Friday, April 28, 2017

Album Review: Mindmaze - Resolve

Here were are again, getting ready to dive into another concept album. I can't begin to express how tired I am of these things, albums that try and (almost always) fail to be something more than albums. Let's face it; it's hard to tell a story through lyrics, and even when you can, there aren't enough words on an album to make the story interesting. There is a reason musicians play music, and writers write. Very few times has there ever been an album that told a compelling story that was easy to understand without glaring at a lyric sheet for hours on end. Luckily, MindMaze is doing something smart here, and have made what is more of a thematic album, rather than a pure plot-driven conceptual piece. That gives them much more of a margin to work with.

The album kicks off with a four minute instrumental, which thankfully is not a useless introductory piece. This is a fully-formed song, with acoustic guitars that open from a place of longing, and build into a metal song with soaring lead guitars. It's a far more effective use of instrumental time than the usual cinematic scene-setter. I do, however, quibble with the pacing of the album. The instrumental opening leads into the lackluster "Fight The Future", and then we are immediately thrown back into a minute long instrumental segue. There hasn't been enough meat on the bone yet for a break to be necessary. It slows any momentum before it can get going.

Theme or not, the album needs to deliver on the songwriting if it's going to succeed. That's where we come up a bit short. It's not that Mindmaze can't write songs, but they don't put all the elements together. They have a good sound, and a good singer, but the songs lack the hooks that would take this to the next level. There is serious talent in the instrumental department, with plenty of riffs and solos that are heavy and melodic in the right amounts. The arrangements are great, and while I find Sarah Teets a more than capable vocalist, the writing doesn't give her much to work with. Melodically, the songs don't provide sweeping choruses for her to sing, nor does the band add in enough backing vocals to at least pump them up. Albums like this are supposed to sound larger than life, but the band comes across sounding a bit small, because they don't utilize the advantage they can gain by layering some extra voices to make an epic choir.

"Resolve" carries on like this for sixty-eight minutes, during which time it does grow tedious. There are good ideas in here, but the band doesn't hone in on them and turn them into lethal songs. If this album was pared down to under an hour, and the melodies were given a bit more punch, this could be a really good album. However, that's not where we are. Instead, we're faced with a record that is punching a bit above its weight. MindMaze is a solid group, and "Resolve" isn't a bad record by any means, but there's still so much potential for growth here. Hopefully, next time out they will deliver on that promise.

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