Living on the edge!

MaYaN – Dhyana (album review) ★★★★★

It has been a while, since the Dutch symphonic death metal collective MaYaN released a record: 4 years to be precisely. On 21 September 2018 they will release their newest album called “Dhyana” via Nuclear Blast. MaYaN has about 11 permanent members by itself, who all worked together to create the album. Adding dozens musicians to the already quite filled-to-the-brim sound of MaYan, could that lead to an overdose of complexity? To much layering and loss of detail? Or does it drown in it’s endeavor to reach perfection? There are a lot of examples out there of how this goes terribly wrong, but there should always be one exception. Can “Dhyana” be that exception?

I saw MaYaN for the first time at Dokk’em Open Air 2014 and the tracks of their album “Antagonise” on the spotify-playlist of that years edition got my attention. It was quite different from the rest of the bands. A bit of brutal and bombastic death metal, but with a symphonic twist and some extreme complex layering. I was amazed how much of that layering survived in their live sets!

To put a capital “B” in bombastic, Mayan sought and found collaboration with the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra for this album, which is known for some really big film scores like Alexander, Star Wars and Hannibal. But not only film scores, this is also the orchestra which plays on the album “Death Cult Armageddon” of Dimmu Borgir!

The first track, “The Rhythm Of Freedom”, has a build-up like that one of a classic movie score. Not very strange of course, but after a few seconds it’s changing when the guitars and drums kick in. Still, throughout the album the feeling of an epic movie never leaves my mind. Mainly caused by the brass and violins of the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

The grunts and screams of mainly Mark Jansen and George Oosthoek, makes it a recognizable MaYaN track, which feeds the hunger for more. What I love in “Tornado Of Thoughts” is the break, right after a pretty raw piece with a small breathtaking duet of Marcela Bovio and Laura Macrì. Brass is very audible and so are the violins. Right after that, the pedal goes to the metal. Literally and figuratively.

“Saints Don’t Die” is typically a song you can’t listen enough. There is so much going on, that even after more than a dozen times, you still discover a new layer of sound or a subtle fill where you didn’t expected it. Even when the double bass drum is pumping madly, the balance of all the layers is just right. Marcela and Laura are really flexing their vocal powers in this song. The clean singing is awesome, but for me the opera part is a real “oh wow” moment.

MaYaN – Dhyana (official video)

But that is nothing compared to the title track “Dhyana”. Starting in Italian, it is perfect in it’s simplicity. With only an acoustic guitar to accompany them at first, later joined by violins and a cello. Goosebumps where you didn’t know you could have them!

The difference with the next song, “Rebirth Of Dispair”, couldn’t be bigger. Big, epic, rough and heavy and with the brass of the orchestra and the choir-singing of Laura and Marcela, take you to the complete opposite side of the MaYaN-spectrum and back. The changes, the instruments used, the vocals. Damn what a song this is!

With “The Power Process” the band is returning to a somewhat more recognizable MaYaN-sound and the orchestra makes it extra enjoyable. The community singing of Marcela and Laura is impressively beautiful. As is the community singing of Henning and Laura on “The Illusory Self”. Damn! The grunts of Mark are almost demonic, compared to the angelic voices of Marcela and Laura.

“Satori” is the much needed breather from all the pumping metal up to now. Not that “Satori” is an easy or simple song! The layering is better audible and the tempo is a lot slower and therefore more recognizable. It might be a somewhat odd song, but the fans of MaYaN certainly love this stuff and so do I. To be honest, the combination of the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Laura Macrì is nothing short of stellar! The song “Satori” is best consumed with closed eyes to feel every note of every layer in every goosebump!

If you think this album climaxed with “Satori”, you haven’t heard the rest yet. “Maya – The Veil Of Delusion” is a pretty fast song, but damn! What an immense stack of layers this song has. After listening a dozen times to this song, I still discovered new sounds, voices and tempo changes. Although it is a heavy and pretty fast song, it has quite some classical influences. These kind of twists makes it terribly interesting to listen to.

Even though the title of the next song suggests something different, the tempo of “The Flaming Rage Of God” goes a notch down and has a somewhat more flowing vocals and the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra is more audible than ever; especially during the solo’s. The break and the following build-up is stellar. An orchestra going at it, together with the band makes it sound massive!

The last song of this album “Set Me Free” is the only one who gives me a bit of a doubt. Not that it is bad, but it is not the ‘hero wins’ (or even the ‘hero loses’) kind of track. If “The Flaming Rage Of God” was the last track and “Set Me Free” second last, the ending was stronger in my opinion, but maybe I am thinking to much in a move score direction.

To review an album, I mostly listen to it for a few times in my car before I start any writing. With this album that was not an option. There is so much to be heard, that it took my attention to much away from the traffic.
To be honest, I’ve listened this album about 12 times of which two times lying down with my eyes closed, just to hear every little detail. One time on my stereo and one time with my headphones and I still need a few more sessions to get my head around all the details going on. Intriguing ad fuck!

The build-up of this album is that of a movie and for that I like a concept album, but I don’t think the latter is the case, although the linking thread is there. The collaboration with the City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra turned out to be golden. It didn’t lead to an overdose in complexity, for the ones who like this kind of complex music. There is absolutely no loss of details, because the mix is perfect and the aim for perfection is very well executed.

With songs like “Dhyana” and “Satori” MaYan shows they are musically and technically superior in this genre. I know I have to listen to this album at least 20 times and I am looking forward to totally emerge in it and enjoy every fucking little detail.

I can’t wait to see them live, especially performing “Dhyana”!

Score: 9.1/10 ★★★★★

01. The Rhythm of Freedom
02. Tornado of Thoughts (I Don’t Think Therefore I Am)
03. Saints Don’t Die
04. Dhyana
05. Rebirth from Despair
06. The Power Process
07. The Illusory Self
08. Satori
09. Maya (The Veil of Delusion)
10. The Flaming Rage of God
11. Set Me Free

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