When you speak to any American about Pennsylvania things that come to mind are the Liberty Bell, the historic significance that helped America gain its Independence from Britain, Andrew Carnage and American Steel and one of the hardest working states in American History. Pennsylvania certainly has a top notch blue collar work ethic that does not want a hand out. In Pennsylvania the belief in hard work and perseverance has always been at the forefront of the heart of America’s ‘Steel-Belt’. These values and qualities are certainly present with MindMaze.
Founded in 2004 by brother and sister duo of Jeff Teets-Guitars and Sarah Teets-Vocals. MindMaze are certainly carrying the rich heritage that Pennsylvania has a rich history of. They would later be joined by Rich Pasqualone- Bass, Backing Vocals and Kalin Schweizerhof – Drums. MindMaze have taken their powerful work ethic combined with their influences as Iron Maiden, Savatage, Dio, Fates Warning, Dream Theater, Riot, Whitesnake, Firewind, Pagan’s Mind, Rush, Tesla, Thin Lizzy, Gamma Ray, Nocturnal Rites, Kansas, Circus Maximus, WASP, Journey, etc have forged a unique, distinctive yet traditional heavy metal sound with a modern and current sensibility. Without any further delay here is my review of MindMaze Mask Of Lies .
Never Look Back the first track on the album, is already a brutal assault to the listener with a killer thunderous double kick blast beat of the bass drum by Kalin Schweizerhof paired with a shred down the fretboard of the guitars by Jeff Teets. It soon settles into the opening instrumental sequence that is seriously influenced by Iron Maiden with the galloping bass line by Rich Pasqualone in perfect tandem with Kalin on drums. Before you know it Sarah Teets comes in with a blistering vocals and she does so with authority. Sarah has such a distinctive voice you can not compare her to any other woman in the industry today. Jeff provides both shredding solos and swift progressive changes and even balance. There greatly executed over dubs of Sarah’s voice in this one as well.
Breaking The Chains opens up with a fierce crunchy straight ahead guitar passage in balanced exchange of 4/4 and 5/8 progressive time signatures which remind me of Michael Romeo on SymphonyX – Twilight Of Olympus. Thunderous harmony resonates in the rhythm section of the drum and bass trade off. I begin to notice a progression of emotion in the the vocals at this point. The vocal progression reveals itself with lovely melodies in the following track This Holy War.
This Holy War starts to settle in the audience with a beautifully orchestrated semi acoustical guitar passage in the vein of Shadow Gallery’s Encrypted from Room V. It is not too long before the double bass beats subtly enter the landscape and bang Jeff lets it rip with a very bruising crunchy passage. The band takes you by the hand and walks you into ‘This Holy War’. Emotion seems to be taking hold from here through the duration of the album. The rhythm section of the bass and drums in this one seem to be heavily influenced by a Fates Warning vibe especially the Fates Warning vibe from albums like Disconnected and their last offering X. About the 5:07 mark a complementary voice overdue comes into play much like vintage Dream Theater from their earlier albums of When Day And Dream Unite through A Change Of Seasons. The voice over dubs are well produced and tracked appropriately with a semi cinematic film score instrumental in the background.
Cosmic Overture opens up with a beautiful acoustic passage before going into a blistering heavy rhythmic passage that gives the listener the impression of a marching effect. The instrumental soon solos and a great piano enters before the band once again blisters and shreds its way onward. ‘Cosmic Overture’ is a all out instrumental which serves as a beautiful bridge towards the next track Fading Skies.
Fading Skies has a intro that as you listen to it, I have the impression painted in my mind I am melodically being led down a flight of stairs where surprises of complex time progressions seem to keep the audience both enthralled and on the edge of their seats to see what is coming around the corner next. It soon slows down with a gentle bass drum trade off with Sarah’s vocals captivating with warm harmonious over dubs. The over dubs impress your psyche that Sarah is having a duet with herself. Fading Skies has a lovely balance of gentle acoustical guitar passages interacting with heavy guitar riffs.
Mask Of Lies is the title track of the album that takes me back and reminds me of Dream Theater’s Scarred from Awake, where Kalin perfectly and gently opens it up with a 4/4 time on the cymbals until the :22 second mark where and wonderful electrical acoustic guitar passage enters and before you can even digest the intro here, Sarah lets it totally rip vocally like she is channeling a young Geoff Tate on Queen Of The Ryche where he belts it out. From there the track consists of constantly ever changing time stamps and a straight away attack with a galloping bass line like Steve Harris from Iron Maiden. It continue with the Maiden vibe with the solo much like Iron Maiden on ‘The Evil That Men Do’. The band really wears their influences on this album.
Dark City (Dreaming This Life) clocking in at 11:37 this track begins with a lush acoustical melody of guitar, bass and drums for the first 1:01 until the band cranks it up to 11 and begins to slam you with a killer every changing time signature which reminds me of Desperation part 1 from Redemption’s debut album. Then once again at the 1:37 mark it settles back in to a complex yet very smooth and listenable semi acoustical passage yet with a heavier bass line from Rich and a far darker vocal from Sarah. This continues until the 2:50 mark where the band are finally starting to not only bring all their influences together but they are also starting to define their own original sound. The remainder of this 11:37 track consists of well layered and complex progressive and power metal time stamps. The band are finally starting to find their identity in their sound on Dark City (Dreaming This Life).
Remember is a semi power ballad on Mask Of Lies and picks up where the blistering self titled track Mask Of Lies left off. It is a beautiful track and truly reminds me of the semi progressive power ballads as Fates Warning’s-Guardian and Crimson Glory’s-Painted Skies. Remember is basically a bridge to the final track of the album ‘Destiny Calls’.
Destiny Calls opens up with a beautiful ocean effect like the The Who’s- Love Reign O’er Me accompanied by a well executed folky atmospheric harmony of acoustical guitar and French Horn. Then at the 1:15 mark the track explodes into this blistering frenzy of distorted electric guitar. Sarah comes in with authority blazing a chem trail with her vocal style. The production on the vocals is very good with some double tracking to layer Sarah’s vocals. I also enjoyed the vocal effect pumped through a megaphone. Destiny Calls has a little of every element the band uses through the duration of the album as if it were a melodic epilogue. Complex progressive time signatures on the string section coupled with thrashy elements in the rhythm section of the drums and bass. Destiny Calls is a very appropriate track to end the album.
MindMaze have clearly established a rock solid foundation for a debut album despite the lack of any assistance from a record label. However Mask Of Lies will surely garner the courtship of record labels and my prediction is that by years end we will see them go from unsigned to signed. I have enclosed a video track from their official YouTube channel with This Holy War. I give this album 4/5 for their great attention to detail in the writing and production process.