Life is all about choices, priorities, options. I guess that Mark Janssen has plenty of those to make now given his side project, Dutch symphonic metallers MaYaN seem to be gaining ground on his main artistic project, Epica. I’ve written about MaYaN previously here. Although I thought that their previous album “Quarterpast” had some moments, I didn’t think that it was anything other than alright and I’m afraid that alright might not be quite good enough any more.
Despite my caution, it would be fair to say that MaYaN had more than a positive impact and they have spent the past couple of years circling the globe, winning lots of new fans in lots of far flung places where their particular brand of metal appears to have a fairly robust foothold. Fair play to them.
Two years on takes us to the latest offering from Janssen and company and it is more of the same but with steroids. “Antagonise” is an altogether stronger record than “Quarterpast” which suffered from trying to tick every single box in the death metal catalogue rather than focussing on especially strong tunes. That’s less of a concern here where “Antagonise” feels much more solid body of work, if this is the sort of body of work you warm to.
Lyrically the album deals with a number of contemporary themes such as the power of large corporations, the perceived corruption of the state, incessant and repeated surveillance and the eternal subjugation of the masses- decent bedfellows for this sort of music then.
Musically, all of the elements that made “Quarterpast” a welcoming, if not always entirely successful record, are in place but there’s a greater efficiency and effectiveness to the overall record which is to their credit. Take ‘Lone Wolf’ as an example: the juxtaposition of the guttural death metal growl, symphonic metal backdrop and big choruses which could be clunky in the wrong hands seems much more effortless this time round; likewise, on the pounding ‘Human Sacrifice’ with its blastbeat drumming and vengeful lyrical content is entirely successful death metal. Add in the striking soprano of Laura Macri and you have something that is aiming for the stars, rather than simply churning out a “will this do?” rent-a-thrash.
“Antagonise” is a step forward for MaYaN; it’s more confident, has better songs and, in parts, threatens to melt your face off. In a nice, melodic way, of course.