(Nuclear Blast Records)

Mayan is a perfect example of the classic case where an album starts out great, sometimes even phenomenal; but fails to deliver all of the way through. This seven-piece super group of sorts certainly delivers in spades with “Bloodline Forfeit” and “Burn Your Witches” but it fails to capture my attention with tracks like the gun-control themed “Enemies Of Freedom.” The band attempts to capitalize on the symphonic death metal of SepticFlesh and utilizes some noteworthy power and prog aesthetics, but some of the songs just come off boring on the latter part of the album. If this had been an EP, it probably would’ve done much better. As far as composition goes, they’ve pretty much got everything – clean male and female vocals, death metal gravel (some don’t prefer this gravel though, as one individual already protested, claiming it that of the “chocolate milk variety” of which makes me wonder what would classify as strawberry or banana milk) and an orchestra with enough bombast to make you think that you’re watching a John Williams film.

After we have a look at the players in this game, we’ll find that former God Dethroned skinsman Arlen Van “that’s why the drums sound so good” Weesenbeeck is on the kit here too, bringing surefire might and muscle to the whole performance. He also contributes a few grunts. Of course, Mark Jansen from Epica does the “chocolate milk” gravel, screams a bit and contributes to the band’s orchestral fare. Frank Schlphorst (formerly of Control Human Delete and Prostitute Disfigurement) handles the axe on this album, dealing out some wonderful sections on the disc. Jack Driessen (ex-After Forever) adds some brilliant keyboards to the disc, and he also screams a bit on it as well. Rob Van Der Loo handles the bass duties just as well as he does in Epica, while former Brainstorm frontman Henning Basse handles the clean vocals. He handled the band in their earlier stages, which I found forgettable until Ambiguity released. He does a stronger job on the clean vocals here, however. Laura Macri and new Nighwish siren Floor Jansen handle the female vocal duties just as well as you’d expect, but you’ll have to wait to hear Epica’s mystical maiden Simone Simmons when the band performs this material live. And replacing Epica and former God Dethroned axeman Isaac Delahaye, is a newbie by the name of Merel Bechtold. He also handles some solo duties on the disc, so he proves his salt for the most part. But sadly, former Obscura and Pestilence bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling flew the coop on this one.

The structures seem to deliver well however, mixing gothic and death metal elements with that of technical and prog landscapes, making it easily digestible to those who wouldn’t like this kind of music had it not contained the “technical” and “progressive” elements. But no matter how well you can run through the piano keys on closer “Faceless Spies,” there is no way that you can convince me that the acoustic female operatic “Insano 2:58” even belongs on this piece. SepticFlesh knew better after they put the “Underworld” saga on A Fallen Temple. Clearly, this work would’ve served better on another project and I’m sure that interesting stares will ensue from the others in the vehicle who just realized that the pulse-pounding metal they were listening to just a few seconds ago just took a turn for folk opera. To which one says, “Oops! Sorry guys. I just got this thing and haven’t heard it yet.” When I was in a band, I used to have to go through the same crap, so I’m sure that the very thing I’ve just mentioned has already happened somewhere in the metal world. For some odd reason, the bonus track for the album is the opener “Descry,” which just adds an instrumental opening to the disc and isn’t really necessary, so save yourself the trouble unless it comes with a DVD.

Nevertheless, there are some strong tracks like I’ve mentioned with the first few and I can easily add “Redemption” and “Paladins Of Deceit” to those. The drumming, technical precision, impressive solo work and overall epic feeling of the album serve to make it a decent effort for the most part. After the first few tracks, I was even under the assumption that Mayan had somehow been able to unearth the album of the year from some ancient underground tomb. But upon a further listen of the piece, that prediction became shot down just like the Mayan apocalypse of 2012. But if you want to check out this album and watch 2012 at the same time, feel free to do that. This disc will probably serve as a good accompaniment to that experience and it’s even got its own film score to boot. But that’s all it’s going for it. Though I haven’t heard the band’s earlier release to compare, who am I kidding? Therion did the metal opera much better anyway. (Eric May)

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