20 May 2011
by Tom Dare
Symphonics in metal have long-since ceased to be limited to the exceptionally evil (Emperor) and the excessively heroic (Blind Guardian et al) and ventures into the totally insane (Therion) aren’t unheard of in the modern era. But Marc Jansen of Epica’s new sideproject MaYaN is one of the most barking mad to have reared it’s twitching head for a while.
Sathanas only knows what 17 word subgenre they’ll try and crowbar Quarterpast into, because stylistically this is a real melting pot. Gnarly death metal, jazzy prog, widdly power metal and grandiose orchestration form the musical basis, although from time to time you’ll hear flashes of half a dozen other styles popping up, and the vocals run through death grunts, Dani Filth-like shrieks, straight-up heavy metal tenor, operatic soprano and Simone Simons’ gothic lilt.
The net effect is to force you to keep on your toes- don’t expect to get to the stage where you know what’s coming next early on, because it’s about as predictable as a pond-full of frogs with mania. The real threat of proceedings collapsing into an unfocused, tangential mess looms large, and at times MaYaN come close to flying off the rails in spectacular fashion. But despite this train taking some corners so fast one set of wheels are in the air, it manages to stay on track- albeit by the skin of its teeth in places.
Essentially the craziest changes of direction are held in place by three key factors. First, the symphonics form a kind of musical trellis that the twisting insanity can grow along, holding everything together in a manner that (admittedly at times only just) does provide some kind of cohesion to the gear shifts. Secondly there are enough individual moments of quality and clarity – riffs, leads and most often some glorious vocal passages – that you can bear with the virtual chaos until it starts to smooth out and make sense, something that blessedly happens early enough that its not testing your patience. Finally, when it does make sense – and most of it eventually does – it’s actually rather splendid.
Watch a trailer for Quarterpast here:
While it may at times show that this is a new collaboration attempting to do 28 things at once, and it doesn’t hang together 100% of the time, those moments when it all slots together perfectly do exactly what they set out to. Be that getting lost in the lush (and highly accomplished) orchestration, singing along with some of the stellar vocal lines, raging with the extreme bits or any of the other myriad of things they try to make you feel, they succeed more than sufficiently to make the occasional musical non sequitur forgivable.
It’s not perfect, and it may take you a while to wrap your brain around, but Quarterpast has enough major virtues to make the effort required worthwhile- and to hope for a second album to see if they can smooth out the creases.
Sounds like: A crazy hybrid of Epica, Symphony X and Opeth
Top tracks: Symphony Of Aggression, Course Of Life, Drown The Demon
MaYaN – Quarterpast tracklisting:
Symphony Of Aggression
Mainstay Of Society
Course Of Life
The Savage Massacre
Essenza Di Te
Bite The Bullet
Drown The Demon
War On Terror