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Mayan - "Antagonise" (CD)

Mayan - "Antagonise" CD cover image

"Antagonise" track listing:

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

Reviewed by on January 6, 2014

"For many, this will represent a vast improvement over the symphonic counterpart, especially if you’ve become overly weary of the plethora of bands with mostly operatic female vocals."

I imagine it is the goal of most musicians to have their most current creations be the best releases of their careers. I wonder if the same applies to bands when a musician has multiple projects and one of them is a long established act with an album history that defines him? I don’t know whether Mark Jansen started MaYaN as an outlet for more extreme metal to distinguish from Epica or whether he set out to utterly top his symphonic female-fronted alter ego. What happened was within one album removed from a stunning debut, MaYaN managed to wipe out its predecessor and half of the mighty Epica with the stunning effort called “Antagonise.” Fueled by the recent, but completely non-shocking, disclosure that the NSA (the shady underhanded part of the United States that is responsible for most of the hatred aimed at the country) was covertly spying on its own allies, Jansen channeled brutal anger into one of the most compelling pieces of melodic death metal ever.

Like a machine gun, the album shoots out of the gate with an assault that rarely relents. Jansen sports one of the most perfect death metal voices in terms of annunciation and depths of his throaty grunts. It just enhances the fierceness of the riffs for an overall level of “cool.” Juxtaposed is Henning Basse, who puts on a display of majestic melody for a disharmonious union. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking Basse is merely a “clean co-vocalist,” because make no mistake about it – Henning can rake his chords over a bed of pebbles for a gravel laden lullaby just as pernicious as Jansen. Now that Henning has achieved permanent status, his increased use is both prominent and crucial to the album’s success. Add to the mix Jansen’s better half Laura Macri, who is tastefully used as mostly enhancement, and MaYaN is by far a better act with a dominating male presence.

Musically, all the technical progressive elements and time changes from “Quarterpast” are there, but oddly enough, the album sounds much more direct and accessible. The myriad of time changes are much more acceptable here, as if Fleshgod Apocalypse was playing 1/3 it’s speed. Laced with venomous grinding riffs that encase the vocal duet of Jansen and Henning, songs like “Redemption – The Democracy Illusion” and “Paladins of Deceit” hit an endemic quality that is slightly reminiscent in style to Epica’s “Kingdom of Heaven” (still revered by this author as one of Epica’s greatest achievements). Peppered throughout the album are samples of specifically attuned political speeches.

The album’s most deadly piece is “Lone Wolf,” one of the most passionate expressions of death and melody where Jansen is at his most guttural and Basse is at his most emotional. Macri shines on the short number “Insano,” otherwise her vocals are accentual as in “Capital Punishment.” For the catchiest track you needn’t go any further than “Redemption – The Democracy Illusion,” where Jack Driessen’s keyboards add a perfect touch against a blinding riffage backdrop. When all is said and done, it’s as if MaYaN has come back closer to an Epica style rather than pulling further away. For many, this will represent a vast improvement over the symphonic counterpart, especially if you've become overly weary of the plethora of bands with mostly operatic female vocals.

As one who places Epica on a pedestal for the last ten years as one of the best in the business, it was shocking how fast MaYaN has caught up and in many ways exceeded Epica’s recent formula. “Antagonise” comes across more like the successor to “Design Your Universe” (as if Simone departed and the band went with on a male/male path) rather than “Quarterpast.” It is by far one of the best displays of symphonic/melodic death metal on record since the subgenre was spawned.

Highs: An album that exceeds the debut and many Epica releases.

Lows: For those that wanted MaYaN to progress further from Epica, it worked the opposite on "Antagonise."

Bottom line: MaYaN "antagonizes" the NSA with an album that may topple Epica itself.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)