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Nuclear Blast (2014)
Rating: 9/10

It’s amazing how some artists manage to be prolific without sacrificing quality to the gods of quantity. Mark Jansen is a man who releases albums with multiple bands, yet has never produced a low quality song. Hell, the guy can’t really be said to release mediocre songs.

Considering his work with After Forever and Epica, we may not have seen what Jansen is capable of until he formed MaYaN. As good as the Dutch melodic death prog act’s debut Quarterpast (2011) was, MaYaN comes into their own on Antagonise.

With no disrespect to MaYaN’s previous effort, Antagonise is a vast improvement over the band’s debut. Musically, the songs on this release are all over the map. There are elements of death metal, power metal, prog rock and symphonic metal. Often this occurs within the same song. ‘Redemption – The Democracy Illusion’ features guitars that alternate between death metal riffing and power metal crescendos. A horn section adds an orchestral touch through a very power metal sound structure, and keyboard riffs that bring to mind the best moments of Uriah Heep abound. The 11 songs contained in this epic defy genre boundaries, and can only be described as kick ass metal.

All of this is only capable due to the impressive skills of the musicians performing under the MaYaN name. ‘Bloodline Forfeit’ bursts forth in a flurry of guitar and drums that is one of the most stunning rhythms in modern metal. Jansen’s death metal barks give way to the soaring vocals of Henning Basse on the melodic chorus. The song closes with a flowing, fluid guitar solo that rises above the brute strength of the rhythm to add beauty to the heavy metal monster Jansen and company are creating. MaYaN impresses from the first seconds on Antagonise.

This constant stylistic shifting becomes part of the charm of this album. After experiencing the opening track the listener is prepared for the rich experience he is about to be immersed in. ‘Burn Your Witches’ has a similar impact, using Basse’s nearly operatic vocals in contrast to Jansen’s throaty grunts to create a chorus that’s both beautiful and beastly.

The deadly attack of ‘Lone Wolf’ brings to mind Dimmu Borgir in its heavy moments, and the pseudo insane vocals of Jon Oliva (Savatage, Jon Oliva’s Pain) in his prime at its most melodic. There are even moments of blissful beauty. ‘Insano’ showcases the rich vocals of Laura Macri, placed among acoustic guitars, piano and orchestral sounds. MaYaN adhere to no limits, and for that reason Antagonise is a fulfilling listen.

All of the elements that made Quarterpast a great debut are in full force on Antagonise, but more focused. The brutality, time shifts and melody that abounded on the album’s predecessor are tighter, more fluid, and altogether more dangerous. Several songs have political overtones as seen in such titles as ‘Paladins Of Deceit – National Security Extremism Part 1’ (an outstanding piece of work musically as well as lyrically) and the accompanying album closer ‘Faceless Spies – National Security Extremism Part 2’. Songs like ‘Enemies Of Freedom’ include samples from politicians in recent years. It’s quite possible that this Dutch band has channeled the anger most Americans feel over the way our government has turned on its populace and its allies via the National Security Agency. No American band has yet tapped into the disgust I feel as a US citizen having my privacy violated by my government as MaYaN has.

MaYaN’s debut was good, and almost stepped over the boundary into greatness. Antagonise shows a band that is fresh, hungry and ready to succeed. These songs are just as heavy and unforgiving as those on Quarterpast, yet the album as a whole feels more accessible. MaYaN continues to challenge listeners, but on this release the songs flow better, and this focused approach has resulted in the band’s best music to date. Mark Jansen has released the best album of his life, and is going to have to work fairly hard to top this for his next outing.

Jim McDonald

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