the introduction to “Dark City (Dreaming This Life)” call early/mid 80’s-era era Rush to mind strongly in rhythms, keyboard melodies, and even guitar tone (Listen to Rush tunes like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Natural Science” off of Permanent Waves and you’ll get my drift.) Being the tremendous Rush fan that I am, I think that this occasional comparison does credit to MindMaze – the melodic sensibilities and something I think of as “economy usage of guitar” works in their favor. When the guitar isn’t moving at a metal-paced gallop, they’re used…not “minimalistically”, but practically and unobtrusively in a means that enhances the vocal hooks while maintaining instrumental interest.
Hand in hand with this, I actually find the longer tracks “Dark City…” and “Destiny Calls” to be considerably more varied and interesting than the much more redundant “Remember” (which I believe to be the only filler/mediocre track on the album). “Dark City…”, “Mask Of Lies”, and “This Holy War”, along with obviously hooky single “Never Look Back”, are my picks for standout songs and, between the lot of them, provide the listener with a well-rounded picture of the musical elements that comprise this work.
In general, I would assess Mask Of Lies as being quite stunning for a debut full-length. There’s enough speed to keep power metal fans involved, enough complexity to interest many of those with a taste for the progressive, and nods to metal roots – all wrapped up and fronted by an excellent voice (comparable, I would say, to Brittney Slayes of Unleash The Archers or Sara Squadrani of Ancient Bards). If MindMaze can capitalize upon the success of and learn from a debut like this, I think we’ll see another exceptionally strong release within the next 2 years.
3.75 // 5