Mayadome - Near Life Experience


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Siegen Records
Catalog Number: SR-0013
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:09:00

When I first heard Mayadome's Paranormal Activity some years ago, the first thoughts that entered my mind were that if there was a band that exemplified what most people define as progressive metal, this disc would be it. It had a certain Dream Theater influence to the sound, but something about this band made it stand out from the rest of the pack that seemed bent on cloning that particular sound. Mayadome sought to reach past the boundaries of that sound and style and inject it with much more, and they succeeded in doing so. With a heavy, pounding guitar crunch, intricate keyboards, and certainly some of the best drumming the prog metal world has experienced, you'd think that Mayadome was poised to become a household word in a prog fan's world. Unfortunately, the singer at the time wasn't as effective as he should have been, and some of the only complaints I've ever heard about Mayadome at that point was that the singer was weak - the only complaint I've ever heard about the band was that the music was TOO progressive, and that's a preference more than a complaint in my book. Many moons passed by, and the prog metal world wondered if there would ever be another Mayadome disc, and in 1999, the new disc, Near Life Experience was released on the prog metal world.

THE STYLE

On Near Life Experience, Mayadome has sought to increase and better some of the elements of their last disc that maybe they thought were lacking, so they found a new singer, increased the melodies compared to Paranormal Activity, cranked up the progressive attitude a whole bunch, and proceeded to shake the DT sound and style even more. They have succeeded in their mission. What's left is a progressive feast of metal, that combines the elements of metal, prog rock, some jazzy guitar riffs, and a strange-but-interesting approach to the vocals. Mayadome have always subscribed to the school of "5 songs within a song? approach to prog metal, and here it seems that they've increased the number to maybe 7 or 8 songs within each song. Therefore, with the listed 7 songs on the disc cover, you actually get about 35-40 songs before you're done listening. Try putting this disc on and figure out where you are on the disc - without the song breaks, you'd never know. Another band that has that same effect on me is Power of Omens, where the disc ends and you thought you were on track #5 instead of track #8. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your progressive outlook - you either want to know where you are or you don't care.There are time / tempo changes galore, and if you're a true progressive nut, this disc should really raise your ear lobes.

Without trying to single out one player, the drumming of Teddy Moller on this disc is enough to confirm your questions whether or not there are certain levels of drumming skills in prog metal. If you are a drumming fanatic, you will need this disc just to hear what drumming is all about. From a purely metal approach, to a jazzy passage, to some melodic rock moments, there is something here for every drummer to ponder over. The music is difficult to follow, I admit, but when it comes to progression, I do believe that Mayadome have placed themselves way up on the totem pole of true progressive bands, and fans of this style should really get a bang out of this one. Combining the signature Mayadome guitar crunch, with atmospheric keyboards, time / tempo changes galore, and a unique approach to the vocal style, there is something here for everyone -the disc is not really targeted to any particular audience. It almost sounds as if the disc screams, ?You wanted progressive metal, here it is?.........

THE BAND:

Bassel Elharbiti / Lead vocals
Frederick Kjorling / Guitars
Erik Grandin / Bass
Teddy Moller / Drums
Jonas Hagg / Keyboards (for the disc; since replaced by Sebastian Okapski)

Frederick Kjorling has certainly come into his own on this disc. He's got the obligatory prog metal crunch down to a science, with the off-beat guitar chugging at every turn that every prog metal fan loves, but he offers a much more variety of play styles than before. From a heavy, thunderous, metal sound, to a jazzy, almost fusion like style, to some intricate solos, he is quite talented no matter what style he is playing. He's also incorporated some strange sounds to the tone of his guitar, unless I've mistaken them for synths, but it does add some flavor to the music. When he isn't playing rhythm or solos, he is playing along with the keyboard melodies which I find very interesting in prog metal. It appears that we have an unsung hero here in the prog metal world - and I hope that he truly finds the praise he deserves. His performance is outstanding.

Erik Grandin is also an accomplished bass player - and he's been blessed with a good production that makes his playing very audible and prominent in the mix. His style tends to take him off on his own, seemingly recreating bass lines different from the guitar lines, but managing to somehow meld into the sound without bringing too much attention, but nonetheless his efforts shine profusely.

Jonas Hagg is an extraordinary keyboard player - however, it appears that he doesn't have the role he had on Paranormal Activity, and his solos are shortened and pretty much non-existent in favor of a more atmospheric backdrop. It is due to his many sounds that the band pulls their warmth and melody from, and with song titles like ?Scent of Lilac?, he needs to be able to send out warmth from the keys without sounding ?too? pretty, and he manages this well. He pretty much covers the disc with keyboard sounds, and here and there he throws in a synth solo but on this disc it's the guitar that's making all the noise.

Teddy Moller has to be one of the best and most underrated drummers in prog metal. I've always read reviews where it's stated that the drummer was out of control in a band, or he was just too ridiculous and all over the place. Well, get ready because Teddy Moller is not one to stay still for a moment. Yes, he is all over the place, either pounding out straight ahead beats that only last momentarily, or injecting some blazing double bass runs in places where you'd never expect, or just quieting down briefly so you can hear what he sounds like when he is in control. Teddy's out of control playing is the base for the Mayadome sound. He can go from an all out blitz, to a complete stop, and back to some soft, jazzy passages, to a completely funky beat all in the blink of an eye, and drummers will have a field day with his playing. In addition, Teddy writes the lyrics for the disc, and I understand that he has a serious hand in the writing of the music as well. How's that for a complete drummer? Let it be said that Teddy Moller is one of the best drummers I've ever heard, and that's coming from someone who normally believes that all progressive drummers are either good or great - Teddy is on some other level which I haven't figured out yet........

THE VOCALS:

Bassel is definitely a great addition to the band and brings a completely different style to the Mayadome sound. First, his tone and style - many people are hearing some Roy Khan in his voice, and I'll agree with that to a point. I think that his higher range definitely produces some Khan-like tones, and the harmonies could pass for Khan doing some background vox. In his mid-range, where he spends a lot of time except in harmonies, he sounds like a raspier version of Khan, but more in style than in tone. Khan has a much more soft voice, and Bassel is much more ?sandy? than Khan. Bassel also uses a heavy breathing approach to his style, and you'll hear frequently his heavy breaths as he holds notes and lets them go, and I've read some grumblings about the heavy air passages in the mix. I actually like the emotion that he puts into his singing, although I will also admit that he does this frequently and it's a matter of preference because I do believe it's intentional. This is the style that he brings to the table. James LaBrie does this at times in his softer passages, so if you know that's like, you know that Bassel does this as well only much more frequently. Bassel also harmonizes almost entirely on the disc, and it's almost hard to hear what he actually sounds like because of the mix of high / mid-range combinations he uses. There have been grumblings about the many harmony vocals that he uses on the disc, and I will admit that it does bother me a bit - sometimes too much of a good thing can be overdone, but don't forget how picky I am with singers and their styles. Where it does get to me is in the vocal effects used throughout the disc. There are so many harmonies filled with choruses, reverb and the like, it almost makes me want to sift through he voices and try to find just what his real voice sounds like. No doubt he has a great voice, I just wish he would use it more than rely on effects to bring the lyrics to us. Again, this is a matter of preference and most won't have a problem with it, unless you're me and you just have to find something to pick at when there isn't much else to pick at. This could affect your total enjoyment of the disc - but when you realize exactly what is going on here musically,you're apt to forget all about those small and otherwise insignificant vocal sounds and enjoy this disc for what it really is.

THE PRODUCTION:

I will admit right up front - that I've had the tape for well over a year, and I was a little skeptic at how the disc might sound, as there was much needed work to be done sonically.Yes I know, tapes are limited in what they can produce sonically, but it really needed a serious boost to take it up to acceptable levels. Once again, the Mayadome machine kicks into high gear and spits out an almost grand recording ( according to my ears, of course ).The guitars are just about mixed perfectly - not too heavy and not too light. You get the crunch, you get the clarity and the solos are not super loud, they are just right. The bass is another shining part of the sound. You'll hear every single note that Erik punches out, and you do want to hear what this guy can do on a bass in a band filled with players that refuse to slow down or a moment. Hats off to the sound engineer - my subwoofer is glowing with power from this disc. The keyboards are right up there with the guitars - it appears that the levels were almost set the same so that each could complement the other without either being overbearing.The vocals are up front - and just right for the amount of vocals that you'll hear pouring out of your system. With the massive amount of harmonies used, you wonder how you can hear the words being sung, but you really can hear most of the lyrics being sung despite the complexly arranged mass of vocals, and that's a sign f a good ear while turning the mixing board knobs.Is there a complaint ? As always, and with the same instrument, yes. With a drummer as exploratory and incredible as Teddy Moller is, why does that snare drum sound too tinny ? His cymbals shine pristinely - the toms sounds full, but the snare and kick drums are just a bit too far back in the mix compared to the rest of the instruments. This music is huge - the vocal harmonies alone are huge - and take up a lot of the levels on the disc.Why don't the drums have the punch and boom as the guitars and bass ? Yes they are heavy - but the snare drum tone is just a bit to laid back and tinny for music this powerful- and yes, ost of my reviews contain similar complaints about drum sounds, but it's fact...... Other than the snare drum and kick drum being a bit too far back in the mix, the rest of the disc is near perfect. I'll forever complain to sound engineers about their drum sounds, except for a few bands who seem to have an engineer that knows what serious drum sounds means to a progressive metal disc. Teddy has been shorted here - through no fault of his own, but drummers need their fair shake of the sound, and when you're as good as Teddy is, you deserve great sound to complement the great performance.

THE COMMENTS

Make no mistake about this disc - it will take some time to sink into your brain. The vast amount of music within music will just overwhelm you at times, but before you know it, you'll be in progressive heaven wondering how the hell bands like this write music this complex but manage to hold my interest without losing me. Somehow, Mayadome manages to do just that - be progressive as hell, almost too complex at times, but write melodies so that the music pulls you in easily and holds your interest at the same time. Some might even consider this too complex for their tastes based on your tolerance for time / tempo changes, of which there are many. Overall, I still find myself thinking that this is what progressive metal is defined by. Great musicianship without over indulgence -good songs - tons of time / tempo changes without losing the listener - and long, 6-8 minute songs, each containing 2-3 more songs within along the way. This is what the fans wanted from Mayadome, and this is what they delivered. Other than the vocal pproach which may not affect most listeners, there shouldn't be any reason not to like this disc unless you're a bit thrown off by some serious progression, and there's plenty of that to befound here. Mayadome are quickly working their way up the pole of household words, and it will be every interesting to see what they come up with next, even though it's way too soon to even contemplate that. Here, with Near Life Experience, they pretty much shown how it's done without copying a single soul. If you want some progressive metal that never lets up for it's 50-minute length, with superb musicianship throughout, and a strange approach to the vocals, then this is for you........I tip my hat to a band that dares to be different without going beyond the boundaries.


Tracklisting:
Restorepair (7:21) / Scent Of Lilac (5:18) / Praise Me For I Have Sinned (6:31) / Able To Feel (8:50) / Pride Painted Grey (6:22) / Angina Closing In (6:44) / Near Life Experience (8:17)

Musicians:
Bassel Elharbiti - lead vocals
Frederick Kjorling - guitars
Erik Grandin - bass
Teddy Moller - drums
Jonas Hagg - keyboards

Discography:
Paranormal Activity (1996)
Near Life Experience (1999)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin SE

Added: September 21st 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Hits: 843
Language: english

  

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