MAYAN
Death Metal • Netherlands

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MaYaN is a progressive/symphonic death metal project founded by Epica guitarist and vocalist, Mark Jansen, former After Forever keyboardist Jack Driessen and former Symmetry guitarist Frank Schiphorst. The initial line-up was completed by second guitarist Sander Gommans (ex-After Forever, HDK), who was replaced early on by Isaac Delahaye (Epica, ex-God Dethroned), drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek (Epica) and bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling (ex-Obscura, ex-Pestilence).

The group recorded their debut album Quarterpast, branding it as Symphonic Death Metal Opera and released it in 2011. By the time of release Jeroen Paul Thesseling had been replaced by Rob van der Loo (Epica, ex-Delain) as the former was unable to commit to planned touring.

Quarterpast featured several guest vocalists, two of which, Henning Basse (ex-Metalium, ex-Sons of Seasons) and Laura Macrì (div4s), were added to the full-line-up by the time the second album Antagonise (2014) was recorded and released. Isaac Delahaye had departed the
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.. Album Cover 4.26 | 8 ratings
Quarterpast
Death Metal 2011
.. Album Cover 5.00 | 3 ratings
Antagonise
Death Metal 2014

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MAYAN Antagonise

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Kev Rowland
There are times that when a band is described as being part of a sub-genre that in itself is part of another sub-genre that one just wants to not bother listening to the album, as how on earth can that be right? Well, back with their second album Mayan prove again just how wrong that idea can be, as what we have here is a Symphonic Death Metal band who are exactly that. Originally this started as a project conceived by Mark Jansen (Epica) and his old friend, Jack Driessen (ex-After Forever), and they put together a band with some guest singers (including current Nightwish vocalist Floor Jansen). Well, Floor is back again for this album, but there has been a firming of the ranks and there are now seven full-time members, three of whom are singers.

Songs such as “Insano” allow soprano Laura Macri to show her paces, but for the most part her role is to provide support to the main leads of Mark Jansen (grunts and screams) and Henning Basse. Musically there is a great deal going on, and the guys aren’t afraid to bring out the acoustic when the time is right, but for the most part this is brutal metal with keyboards being orchestrated to bring an over the top appeal to the material. It is polished, and extremely complex, but there are times such as with “Human Sacrifice” where the symphonic passages are used to highlight just how heavy and strong these guys can be when they want to.

There have been a few albums in this style recently, and when bands get it right I am stunned at just how bombastic and intense this can be. To say that Mayan have it right is something of an understatement as this is everything one could wish for with an album, with great songs, wonderful musical performances and vocals, while the production is also top rate. This is definitely worth discovering. www.nuclearblast.de

MAYAN Antagonise

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Antagonise (2014) is the second full-length album by Dutch progressive symphonic death metal act MaYaN. Since the release of Quarterpast (2011) the band has extended their line-up, now including three lead vocalists centred around different voice types; Mark Jansen (growls), Henning Basse (clean) and Laura Macrì (soprano). While all three featured on the debut, only Jansen, the band's founder, was a full member at the time. The album additionally features guest vocals from Floor Jansen (ReVamp, Nightwish) and Marcela Bovio (Stream of Passion), so it's almost the same vocalists featured on Quarterpast except instead of Bovio the debut album had Simone Simons (Epica). Guitarist Isaac Delahaye is at this point no longer fully affiliated with the group although he has a guest contribution, with the bulk of guitars on Antagonise played by Frank Schiphorst. Delahaye was replaced after recording by Merel Bechtold (Purest of Pain). Antagonise additionally marks the recording debut of bassist Rob van der Loo, who had joined before the release of Quarterpast but did not play on it.

Quarterpast came with a genre branding as a subtitle of sorts: "Symphonic Death Metal Opera". Although there should always have been a "progressive" in there to accurately describe MaYaN's music, it was more or less accurate. The music was symphonic death metal, and because of the presence of Laura Macrì it did also have a small amount of genuine opera. Had Macrì been given more singing time, the branding, progressive not being in it aside, would have been 100% accurate to describe what MaYaN sounded like. Quarterpast was an absolutely killer debut album all the same; a more extreme side of Mark Jansen's (and several other members of MaYaN) other band Epica, who as I'm sure anyone who knows their symphonic metal will tell you, are on the heavier side of the genre to begin with.

With Laura Macrì and her soprano voice promoted to full-time member status within the band it is perhaps the logical conclusion that Antagonise would further seize on the "opera" part of Quarterpast's branding despite not carrying that or any sort of genre branding at all this time around, and be the album that Quarterpast described on the tin.

Well if you did come to that conclusion, as I did, then you'd be wrong. I think that Laura Macrì gets a bit more singing time on Antagonise compared to Quarterpast, however now that she's considered a full member I did expect to hear more of her this time. Not more than Mark Jansen of course, this is still meant to be a death metal album despite the numerous other trappings that surround that core sound, which include some power metal in a few tracks, but definitely more than Henning Basse, who by contrast sounds firmly established as the lead clean singer. He sounds excellent; definitely the best performance I've heard from him, but I can't help but feel that for a band who so brazenly put symphonic death metal opera on their previous cover art that if that's what they really want to be, then we need to start hearing less Basse and more Macrì with Jansen's growls still taking the central role.

Of course, I don't claim to know the minds of the musicians in MaYaN, and they didn't repeat that branding on the cover of Antagonise, so for all I know symphonic death metal opera isn't something they're even interested in achieving at this point. But they have shown on both albums that they can achieve a sound that is very easily described as such, such as Antagonise's Human Sacrifice. The female vocals in this song are actually shared with Marcela Bovio, but she provides a similar effect to Laura. The first female voice is Marcela, the second is Laura. It's a very cool sound, with the female vocals only coming in after a more traditionally death metal orientated couple of minutes and there's still room made later on for a contribution from Henning. It's definitely disappointing that MaYaN appear to have taken all the correct steps to further explore it, and then don't. It is equally disappointing that they add a talented singer like Laura Macrì to their line-up and then don't give her the opportunity to shine.

This isn't to say that the quality of Antagonise is adversely affected in any way by sticking with safe and familiar ground, the music itself is still the same high quality work that I have come to expect from a Mark Jansen album, be it with MaYaN or Epica, and if I'm honest it even has one up on Quarterpast if we're discussing the actual composition. There's a slightly more intense edge to some of the riffs this time that further lend weight to MaYaN's status as a death metal act, but there's still a lot of polish to their sound, particularly when it's Henning singing and naturally when he takes over from Mark Jansen the album doesn't sound anything like death metal, but overall Mark is still the lead voice so although the album may entirely leave the genre at intervals, it always comes back around to a death metal sound. The symphonic elements sound great and the progressive flairs within the instrumental work never fail to offer up some interesting touches to the riffs. A couple of tracks haven't sunk in so well as most of the album though, particularly Enemies of Freedom which features voice-overs questioning whether guns are good or bad depending on the situation they're used in, which I feel distracts from and thus detracts from the excellent music.

There is a lot more top quality music here than not though and songs like Enemies of Freedom are only slightly lesser than their betters. I've already mentioned Human Sacrifice as a track where MaYaN really does manage a symphonic death metal opera sound so that is an obvious highlight of the release. You also have Burn Your Witches, which is perhaps best described as symphonic power-death the way the riffs flit back and forth in style depending on whether it's Mark or Henning's turn to sing. It also has Floor Jansen show up towards the end. The longest track, Faceless Spies, which was the first that MaYaN released to the public, is also an instant highlight for its epic quality, which also includes a lengthy violin solo by Greek musician Dimitris Katsoulis.

While MaYaN certainly have potential for a sound they've still only scratched the surface of, what they do within the still relatively small symphonic death metal genre is a lot more adventurous than just about every other band I've heard playing the style, although it's that adventurous nature that could ironically see them alienated as a death metal act; there are a lot of clean vocals by Henning Basse and the music itself can diverge into other metal styles for an extended period of time. To my ears this is still a death metal album however, because you shouldn't really expect an album that is also progressive to bother with the rulebook. Although they may not have done much different between albums, this is what makes Antagonise a case where more of the same is perfectly acceptable.

I've had to give Antagonise many spins to settle on a final opinion, more than I need for most albums. Disappointment over an apparent lack of growth between albums, surrounding Laura Macrì's contributions for the most part, did have me holding back on my initial impressions but at the end of the day quality wins through, and one shouldn't let unmet preconceptions get in the way of appreciating what an album actually sounds like. The songs from Quarterpast are all still as excellent as they were in 2011, but on Antagonise MaYaN have honed the sound of that album, even if it's just by a small amount. I'm confident that, having allowed time for it to sink in, like Quarterpast before it, Antagonise is a 5 star album. I would like to hear them play it a little less safe next time given the clear untapped potential though.

99/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/mayan-antagonise-t3315.html)

MAYAN Quarterpast

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
666sharon666
Originally posted here: http://bit.ly/lxQTKS

(this is my first review and I only wrote it because I was bored and the fact that I love this album, obviously, so hopefully you can forgive a track by track)

Review begins for real now:

This is the debut album from MaYaN. Tagged as “Symphonic Death Metal Opera”, Mayan is a new band of Dutch musician Mark Jansen (Epica, ex-After Forever). For me this is a case of setting the bar really high with the debut album.

Symphony Of Aggression – one of my favourites. The song sets up the album perfectly, containing all the elements that make the sound really great. Jansen’s growl is a really deep one, and fits the death metal sound even better than his work with Epica. Clean vocals from a host of guests also give the album that opera edge mentioned in their branding. A great start.

Mainstay of Society (In the Eyes of the Law: Corruption) – Not as good as Symphony, but still quite powerful. Not really much to say about it other than that.

Quarterpast – This is an interlude, featuring a boys choir. Nothing really to write home about. The metal fan in me sometimes wants to skip it.

Course Of Life – Lots of clean vocals from guest Henning Basse here. It’s less intense on the death metal side of things than the first two tracks were, but I still enjoy it a lot.

The Savage Massacre (In the Eyes of the Law: Pizzo) – Similar sort of feel to the previous track, but guest opera singer Laura Macrì first shows up here. A stunning singer, her contributions to this album are too few by far.

Essenza Di Te – Another interlude and the second Laura Macrì appearance. Seems a showcase of her vocals actually above anything else. I feel less inclined to skip this though.

Bite The Bullet – Not a favourite of mine. The weakest of the non-interlude tracks, but still good.

Drown The Demon – MaYaN really brings the intense death metal back in force here. This is another highlight of the disc for me. Reminds me of After Forever some with great use of Floor Jansen’s powerful voice.

Celibate Aphrodite – another highlight and the third and final use of Laura Macrì’s vocals, and the best use. Her operatic voice broken up with heavy sections of riffing works extremely well. My favourite track overall.

War on Terror (In the Eyes of the Law: Pentagon Papers) – My friend thinks the intro to this sounds like something out of Harry Potter. I basically agree, but the intro serves the track well, although as part of the whole disc it’s not a favourite of mine.

Tithe – An Outro. The only completely pointless track on the disc. Uses pretty much the same melody of the intro to War on Terror. Could really have been a part of said track.

Sinner's Last Retreat (Deed of Awakening) – listed as a bonus track, although I have yet to see a version of the album that doesn’t have it. Lacking this track would be a shame though, because it’s actually one of the best, and there’d be a big hole in the album without it.

CLOSING COMENTS/CONCLUSION: It has a few faults to be fair, but Quarterpast is a highly addictive album. The only other thing to really say is that its a grower. I give it a higher grade now than I would of after one or two listens. But now 5 stars without hesitation. One of the year's best albums. Can't wait for a follow-up.

MAYAN Quarterpast

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
cennsor
[review originally published on http://thecennsor.wordpress.com/]

I’m listening to MaYan‘s Quarterpast for the second time right now, desperately trying to find some reasons why I shouldn’t just follow the instinctive need I felt when I first heard it, to blurt out my utter disappointment and humbly try and bash it as harshly as possible. And no, none found so far.

I apparently can’t help expecting more from the main guy behind my own 2009 album of the year, Epica‘s Design Your Universe. Guitarist Mark Jansen is a vulcanic music prodigy and composer whose creativity can be easily tamed. And that’s just wonderful. In my mind, that equates him to those few musicians that general underground music community’s consensus usually regards as musical geniusses: Arjen Lucassen, Tuomas Holopainen, Dan Swanö, Devin Townsend.

So it’s all the more disappointing to hear what he came up with on his solo/supergroup (yes, it’s both) project MaYan. Mark‘s penchant for death metal is well known, and it was atleast fair to assume his solo writing would go in that direction, especially after Epica replaced two of their former members with death/extreme metal musicians (drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek and guitarist Isaac Delahaye, who not by chance were recruited by Mark for MaYan). Nor should it surprise anyone that MaYan also attempt to reconcile said death metal spurts with Epica‘s symphonic heart.

What does surprise, and in a negative way, is what such an attempt led to. Quarterpast is, at best, an easier-listening version of Sons of Seasons‘ recently released Magnisphyricon: a clot of black-scented furious drumming and nonsensical “lyrical” snipets coming out of nowhere. It may be no coincidence the two projects, comprising members of bands related to one another by means of an on-and-off the stage friendship, actually ended up with similar efforts. I would want to call them “dead ends”, but that’s just wishful thinking: who knows they’ve actually set some stepping stone for future bands to come? Or even, God forbid, for what they’re going to do from now on?

Magnisphyricon is Sons of Seasons‘ sophomore release, and as I tried to phrase here, it takes a none too good debut even further down. MaYan‘s Quarterpast is just a beginning, and it may as well have no lasting consequence on the band’s (possible) future work. Nor, and that’s an old Epica fan’s hope, on the “main” band.

The album’s structure pretty much sums up what I wrote about MaYan‘s style: a frenzying drums-driven death metal song is followed by an ethereal wanna-be lyrical piece, again followed by crazy hyperfast drumming and guitar walls coming out of, and leading to, nothing. One might think a well pondered mixture of these two sides on the same song could give better results, but songs like Bite the Bullet, though not extremely weak, completely shatter such hopes. The final Sinner’s Last Retreat actually comes close to being a sufficient song, but that’s about all the good Quarterpast can offer.

The annoying fillers would perhaps deserve a mention, also being an effective sum of the album’s inconsistency; but suffice it here to say there’s three of them, all of course equally useless.

That said, the album still remains appealing (sad as this may be) to: casual fans of “alternative” kinds of death metal, uncritical supporters of side projects, Epica (or Dutch symphonic metal in general) fangirls and fanboys, and lovers of “new and fresh” sounds at all costs. No doubt this kind of vaguely symphonic, poorly syncretic death metal is something new on “the scene”, and it won’t fail at attracting followers and enthusiasts. Question is: is this a direction worth exploring? Haven’t we been disappointed enough already? Time, and selling figures, will tell.

THUS SPAKE THE CENNSOR: The Cennsor‘s own view (’cause I can’t really provide much more than that) is that it takes more than a couple randomly inserted Italian-sung opera lines and rhythmic brutality all clogged up together to make an album worth listening (and writing, for that matter). Quarterpast was obviously born of Mark Jansen‘s own creativity, in a way the ideas that ultimately led to it probably just needed to see the light. Otherwise they’d be still lingering among his musical thoughts, and that could’ve led to much worse results for, and under the name of, Epica. If there’s something I’d save about Quarterpast, and this whole MaYan project, is that it will probably prevent Epica from going down the same road. And to me, that’s relieving. 5/10

MAYAN Quarterpast

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
adg211288
Quarterpast is the debut album from Dutch metal band MaYaN. The band is a new project from Epica’s guitarist/growler Mark Jansen. The style of the album is branded right on the album’s artwork as ‘Symphonic Death Metal Opera’. That’s pretty accurate besides the fact that there should be a ‘progressive’ in there as well, with Jansen combining his harsh growls with his trademark symphonic elements from Epica (the lineup also features other Epica members Ariën van Weesenbeek (drums, vocals) and Isaac Delahaye (guitar)) and technical and progressive guitar work, additionally including a host of guest clean vocalists.

Rather unsurprisingly those clean vocals include Epica singer Simone Simons, former After Forever (Mark Jansen’s former band for those unaware) singer Floor Jansen and Henning Basse (singer in Simone’s partner Oliver Palotai’s band Sons of Seasons). The only surprise inclusion is one Laura Macrì, who is, according to the MaYaN biography, one of Italy’s biggest opera talents. So that’s established that there are a lot of vocalists on Quarterpast, but I haven’t even mentioned them all yet as aside from Mark Jansen himself there are also harsh vocals from drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek and keyboardist Jack Driessen (also ex-After Forever). To be honest although I can distinguish Jansen’s growls on the album since I’m used to his deep grunting from Epica, I can’t tell the other two growlers apart, although one of them has a more high-pitched scream that doesn’t sound far off the sort of vocals Dimmu Borgir’s Shagrath does.

On paper Quarterpast sounds like a very interesting package. And it is, but with my early listens to it I just couldn't escape the feeling that it was something of a disappointment. Now don't get me wrong, it would be very unfair to say that Quarterpast isn’t a good album, because it certainly is, in fact it’s an exceptionally good album of the masterpiece standard, something which is plain after many listens to allow it to properly sink in, but my early problems with this one was that I was expecting something different from MaYaN on their debut as they are essentially a super-group of seasoned musicians from several different bands and to be completely honest here this album doesn’t sound that far off from something Epica would have done and that’s the problem that I had early on (note the past tense, any disappointments that I did have wore off), it seems to lack any notable influence from the other members, which aside from the Epica members include Frank Schiphorst of the progressive metal band Symmetry on guitar, and bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling (Obscura, Pestilence) to complete the line-up (though the latter has now been replaced with Rob van der Loo prior to the release but not the recording of Quarterpast). A particular disappointment is Thesseling's involvement in something that lacks any really spectacular bass work.

I expect to most death metal fans Epica comes across as just another symphonic metal band with a female singer, but anyone who has actually delved into Epica (especially their most recent two albums) will know that the Epica sound is actually a combination of symphonic and progressive metal for the most part, but they heavy it up a lot in comparison to say Nightwish or Within Temptation, to the point that much of their music has death metal leanings as well, and anyone who knows that will quickly realise when coming to MaYaN that things aren’t that different. Jansen’s growls naturally just take on a larger role than in Epica and there’s more than one clean singer, including some clean male vocals from Henning Basse, but in short Quarterpast is like the extreme side of Epica come to fruition, retaining many recognisable elements from Mark Jansen’s other band.

To further elaborate on the problem I found with Quarterpast what I’d really have liked to have heard was something that was more of a departure from what Jansen has already been doing Epica, and ultimately this really isn’t. Regardless of that quibble from me, Quarterpast is an extremely enjoyable affair that as a metal album comes closer to technical/progressive death metal with symphonic metal influences rather than full on symphonic death metal like, for example, the music of Septicflesh or Hollenthon. The symphonic element here creates not so much an atmosphere (though the short title track interlude sounds very eerie) or a grandiose and epic sound but used to add to the progressive side of the band. In this, things work really well for MaYaN. To be honest these subtle differences are the only thing, vocal delivery aside, that set Jansen’s two bands apart. There are other similarities in the writing, with a trio of songs on the album appearing to belong to a suite (In the Eyes of the Law), which is similar to Epica’s A New Age Dawns. I guess that sort of thing is typical Jansen though; he’s done stuff like this since After Forever.

One of the major troubles is that I find that for something branded as death metal, there is too much emphasis on the clean vocals. To be fair when the clean vocals fit, they fit really well (example: Drown the Demon), but when they don’t...well you get the picture (example: Bite The Bullet). Fortunately that isn’t often, but they do cause one track, Essenza Di Te, to be something of a pointless interlude, which seems to exist for no other reason than to showcase the operatic talents of Laura Macrì, stunning as they are. It’s hardly unbearable, but it does seem somewhat out of place within the bigger picture. Perhaps ironically I find myself wishing for more time for Macrì's vocals on the album, as she actually only appears in three songs, including this interlude. Her parts in Celibate Aphrodite are stunning. If MaYaN is going to stick with using so much clean vocal in a death metal album, then this is the way to do it, and hopefully when they do a follow-up to Quarterpast they'll invite Laura Macrì back and give her much more time to shine. As for the other singers on the album, they all do an excellent job, although I can't shake off the feeling that Henning Basse is used way too much, but that may just be a reactionary thing to the lack of Laura Macrì vocals.

But really other than those vocal quibbles I can’t find anything to really complain about, and I must stress the fact that what quibbles I had early on have worn off in a really big way to the point that I'd actually consider Quarterpast to be one of the year's strongest releases. The members of MaYaN are all clearly talented and competent musicians and the songs are structured pretty well and once I was into it the album makes for quite addictive listening. For all my early disappointment that Jansen hasn’t given Quarterpast much of its own edge, that isn’t necessarily a reason to ultimately dislike the album and I must admit that once I got into the album and knew what to expect, it’s very solid material with some really amazing tracks such as Symphony of Aggression (which certainly lives up to its name), Mainstray of Society, Drown the Demon and Celibate Aphrodite.

So to draw some conclusions here not unexpectedly with an album such as this I feel that it’s going to find more of a market in those already listening to Epica and similar bands than anywhere else (guess I didn’t really need to repeat that). However to have this branded as a death metal album leaves me with some mixed feelings. It’s certainly much more death metal than Epica due to more focus on growls, but I’m concerned by that aforementioned focus on the clean vocals and how well the actual death metal crowd will receive Quarterpast, since this is in no way leaning towards melodeath where clean vocals are more common. The progressive metal crowd however, not to mention those with wide tastes, should find Quarterpast a rewarding listen. Overall I find this album to be rooted more within the progressive metal genre than death metal despite its strong death metal moments. And for all the negative air this review took on, I find Quarterpast to be a very positive experience. It’s just half the time I think I’m listening to Epica. But then, who said that was a bad thing? On that note the most recent Epica full-length Design Your Universe just about gets one up on Quarterpast for being the superior album.

One final note is one I have mentioned a few times, but must do so again because it's very important; I had many disappointments with this album when I first heard it. It has required more than a couple of listens to truly recognise this one for what it is, which is an absolute gem of an album. What points I made about there not being much to separate this from Epica stand, but when the results sound this good, what does that really matter? I know it's strange that in one way the album remains a disappointment, yet I still find it worth such a high score, but maybe that will tell you how powerful this thing is. It's certainly a unique take on 'death metal' though, and I highly recommend giving it a try regardless of your feelings towards Epica or the like.

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven, scoring 9.6/10)

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