If there are any words destined to strike fear into the hearts of music fans everywhere, it’s surely “side” and “project”. It’s not that we don’t appreciate productivity- we do; it’s not that we don’t appreciate creativity- no, we’ll have some of that too, please. It’s just that, well, for every diamond there is a bucketload of dross to have to wade through- pile upon pile of self-indulgent dirge with little or no redeeming features. Really, honestly, there aren’t enough hours in the day.
MaYaN is the new side project for Epica‘s main man and protestant work ethic adherent, Mark Jansen. This is a project that, his record label positively reassure us, he is VERY SERIOUS about. The enigmatic artwork- a half man, half Minotaur crossing its fingers either in hope or anticipation, suggests the artist also hopes we will take this as seriously as he does. So let’s do just that.
“Quarterpast” is a bit of a heavy metal curio. It’s no instant classic but neither is it a godawful mess. ‘Mainstay of Society’ is a punchy number with the right levels of keyboard extravagances, crunchy riffing and balance of ferocious death growl and romantic vocalising that you’d expect from the Epica crew. It works because it’s controlled and focussed and, crucially, it’s a decent tune. The same can’t be said for every other track, sadly.
The title track begins as if it were the musical accompaniment to the opening of a horror movie- all choirs singing, atmospheric, layered keyboards- you know the drill- but just as the scene has been set we are hauled into ‘Course of Life’, which, whilst it has a nice dynamic and power all of its own, feels like a bad case of tracklisting- it’s just a bit awkward.
‘Bite the Bullet‘ and ‘Drown the Demon’ are two vignettes that have a certain charm but they don’t resonate long in the memory. However, ‘Essenza Di Te’, a two minute harp-led interlude hints at musical territory yet discovered and, again, there’s a cinematic quality to it- you could easily see this in a gangster movie.
All in all “Quarterpast” is a pretty decent effort but at times it tries just a little bit too hard; natural melodies are sometimes beaten over the head into submission to the technical prowess on display and whilst I love off-kilter time changes as much as the next obscurantist contrarian, sometimes its all about what you leave out, not what you put in. There’s plenty to admire about “Quarterpast”, but I’m not sure there’s enough to completely love.