The first time I went to Jimmy's Place oh, about a year ago, was to see a Nightwish tribute band. While they were surprisingly good, the band that stole the show for me was MindMaze. Formerly Necromance, the band, centered around the brother/sister duo of Jeff and Sarah Teets, had rebuilt itself and presented a stunningly hard-edged brand of traditional heavy metal with power metal and progressive elements sprinkled in. Equally comfortable playing Iron Maiden and Rush songs or their own original music, MindMaze live had a comfortable, confident presence that made them incredibly likeable and fun.

This confidence is born from a towering work ethic, an almost obsessive compulsion to constantly tweak their songs, their sound, and to put out an album that rivals that of anything released on a major metal label today. Mask of Lies is the culmination of all this hard work; a galloping, nine-song romp through all the staples of heavy metal. There is a strong pop sensibility that harkens back to the days of 80's metal such as Dokken, Dio, and Iron Maiden. The choruses are pure sugar and will stick in your head for hours. Sarah's voice is distinctive, strong, but never overdone. Jeff Teets' guitar mastery belies his young age and the music he writes reveals a much older soul living within. The prime example of this is the instrumental Cosmic Overture, which, due to there being no vocals, explores a much more progressive metal style.

I would be remiss if I didn't address the production on this album. This is done so well, so perfect and balanced. When I hear this my mind goes to the hours of meticulous nitpicking that must have taken place just to get one drum fill or bass run accented right, or one guitar effect. How many nights staring with sore, red eyes at a monitor did they have? Hard to tell, but the finished product says to me that those hours were many.

I have to say I am proud of MindMaze for upping the ante. This is a band who clearly has no desire to remain local, playing to a few drunks in some dive bar in the Lehigh Valley. The ambition can be heard in every song on Mask of Lies, it's almost desperate in how it comes across and in how it's presented. Though this is much lighter and mellow than what I usually listen to and take on, it's an amazing record. Strongly recommended for anyone into power, prog, or traditional heavy metal.