Monday, May 30, 2011

MaYan - Quarterpast (2011)

MaYan, the brainchild of former After Forever and current Epica guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen, is ready to take the world by storm. The band manages to combine the headbanging death metal style with endless symphonic arrangements. To further the experience as perhaps the only "symphonic death metal opera" outfit, they enlisted a veritable "who's who" of female vocalists. Floor Jansen of Revamp (and formerly After Forever), Simone Simons of Epica and Italian Opera powerhouse Laura Macri all lend their talents to this epic offering.

When a tracklist begins with "Symphony Of Aggression," you have a good idea of what you are in for. High speed drumming, distorted guitar chords and chaotic keys kick things off. The first harsh growls emerge, in true death metal style. But the lyrical content is not lost in the violent delivery. Symphonic bursts pad things out, tying all of the brutal pieces together. Things calm down, and whispered words give way to beautiful female vocals. But before long, the assault begins anew, with black metal screeching sharing time with operatic vocals and deafening roars.

"Mainstay Of Society" is the embodiment of the "death metal opera" term, with characters delivering their lines over the backing of the heaviest orchestra pit ever created. Winding guitars compliment the symphonic leads. The presence of distorted chugging keeps the track moving, and leaves the perfect canvas for over the top vocals. But Jansen's grunts and screams are the star. "Quarterpast" provides a short respite of orchestration before returning to the beating in "Course Of Life." The bass lines prop up the guitars, while clean vocals take turns with screams of fury. Double kicks are ever present, almost taking the tracks to a blackened place, especially when combined with the heavy shredding. A somber bridge section is a mood setter, before being dashed to bits with hellish vocal passages.

"The Savage Massacre" is just that, pummeling you with every passing drums fill and guitar sweep. It is an all out assault on your ears, with only slivers of light breaking through the dark clouds. The second interlude will leave you breathless, as "Essenza de Ti" recalls memories of lost love. All of the emotion of that moments disappears quickly in a fury of guitar scales, in the surprisingly melodic and poignant "Bite The Bullet." Male and female vocals highlight one another, with a powerful message of transparency. Growls are dished out, with enchanting female vocal scales flowing in the background. "Drown The Demon" begins in a dark place, with the low end taking the lead. Uptempo chugging crashes head on into the growls of Jansen. Dual operatic vocals take over, as the symphony builds to a fever pitch.

"Celibate Aphrodite" is a headbangers delight, with stomping verses and winding choruses. The band manages flawlessly cut away from the heavy, directly into the sublime, and back again without it feeling forced. "War On Terror" starts as a demented waltz, before descending into darkness and death. The symphony takes the lead, providing direct support to the hoarse, low register screams. With every drum fill, you will find yourself admiring the precision and timing. The outro, in the form of the track "Tithe" is little more than piano and sound effects, with a soft whisper darting in and out.

There is little more one can say about this listening experience. The attention to detail is astonishing, and the writing speaks for itself. If you have grown tired of the stereotypical female vocals, and you yearn for something both brutally heavy and existential, then this is a call to arms. If you feel the earth begin to quake, and think the sky is falling, it isn't the end of the world. Just lower the volume a notch. Nah, fuck it. Turn it up.


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