- - - - - -

MindMaze - Back From the Edge

MindMaze - CD Review
Back From the Edge




CD Info
Genre: Progressive/power metal
Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Language: English
Tracks: 10
Total time: 49:37
Rating: 9 of 10


Forming nearly a decade before under the name Necromance, brother-and-sister team Jeff and Sarah Teets took their lifelong musical collaboration and built quite a reputation for themselves on the local metal scene. In early 2012, they changed the name of their band to MindMaze, cut their first album, and continued earning respect well outside the borders of their native Pennsylvania. In late 2014, their eagerly-awaited second album, Back From the Edge, was released after a successful Kickstarter campaign. Enlisting the help of seasoned musicians such as Symphony X’s Jeff LePond and Stratovarius’ Jens Johansson, MindMaze was proving that for their young age (all the bandmembers are in their early ‘20s), they had a lot of talent and promise for ones so young, to be able to score such well-respected names on the metal scene. With all that power behind them, what would MindMaze make with such a collaboration?

“Back From the Edge”

A slow fade-in with acoustic guitars segues into a killer opening track. Rapid-fire drumming, blazing guitar riffs, commanding vocals...this title track has got it all.

“Through the Open Door”

A trademark “prog-metal” song, yet very no-nonsense in its approach. Clocking in at less than 5 minutes, this song manages to capture all the technical proficiency of standard progressive rock or metal without the long-winded solos or musical grandstanding that tend to weigh down the genre sometimes. It’s almost ruthless in cutting through the fat and getting right down to the bone of what makes a good progressive metal song: heaviness and melody combined with intricacy and energy.

“Moment of Flight”

LePond’s bass shines on this track, and Jeff Teets’ guitar riffing is very reminiscent of Dream Theater. Even Sarah’s vocal approach has that touch of gruffness that James LaBrie often brings to his singing style sometimes. This song also features a guest appearance from famed keyboardist Jens Johansson, which in itself should say a lot for the band’s talent, as Jens is a well-respected musician in his own right and is known for playing with some of metal’s finest. Considering what a Stratovarius fan I am and a fan of Jens’ music altogether, it is probably biased on my part to say this is my favorite track on the album...but quite honestly, this would still be a favorite if only that stylistically, this is the kind of stuff I like. But getting Jens on board for this certainly doesn’t hurt! His playing style is so distinct that it jumps out at you as soon as you hear it, and just as with every other band he plays with, he has an uncanny knack for remaining uniquely identifiable while still fitting himself into the style of whoever he plays with.


The album’s first single, it’s definitely a stand-out track. Sarah gives it all she’s got on the chorus, which can easily stay stuck in your head long after listening to it. For all its catchy appeal, it's still a heavy tune that will easily get you headbanging or pumping your fist in the air with its smoking-hot guitar solo.

“The Machine Stops”

Proving they can do the 10-minute epics as well as any other prog-metal band, this gorgeous melodic piece is a shining jewel; stunningly beautiful piano work coupled with melodic guitars and emotionally-charged vocals. Some aspects of this song actually reminded me of Yes or Marillion. The lyrics and music work in tandem to take the listener on a journey, as all good songs should.

“Consequence of Choice”

Jeff really wails on the guitar as this song starts up! Sarah also lets loose vocally too. One of the heavier tracks on the album, this is a song that ranks high as another favorite for me.

“End of Eternity”

Another heavy tune where the guitars blaze brightly and Sarah’s voice illuminates. Rousing sing-along chants make this a stand-out tune that is sure to be a fan favorite and perfect for live shows.

“Onward (Destiny Calls II)”

The second of the longer songs, this is prog-metal perfection with its complex melodies, killer riffs, impressive vocals, and illustrative lyrics. A great closer to a fantastic album.

Overall opinion:

Having not heard their first album, I can only say that if there is such a thing as a “sophomore jinx”, I don't think MindMaze has anything to worry about, because this is a stellar piece of work and a fine example of what the U.S. has to offer these days to not only the femme-metal scene, but to the metal scene as well. As a vocalist, Sarah definitely stands out from the pack. More reminiscent of a Pat Benatar than a Tarja Turunen or an Alissa White-Gluz, her vocals have that old-school rock sensibility; pure and powerful, no frills yet vibrant and majestic. The strength of her voice is remarkable enough to where she doesn’t need to stun you with dramatic flair or guttural aggression. Musically, MindMaze is really adept at the “less is more” concept; economizing the overabundance that is a major complaint among critics of the prog-metal genre. They know how to accentuate what makes that musical style great without taking it too far, and that’s a hard balance to strike, especially when showing off technical skill for its own sake is encouraged within the scene. But you never feel as though MindMaze is holding anything back; the listener is getting the full experience of a solid progressive metal album while still making it accessible for those who are more interested in the metal side of the coin. They prove with songs like "”Onward” and “The Machine Stops” that they are more than capable of writing those lengthy prog epics that embody their genre, but they can also write infectiously catchy tunes like “Dreamwalker” and “Back From the Edge” at the same time. The fact that they can get heavy-hitters on the metal scene like Jens Johansson and Mike LePond to play on their album is a huge testament to their talent and to their reputation as musicians. There are more well-known bands on the scene that could only hope to land some big names like that! For being in their early ‘20s, that really says a lot about how far they have come, and how much farther they can still go. MindMaze does a brilliant job of fusing together melodic complexity with no-nonsense intensity and lyrical story-telling. For all the terms that can be used to describe their music, at its core, MindMaze is a rock band, and when you look past all of the progressive tendencies, they are still a straightforward rock band; something that is sorely missing in the genre today. There are not a whole lot of “old-school” rock bands anymore that just play energetic music you can get excited about; but MindMaze is joining the ranks of bands on the American scene these days who want to get back to basics and strip away all the needless titles and inane genre-labeling that have been tacked on the rock and metal scene over the past 20 or so years. There has been a flourishing femme-metal scene here in the United States that has been growing stronger over the past several years; and bands like MindMaze are pushing their way to the surface and showing their European counterparts that we Americans can still rock with the best of them.


For more information, visit the band’s website: www.mindmazeband.com