MindMaze – “Back from the Edge”


Mindmaze back fromFemale-fronted power metal bands typically originate from Europe, but MindMaze is looking to break that stereotype as they hail from Allentown, Pennslyvania.  Driving rhythms, guitar solos, and a strong sense of melody and musicianship is what one can expect from bands in this genre and MindMaze are looking to further advance their sound and expand their audience on their second release, Back from the Edge.

MindMaze debut album Mask of Lies was released in February 2013 and completely sold out in in a little over a year with copies going to 35 states in the US and 18 countries.  Obviously, they have quickly established a sizable reach in the metal community.  For Back from the Edge guitarist and chief songwriter Jeff Teets has enlisted a fair number of guest musicians to add some extra flavor to individual tracks including, Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) on keyboards , Matt Johnsen (Pharoah), Jeff Pouring (Maverick Hunter), and LT (Lord) on guitars, and backing vocals from Chad Barnes (Draekon).  The album was produced by Jeff Teets and recorded, engineered, and mixed by Brian J. Anthony at his studio in Catasauqua, PA.

I give MindMaze a lot of credit from the opening track which isn’t just an intro piece like so many bands are doing today.  “Back from the Edge” starts out more like a Top40 ballad but quickly goes into power metal mode when the drums come in to increase the pace of the song from the clean guitar opening.  Sara Teets’ vocals start out rather subdued and somewhat cautious  sounding but quickly warm up to the song as the guitars and drums pick up the pace.  I hear all sorts of power metal influences in the song and even some Ritchie Blackmore-ish guitar parts, which does add a bit of Rainbow-like flavor to the song.

Through the Open Door” opens up with a great guitar riff as do many of the songs on the album.  Jeff Teets obviously has the guitar chops for the genre, which is heavily biased toward great guitar players.  Many of the songs on the album feature some rather technical riffs and the pace is definitely toward the faster side of power metal.  Thankfully the rhythm section of Kalin Schweizerhof on drums and  guest Mike LePond on bass are certainly up to the challenge.  The album throughout does feature some great guitar licks, which will help establish the band in the power metal genre.

Power metal can be a challenge as the production and mixing really needs to be very clean and precise but often ends up sounding overproduced as a result.  Back from the Edge manages to keep the raw intensity from the guitar solos and still sounding properly mixed and produced.  One aspect I would like to see though is a bit more emotion, nuance, and inflection in the vocals.  Srath Teets certainly has the range and great tone, but it does seem as if the vocals are a bit too polished.  I’m not sure what it is but lately, many of the albums I’ve heard and reviewed with female vocals have vocals that sound very similar in this regard.  I just feel a little more rawness would definitely lend a bit more character and impact to the songs.

The pace of songs on Back from the Edge is typically very fast and unrelenting but as mentioned earlier, the sound quality is very high so everything musically that is going on at the high speed is very clear.  While most songs start out with guitar, “The Machine Stops” opens up with piano that is then joined note-for-note by guitar, providing some good variety for the listener.  Interestingly, the piano stays present through the entire song, adding some interesting elements to the sound.

Changing things up a bit, “The End of Eternity” start out calmly and then proceeds to bring in some progressive sounds reminiscent of Queensryche and incorporates some gang vocals in some sections as well .  There is a tendency of power metal songs to sound the same or at least very similar, especially when a band chooses to play most of them fast.  MindMaze have mixed things up a bit through the album to avoid having songs that sound similar.  Great guitar solos abound, which is a welcome addition.  The solos also fit within the framework of the songs, which can be a difficult challenge especially when some songs feature more than one guitar player carrying out a solo and when one of the players is also a guest.

The album closes with the epic, nearly nine minute long song “Onward (Destiny Calls II)”.  To me, this is what power metal is all about.  There are fast sections with guitars playing synchronized, keyboards to provide some atmosphere, soaring vocals, quiet sections, tempo changes, lyrics and tone that tell a tale of battle, struggle, and victory, and of course, a lot of great guitar work.

MindMaze debut album, released just last year, managed to bring in fans across the globe and Back from the Edge will certainly add to that.

Rating: 7.5/10

Track listing:
01. Back from the Edge
02. Through the Open Door
03. Moment of Flight
04. Dreamwalker
05. The Machine Stops
06. Consequence of Choice
07. End of Eternity
08. Onward (Destiny Calls II)

Band Members
Sarah Teets – Vocals
Jeff Teets – Guitars, backing vocals
Kalin Schweizerhof – Drums
Mike LePond – Bass

“Mask of Lies” (2013)
“Back from the Edge” (2014)

Record Label: Inner Wound Recordings, Oct. 2014

Weblinks: Facebook / Website / Twitter

Buy the album here:
Holland: First Paradox
Norway: Nordic Mission

Video below ‘Back from the Edge’


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