December 5, 2014, 6 years ago

Kelley Simms

feature heavy metal mindmaze


Pennsylvania-based brother and sister act, MindMaze, is out to prove that they aren’t just another female-fronted metal band. Jeff Teets (guitars, keyboards) and Sarah Teets (vocals, flute) are blowing that stereotype right out of the water on its sophomore release, Back From The Edge. There’s a whole new breed of women-fronted rockers and an ongoing debate which has been raging on the Internet is the differing opinions about female-fronted bands vs male-fronted bands. Most of the argument stems from the basis that you wouldn’t label a band with a male vocalist as a male-fronted band so why do it with his counterpart? However, throughout the history of rock and metal, it’s mostly been dominated by males. I don’t see anything derogatory in labeling a band such as MindMaze as a female-fronted band, however, coining “female-fronted metal” as a genre is absurd. Often times, the draw of a frontwoman, or even another female member, actually generates more attention and interest to that particular band.

“This is such a complex issue,” Sarah said. “It definitely has its upsides and downsides. I wouldn't call it derogatory to call a band female-fronted and I wouldn't say I'm insulted by the term, but it is kind of strange. It's almost as if whoever coined the term didn't realize that there are as many facets to female vocals as there are male vocals. A lot of people use this term to imply that any band with a female singer in it will sound the same, which simply isn't true. On the other hand, there are people out there who particularly enjoy female vocals in bands, a bunch of those being our fans. I can't really knock something for leading more people to our music and becoming fans of ours.”



Joining the Teets (insert joke here, they’re probably used to it by now!) on Back From The Edge is drummer Kalin Schweizerhof and Symphony X bassist Mike LePond. A man of LaPond’s stature and pedigree is certainly in high demand, and although he’s not an official member, LaPond helps out MindMaze when he can. “He basically just plays with us when he's available,” Sarah said. “We typically just contact him for studio work and when we're playing shows fairly local to him. He's a great guy though and we always enjoy working with him.”

Other prominent musicians also play on Back From The Edge; Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson lends a brief but stellar keyboard solo on “Moment Of Flight” and Pharaoh guitarist Matt Johnsen provides an innovative solo on the epic, 10-plus minute “The Machine Stops.” MindMaze must possess some strong clout to snag these highly-touted musicians. “It's funny, but it was really as simple as just asking them to do it,” Sarah said. “Jeff and Matt have become pretty good friends and talk regularly via email and when they see each other at shows. Jens, we've kind of just known a little bit through Facebook and we were honestly pretty surprised when he said yes so quickly.”

Heavily influenced by Dream Theater, Savatage and Symphony X, Back From The Edge combines European power metal in the vein of Firewind and Nocturnal Rites with US power metal of bands such as Savatage and Kamelot. On the aforementioned “The Machine Stops,” Sarah’s eloquent vocals and reflective lyrics are conjoined with the band’s tight and progressive musicianship. “This song is somewhat of an outlier to most of our catalog in the respect that it's about something specific, that I didn't write. Most of our songs are based on my own personal feelings or experiences I or someone close to me has had. This is based on a short story from the 1920s written by E. M. Forster. Jeff and I both had to read it in a class we took and just fell in love with it. The story describes a dystopian futuristic society, in which people have come to rely so much on technology that they have forgotten their own humanity and how important it is to value human connection. I really wanted to just make sure I accurately communicated all the emotion I saw in the story. This is actually my favorite track off Back From the Edge.”



Another track on the new album that will most certainly grab your attention is “Consequence Of Choice,” which has a voice-over line from actor Morgan Freeman’s dynamic role in Shawshank Redemption. “The song itself isn't about The Shawshank Redemption specifically, but it can easily be related that the feeling Morgan Freeman has while he's speaking those lines. The song is about making a bad choice that you have to pay for and live with for the rest of your life. The movie just happened to be on one day while we were in the process of making the album. We knew we wanted to have some kind of spoken word in there but we didn't know what to do, and that just seemed perfect.”

Pennsylvania isn’t actually a hotbed for metal, although Philadelphia can hold its own with metal shows, MindMaze doesn’t have a lot of options when it comes to the live setting. “Honestly, it isn't great,” Sarah said. “We're actually from about an hour north of Philly in an area known as the Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton) and the live music scene isn't very good for metal. It's honestly not good for much other than cover bands. About 10 years ago, when we were very young and just starting to play in a band, there were at least a half dozen places to play in an original metal band. It's hard for us to break into the Philly scene, or similarly New York or Baltimore scenes because we aren't really from there. Venues have a hard time believing we can draw anyone (even though we can) and other bands get very territorial over things. It's just kind of weird. We typically only do about one or two shows in Philly and one or two shows in the Lehigh Valley a year.“

Which brings us to the band’s future plans. “At this particular moment, we're working on recording our Limited Edition Dreamwalker EP, which we offered in Kickstarter to fund our first music video,” Sarah concluded. “Both the video and the EP will be released in early 2015. We're looking to play a lot of shows in 2015, trying to travel to a few different places in the US that we haven't been to before. While I doubt it will happen in 2015, I would say we plan to make it to Europe in 2016. We also hope to do some more support gigs this year and hopefully maybe even do a string of dates supporting a larger band.”

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