MINDMAZE – Playing It By Ear
May 8, 2017, 9 months ago
Almost three years since Pennsylvania-based Mindmaze’s last album, 2014’s Back From The Edge, the band has been in total writing mode.
Led by siblings Sarah Teets (vocals) and Jeff Teets (guitars) and the rhythm section of Rich Pasqualone (bass) and Mark Bennett (drums), the band has produced some ambitious goals.
Releasing its Dreamwalker EP in 2015, Mindmaze spent most of 2016 writing its latest album Resolve — its third studio album overall — and a concept album to boot. People who hear the album will be pleasantly surprised at how inviting the band’s modern prog tendencies resonates with the listener.
Up until the release of Resolve, the band has only done a few small independent tours. But landing a major support tour with Saxon and Armored Saint in the fall of 2015. For a newer band such as Mindmaze, the experience was highly rewarding.
“I don’t think we could have asked for a better experience,” Jeff Teets said. “Everyone in both bands were totally awesome to work with and were incredibly supportive. We’ve stayed in touch with guys in both bands as well. Nigel Glockler from Saxon wore our T-shirt when they filmed their latest DVD that came out a few months ago. We didn’t ask him to, we had no idea. I just saw the video when they started promoting the DVD. It was fantastic. We were treated really well by everybody and were well-received and we sold a pretty good amount of merchandise. All and all, it was just a fantastic experience.”
With Resolve, the concept is more from the first-person perspective of the main character more than a rock opera that a lot of other bands create. It’s a story about personal evolution than it is a narrative where things mostly happen externally.
“The whole thing was inspired by a number of events happening to multiple members of the band over a span of time leading up to the making of the album,” Teets said. “We had a lot of different personal relationships dissolve. It’s sort of about how to overcome the loss and betrayal of things like that and the process everyone has to go through to come to terms with things.”
Musically, the album takes you through a lot of different moods.
“There’s a lot of introspective passages of all the anger and confusion,” Teets began. “There’s times where the music’s almost intentionally complex or busy to fit the moods. With the writing, we mapped the album out in terms of walking through the process of what we wanted to go through. Rather than focus on writing individual songs one at a time until we had an album, we just started to stockpile ideas and scenes and bits of music and then assigned them where we felt they belonged in the story. There was a lot of trying to make sure the music fit the mood of what that part of the story was trying to convey.”
With three instrumental interludes, Teets gets the chance to show off his fretwork skills by conveying various moods and emotion. In fact, everyone in the band had more license to expand the whole spectrum of playing than they had on previous albums.
“One of the big things that were different about the way I how to approach the guitar work on this album was that I felt like it was up to me to convey a lot more different moods and emotions in the lead playing,” he said. “I don’t consider myself much as a shredder, so I had to push myself to cobble moments on this album to play outside of my comfort zone in terms of speed, technique, scales or picking patterns. In addition to some of the more intense, complex and aggressive segments, there’s also some purely expressive and moodier things on the album, too.”
With 13 tracks and a 68-minute runtime, Resolve is in danger of losing its energy level. Fortunately it never does, as the entire album’s musical journey ebbs and flows perfectly.
“I had a specific length in mind, but we just looked at it from the approach that the album is as long as it needs to be,” Teets said. “I honestly prefer shorter albums myself, but I think if the album justifies its length, then it’s really as long as it needs to be. And conceptual albums usually lend a lot of license to that. If you take out any pieces of the puzzle then it doesn’t really work. There’s no question that I was a little bit worried that people were going to think that it’s a little too long. There’s a lot of breathers in the music and a couple of interludes and the whole thing sort of paints one big picture. But it’s easy to digest it in smaller pieces which I think helps.”
Mindmaze is gearing up for a North American tour with fellow female-fronted metal bands Arkona and Sirenia. After that, Teets admits that the band will play it by ear.
“We’re not a 100 percent sure of where we’re going to go from there,” Teets said. “We’ll probably take some time over the summer after we get back to maybe not play shows for a while and start writing. The way this whole cycle works generally is you almost have to start writing your next album at least a year and a half before you want to put it out. Because we don’t have a situation where we can just put down the rest of our lives for a couple of weeks and concentrate on writing and go into the studio. Everything has to move slowly.”