MAYAN — Quarterpast (review)

MAYAN — Quarterpast album cover Album · 2011 · Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
2.5/5 ·
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
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