Produced by Sascha Paeth
Epica mastermind Mark Jansen's death metal side project MaYaN might have surprised those with only a casual interest in his main band. For those more familiar with Epica's output though, the project shouldn't come as a surprise at all. The current line up of both bands share two former God Dethroned members (Isaac Delahaye and Ariën van Weesenbeek) for one thing, and Epica themselves have always had a strong leaning towards death metal despite being mostly known for Simone Simons' voice.
With that in mind, MaYaN isn't as far a departure from Epica as originally thought. Rather, it sounds more like the darker twin, with Mark Jansen's usual supporting growl switching places with Simone's soprano. Quarterpast is a much more progressive record than anything Epica produced, with more intricate and unusual song structures – although the tracks themselves are noticeably shorter (though at 7:49 in length, opener Symphony of Aggression is far from short). As such, whilst Quarterpast is progressive, it certainly isn't quite as epic as Mark's other band. Not that this really works against the album; the shorter lengths allow for the album to feel like a separate entity, not simply mimicking the better known outfit.
The other major difference is the quantity of vocalists on the album. Whilst Mark Jansen takes the lead vocalist spot, and backing vocals are provided by the rest of the band, the album also enjoys appearances from Simone Simons, Metalium/Sons of Seasons singer Henning Basse, ex-After Forever/ReVamp singer Floor Jansen, and Italian opera singer Laura Macrí. All four singers put in terrific performances as can be expected. It shouldn't be surprising that Floor or Simone come off well, since they are always on strong form, though what is noteworthy is the pair dueting together on Drown The Demon. Henning is also on good form, whilst Laura Macrí puts on a suitably appropriate performance for a woman deemed 'one of the biggest Italian opera talents' on the operatic interlude Essenza Di Te ("Essence of You"). Like Avantasia and Ayreon (both of whom MaYaN are probably going to find themselves described as the death metal version of), the singers have recurring vocal parts rather than simply making one off guest appearances. The album sounds like these singers are an equal part of the band, with their parts flowing together seemlessly.
Other than these factors, MaYaN should prove to be fairly familiar. By utilizing the same producer (Sascha Paeth) as Epica's last album, Quarterpast ends up feeling like the logical continuation of Design Your Universe. Yes, it is a heavier album (read: no ballads), but not by a significant amount. The album retains Epica's sense of melody and strong songwriting, though at the same time has much less pop-appeal than Epica have (though to be fair, Design Your Universe wasn't a particularly poppy album either). The guitar parts are suitably heavy on death metal riffing – again, something Epica's music tends to enjoy. Likewise, the lyrical content follows similar themes – where The Divine Conspiracy and The Embrace That Smothers series focused on the abuses of religion, Quarterpast (and In The Eyes of The Law series in particular) focuses on the abuses of untrustworthy and corrupt authority figures. There are subtle differences between the the two band's sounds, but not enough so that Epica fans might find themselves alienated by the record – unless they were the type to skip the heavier sections.
The important question though is if Quarterpast meets the high quality of Design Your Universe – and the answer is most certainly, yes. The album is less immediate than The Divine Conspiracy, but more so than the long and sometimes overwhelming Design Your Universe. It equals both in its intelligence and complexity. It has all the essential qualities of an Epica album, yet adds an extra dimension which keeps the album interesting. It is unlikely to disappoint existing fans of Epica, and whilst it is unlikely to convert naysayers due to some of their obvious similarities, it might just be different enough to change a mind or two.
“ the logical continuation of Design Your Universe ”
Tracklist: Symphony of Aggression / Mainstay of Society – In the Eyes of the Law: Corruption / Quarterpast / Course of Life / The Savage Massacre – In the Eyes of the Law: Pizzo / Essenza Di Te / Bite the Bullet / Drown the Demon / Celibate Aphrodite / War on Terror – In the Eyes of the Law: Pentagon Papers / Tithe
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