Epica co-founder Mark Jansen looks like he's a busy man with all the writing, recording and touring he does with the Dutch symphonic metallers who are becoming a successful band world wide.
Obviously he must have some spare time as in 2010 he formed Mayan with ex-After Forever keyboard player Jack Driessen as he felt he wanted to do some symphonic death Metal that didn't suit Epica. As the first album 'Quarterpast' was a success Mayan have now got as far as releasing their second album and a fascinating listen it is.
This is a difficult album to describe easily as it has so many diverse ideas and influences on show. The death Metal leanings mentioned in some of the promotional stuff is a little misleading. There are certainly some very heavy sections and lots of grunting and growling vocals but there is far too much melody around for that tag to really apply.
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It is in fact the variety of vocal styles which stick out to me most, Jansen does his trademark growling stuff with the occasional deep scream added in but you also get Henning Basse's more traditional rock stylings and Laura Macri's lovely soprano plus guest appearances by Marcela Bovio of Stream Of Passion and Floor Jansen of Revamp/Nightwish. There's even a choir!
The music too is multi-layered and every song has so much going on it can be overwhelming at times. There are multiple time-changes and screaming guitar riffs, and keyboards in huge slabs or simple delicate notes. There are lovely melodic sections and harmonies and brutal heavy sections.
Probably the most amazing thing about this album is Arien Van Weesenbeek's brilliant drumming. He's damn impressive with Epica but here he is the lynch pin holding such huge diverse song structures together and he does an amazing job. He might be the guy able to do the fastest drum fills around too.
I haven't singled out any individual songs in this review as this is where the complexity of this album lets it down a little. There is so much going sometimes it's tough to grasp an individual song's identity and from the opening black Metal rhythyms of opening track 'Bloodline Forfeit' to the closing epic keyboards led ending of 'Faceless Spies-National Security Extremism Part 2' it's sometimes hard to figure out what went where.
I've lived with the album for a few days now though and I find it's growing on me and there's always something new to notice. Favourite songs may emerge yet.
Verdict: This is an album that musically needed a lot of weight to carry the lyrical content, spitting venom and anger about the state of the world we live in and it's certainly heavy enough to have succeeded in that.
However Mayan have moved closer to Epica in style with this album and infused more melody while retaining a more complex, demanding edge than Jansen's better known band. It's growing on me and for anyone who likes their music heavy but melodic, complex, demanding and frankly a bit bonkers this is an album worth giving a chance.
Mark Jansen | grunts & screams
Hennung Basse | vocals
Laura Macri | soprano
Jack Driessen | keys
Frank Schiphorst | guitars
Rob van der Loo | bass
Ariën van Weesenbeek | drums