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May 11, 2020
MindMaze Adds Some Signature Twists to Queensryche's 'Roads to Madness'
By Brian Heaton
When's the last time you heard a band cover “Roads to Madness” by Queensryche? If you can't recall, don't worry—I couldn't either. Let's face it, most groups aren't likely to spend the time learning a nine-minute opus, much less put their own spin on it and record it for posterity.
But that's just what MindMaze have done, crafting a version of “Roads to Madness” that strikes a perfect balance between being faithful to Queensryche's original arrangement, but adding enough unique flourishes to make it distinctly their own.
The Allentown, Pa.-based progressive metal band tuned down to E-flat to give the song a darker and more modern feel, but they were careful to tread lightly in terms of the changes made.
“Most of what's different from the original is less of a product of an intentional decision and more of us just trying to be faithful to the original but within our own creative lens,” guitarist Jeff Teets said. “We took the same approach we'd normally take to harmonizing the vocals, and also made a conscious decision to not actually use any keyboard orchestration. All of the nuance of the slow ambient section is a mixture of guitar textures and Sarah's flute playing.”
“Sarah” is MindMaze's lead vocalist and Jeff's sister—Sarah Teets. The singer admitted the band considered cutting the atmospheric part of “Roads to Madness” entirely but decided against it.
“We aren't generally known for putting tons of orchestrations on our stuff and we were honestly wondering how possible it would be to replicate what was on the original,” Sarah said. “I'm glad we ended up keeping it though because the guitar textures, flute/piccolo and all the choir parts came out awesome and they're probably my favorite thing about the finished version.”
The result is a tribute to Queensryche that not only does the band justice, but provides fans with a fresh, invigorating listen to one of the Seattle quintet's most adventurous songs. MindMaze's version of “Roads to Madness” clocks in at eight minutes, 59 seconds—slightly shorter than the original on The Warning, but no less impactful. It was recorded by the band's longtime friend and engineer, Brian J. Anthony.
As to how the cover of “Roads to Madness” came about, it was thanks to a generous Kickstarter campaign contribution from a MindMaze fan who selected the monetary level where the band offered to let people pick a song for them to do. Sarah jokingly noted that while the fan certainly got his money's worth with such a long song, the choice was perfect for MindMaze's style—a testament of how well the fan knew the band.
As anyone reading this knows, Queensryche isn't as overtly technical as some of their progressive metal brethren, but there's an understated intricacy to their songs that has made them a favorite among musicians over the years. From the way Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton combined guitar chords, to Scott Rockenfield's nuanced cadence and Eddie Jackson's distinctive bass lines, the original band's music always had a sublayer to it that made it challenging for others to replicate.
Jeff agreed, saying he found most of classic Queensryche to be “deceptively complicated” in terms of the musicianship. Ironically, however, he called “Roads to Madness” a “slight” exception to that in terms of the guitar arrangements.
“[I]t doesn't really feature too much interplay between the two parts even though I think the chord voicings were really important to get right,” the guitarist said. “That being said, there are some rhythmic tongue-twisters in the slow section in the middle as well as the main riff where it picks up at the end which keeps everyone on their toes.”
From a vocal perspective, Sarah added that most people would likely assume the more difficult aspects of singing “Roads to Madness” were the high notes. While they weren't easy, she found the most challenging parts of the song to be Geoff Tate's lower register lines.
“I think one of the things that really set Tate apart from other singers back then is his ability to sing expressively throughout his entire range, of which is bigger than most singers already,” Sarah said. “Tate sings in a very operatic or theatrical way, that if you try to copy all the nuances of the expressions exactly sounds kind of silly coming from anyone else but him. I just tried to stick to the general melodies [and] add my own style on it.”
MindMaze, which in addition to the Teets siblings also features bassist Rich Pasqualone and drummer Mark Bennett, has been working on follow-up material to its highly regarded 2017 album, Resolve. Although the band's original plan was to release new music on a series of EPs, Sarah said its now likely MindMaze's next offering will be a full-length album. The band will also release a new single soon, to give fans a taste of the new tracks.
Until then, check out the band's incredible cover of “Roads to Madness” here. It can be purchased on Amazon and all other digital platforms. Learn more about MindMaze at www.mindmazeband.com.