Back From the Edge (2014) is the second full-length album by US metal act MindMaze. Having released their debut album Mask of Lies (2013) independently the band have moved up in the world and Back From the Edge is released through Inner Wound Recordings. The band have also added bassist Mike LePond to the line-up, a notable musician best known for none other than the mighty Symphony X among others. Additionally the band has garnered some high profile guest appearances such as Jens Johansson of Stratovarius adding a keyboard solo to Moment of Flight and Matt Johnsen of Pharaoh adding a guitar solo on The Machine Stops.
I'm going to take a little time out from my usual review structure to apologise to my readers, as I had made the promise to try and cover some other genres for a time after realising that a good majority of my current group of 2014 release reviews were for power metal albums. A follow-up to the excellent MindMaze debut Mask of Lies was always high on my personal hype list for the rest of this year, but I thought I'd be safe with my promise when a promo for the album came my way, as in my opinion Mask of Lies was mainly a traditional heavy metal album with power metal and progressive metal leanings, more so the latter than power metal. Turns out though that Back From the Edge is not a heavy metal album, but a progressive power metal album. So sorry readers, the promise is going briefly on hold.
Wait...I'm really not all that sorry about that, for in Back From the Edge MindMaze have produced an album that is possibly the best case of genre evolution I've ever heard, changing the band from a good heavy metal band to an excellent power metal band.
While there are some moments on Back From the Edge that are more like straight-forward power metal songs, such as the lead single Dreamwalker, the album is mostly made up a perfect blend of power and progressive metal ideas so while you'll be getting plenty of those speedy power metal riffs to propel the music along the guitar playing by Jeff Teets in particular has a tendency to veer off into more complex ideas, with the occasional use of keyboards adding another layer to the sound, though the band usually stick to a typical song structure, with most on the album clocking between the four and six minute marks.
At the other end of the spectrum though there are a couple of longer tracks, namely The Machine Stops and Onward (Destiny Calls II). The latter is obviously a follow-up to the closing track from Mask of Lies. It's these longer songs of course that really bring the progressive side of the music out, and Onward (Destiny Calls II) is especially impressive, even including some flute usage that gives the song a very slight folksy vibe. This is the most progressive song on the album and is probably the only one here that I'd call a progressive metal song over a power metal song and despite being the power metal maniac I am, it's also my favourite.
Back From the Edge is quickly impressive for the same reasons that made Mask of Lies such an great debut, but the difference is where Mask of Lies seemed a little unsure about what the band wanted to be, Back From the Edge is a focussed piece of work with strong musicianship all round, amazing energy, and powerful vocals by Sarah Teets. MindMaze have been a pretty unknown entity on the metal scene up until this point, but Back From the Edge is the album that sets out to change that, and will if there is any justice in the world.
I mentioned earlier about trying to leave off power metal reviews for a while because of the large amount I've done this year, but what I neglected to say is that only one of those albums was awarded a top tier score, and folk-power metal albums like that one (Elvenking) are nearly always more recognisable as folk metal releases so really Back From the Edge is the first power metal from 2014 that is a power metal album before it is something else (in this case progressive metal) that I've felt the need to go up to the top tier for. Back From the Edge is really everything fans of female voiced power metal could want, and I don't feel like I'm overhyping it by putting up a perfect score. Consider me blown away by the massive progress MindMaze has made in such a short time since their debut.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/mindmaze-back-from-the-edge-t3734.html)