MaYaN are set to release their third album shortly. Founded by Epica guitarist Mark Jansen, this symphonic death metal band is heavier than Epica and as well as having released two great albums, their live shows are always fantastic. It’s more like an ensemble than a traditional band with different members there for different shows, so for example when Merel Bechtold is busy with Delain, she’s replaced on guitar by Arjan Rijnen or Jord Otto. The shows feature an amazing array of singers for a band in this genre – as well as Mark Jansen you have George Oosthoek, Henning Basse (although he isn’t a full-time member and just guests now), Adam Denlinger, Marcela Bovio and Laura Macri. The vocalists all have different styles so you get growls, screaming vocals, clean male vocals, clean female vocals and operatic female vocals, all depending which song is being played at the time. The rest of the band are top class too and include Epica drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek.
For this third album they’ve stepped things up a level by recording with a live orchestra for the first time. The orchestra parts were recorded in June this year with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. This world-renowned symphonic orchestra was founded over 60 years ago and are known for their work in movies such as the Star Wars saga, Hannibal (2001), and Arrival (2016). They are also known for recording the orchestral parts of Dimmu Borgir’s album ‘Death Cult Armageddon’.
The addition of the orchestra really makes a big difference and is obvious right from the start of the album. I’m sure it wasn’t cheap to work with an orchestra but the results make it worthwhile.
Dhyana is a concept album that reflects on themes such as remaining aware of our thoughts, removing ego tendencies, and finding out who we really are. In Buddhism, Dhyana is a series of cultivated states of mind, which lead to a “state of perfect equanimity and awareness which sums up the album themes nicely.
The album kicks off with “The rhythm of freedom” which begins with the orchestra and then a choir in a piece that sounds like a movie score, or would be at home on an Epica album, but after 30 seconds or so, the guitars kick in and so do the screaming vocals and it’s clear that after the symphonic bit, here’s the death metal. We then get the clean vocals too. It’s a great heavy song. The choir parts do sound a bit too much like an Epica song, but this is balanced out by the rest of the music being much heavier. It’s a great start to the album.
“Saints don’t die” opens with some operatic vocals and the orchestra which is joined by the rapid drumming of Ariën van Weesenbeek before the guitars kick in and the song morphs into a metal song. The orchestra is used throughout, but it’s not overpowering – this is a metal song first and foremost with the orchestra adding richness and contrast to it.
Despite a couple of the songs being fairly short (around the three minute mark), this eleven track album clocks in at a whopping 65 minutes. It doesnt feel that long though – in fact the time seems to fly past as you listen
It’s a stunningly good album. It’s nice and heavy but has a lot of melody and subtlety too – the raw power is balanced nicely with the softer elements. The mix of vocals is great – growling/grunting, screaming, clean, operatic, this album has it all, and often you’ll find most of those styles thrown into the same song. It’s an approach that could have been a total mess, but it’s been done so well that it really sounds fantastic. It helps give the album it’s unpredictable nature – you’re never sure what to expect from the next song which means the album never starts to feel dull. It really is hard to describe the sheer variety of stuff here, ranging from bombastic symphonic sounds to brutal death metal and everything in between.
This is definitely one of my favourite albums this year, and if it wasn’t for Ghost’s “Prequelle” being so stunning this would have been my top album of the year so far. A fantastic album – now I’m desperately counting down the days till the album launch show as I can’t wait to hear these new songs performed live.
Dhyana will be released on 21st September 2018
1. The rhythm of freedom
2. Tornado of thoughts – I don’t think therefore I am
3. Saints don’t die
5. Rebirth from despair
6. The power process
7. The illusory self
9. Maya – The veil of delusion
10. The flaming god of rage
11. Set me free