Released: 2014, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Billed as a more extreme offshoot of Dutch symphonic metal heroes Epica, MaYan are more successfully and authoritatively true to their word with their second album, and are able to build some extra distance between the two bands – even if Mark Jansen is the driving force behind them both.
Antagonise steps up the aggression and bile of MaYan’s 2011 debut Quarterpast, jockeying between genuinely brutal melodic/progressive death metal and symphonic black metal that at times recalls Enthrone Darkness Triumphant-era Dimmu Borgir with haunting, opulent keyboards – yet largely manages to steer clear of gothic cheesiness and bloat. Indeed, while its still cloaked in orchestration, operatic vocalizing and theatricality, Antagonise feels comparatively streamlined and focused, thanks no doubt to its fuller, heavier, more forceful sound.
Where Jansen's deathly growling dominated, indeed often overpowered, the mix on Quarterpast, they fit more naturally here amid the muscular “Bloodline Forfeit,” “Human Sacrifice” and “Burn Your Witches,” the shape-shifting “Lone Wolf” or the blazing black metally “Devil In Disguise.” And they are better balanced by the more pronounced clean vocal contrast of Henning Basse and the female accompaniment of Laura Macrì, Epica's Simone Simons and Nightwish's Floor Jansen.
Though it forgoes the debut’s pretentious “Symphonic Death Metal Opera” subtitling, Antagonise still is very much of a thematic work, weaving together story lines about electronic surveillance, media manipulation, political deceit and even the death penalty to cast aspersions and doubt on the notions of personal freedom and justice. “Capital Punishment” is a bit obvious and heavyhanded, but “Paladins of Deceit” and “Faceless Spies” - a two-part ”National Security Extremism” opus with six other tracks between them – are effective presented and thought-provoking, even if they are “ripped from headlines,” as it were.
Antagonise is a big, bad step up for MaYan and lays a formidable foundation for the future of the band – whatever that may be, given that Epica will soon be releasing a new album too. And it sets the bar pretty high for them as well.