Review: MaYaN – Antagonize – Nuclear Blast – Release 31-01-2014

MaYaN – Antagonize – Nuclear Blast – Release 31-01-2014

MaYaN was created in 2010 by Epica main man Mark Jansen and former After Forever keyboard player Jack Driessen, with guitar player Frank Schiphorst joining them. Their main goal was to create symphonic death metal with lyrics focusing on what is wrong with society today. Calling in the help from the many friends they had met in the long years of their career they released their first music assault upon governments in 2011, called “Quarterpast”. Personally I felt like the album was the flower that came out of the seed planted with Epica’s “Design Your Universe” which had a harsher sound than their previous albums, focusing more on death metal influences. The incorporation of Epica’s Simone Simons and ReVamp’s Floor Jansen only enforced this idea for me. Unfortunately the world has not changed since then and MaYaN have collected enough new ideas to base their songs on for their sophomore album “Antagonize”.

MaYaN is:

Mark Jansen – Grunts and Screams
Jack Driessen – Keyboard
Frank Schiphorst – Guitar
Ariën van Weesenbeek – Drums
Hennung Basse – Clean Vocals
Laura Macri – Soprano
Rob van der Loo – Bass guitar

Antagonize
mayan-antagonizeMaYaN waste no time to fling all their might into your face with the perfect album opener “Bloodline Forfeit”, which shows that not much has changed since the first album. It’s still highly polished melodic death metal with the keyboards giving it a bombastic and often symphonic sound. Hennung’s clean vocals give a nice counterbalance to Mark’s brutal grunts, though it is a bit of a waste that they choose to slow down the song considerably when he’s singing. It’s almost like you were in a speeding car with Mark sitting next to you, bellowing with all his might to keep on driving until you hit a red light. Then again, you can also see it as a bit of a musical metaphor of the harsh reality versus the utopian promises of politicians, but maybe I’m reading too much into this.

This is also how the whole album is built up, a constant clash of fast and harsh versus slow and heavy. Music wise the songs have clearly had a lot of time put into instrumentation, not one note seems to be obsolete. Then again, that shouldn’t be a surprise when looking at the musicians. At the same time it’s very hard to hear any improvement over the previous album, because they were already very accomplished musicians by then. It all sounds very smooth and ‘civilized’. Yes, I just called death metal ‘civilized’. Despite sounding quite brutal, it’s also very polished and some people will dislike the music because of that. The music lacks the pure rawness often associated with old school ‘primal’ death metal, with no room for errors.

On rare occasions we get treated to the lovely and powerful voices of Simone and Floor in addition to Laura Macri who is now a fulltime member of the band. While I love their operatic voices, it’s also good that they are used very sparingly lest the album gets too comparable to Epica. In that view Hennung’s diverse voice works a lot better and gives the band its own sound. I’d swear that at certain parts I’m reminded of Jon Oliva! It’s still mostly Mark’s party when it comes down to vocals though and his grunts are as brutal as ever and his screams will clean out your ears with no effort at all.

One song that really stands out is “Insano”. It is a pool of tranquillity amidst the war raging in the other songs. At the same time I just have to criticize this song for being the token “operatic song” like “Esseza Di Te” was on the previous album. Both are beautiful songs, but if they keep repeating the same set-up of one soft song it just becomes formulaic.

People who have followed Mark’s career know that he’s quite fond of spreading an ongoing storyline or theme across multiple songs. In this case it’s “Paladins of Deceit” and album closer “Faceless Spies” that form the “National Security Extremism”-storyline. Both songs also harken back directly to the Epica, incorporating clear references to older songs which will happily surprise fans. Both songs also seem to have had the most time put into them, because they seem just a tad better than the rest.

Conclusion:
Highly polished and very bombastic death metal is how MaYaN sounds and that is what you can expect. It lacks rawness, but makes up for that in pure bombast. The songs are quite diverse, yet also follow a constant theme of fast and harsh versus slower and heavy with the vocals reflecting that. Personally I would have liked it more if the speed wouldn’t be cut down so often. It’s all high class material though and if you liked MaYaN’s first album you can easily buy this one as soon as it comes out and have no regrets.

Track list:

  1. Bloodline Forfeit
  2. Burn Your Witches
  3. Redemption – The Democracy Illusion
  4. Paladins of Deceit – National Security Extremism part 1
  5. Lone Wolf
  6. Devil in Disguise
  7. Insano
  8. Human Sacrifice
  9. Enemies of Freedom
  10. Capital Punishment
  11. Faceless Spies – National Security Extremism part 2

Score: 4 out of 5

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Tekst Robert Popovic

 

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