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Akphaezya: Anthology IV - The tragedy of Nerak

07/05/12  ||  Sokaris

I’m a sucker for avant-garde metal. However, I’m picky with it. The cream of the crop tend to be among my favorite bands and everything else I usually relegate with mild interest; something I find initially intriguing but I don’t have nearly as much passion for. This year has been kind to us weirdo metal maniacs, giving us Sigh’s “Insomniphobia”, an album I’d call a masterpiece without hesitation and Ram-Zet’s enjoyable “Freaks in wonderland”, an upturn after their slightly disappointing fourth album. One man experimental act Umbah also unleashed “Enter the Dagobah core” and Diablo Swing Orchestra have a new album on the horizon. Amidst all of these welcome releases we also finally see the new Akphaezya.

“Anthology IV: The tragedy of Nerak” is the sophomore release for the band and the follow up to “Anthology II: Links from the dead trinity.” Yes, part four was followed by part two (which was the debut). Just bear with me, it’ll only get weirder. Akphaezya take their name from an imaginary land (kind of like Opthalamia if the reader is familiar with them) and their lyrics detail mythology of the aforementioned world. Sounds a bit strange on paper but it fits perfectly with their eclectic mix of metal both progressive and aggressive, smarmy jazz sections, occasional funk influences and playful/crazy elements throughout. A decent reference point would be to take Unexpect and remove a large amount of their frantic aggression, replacing it with smoother and more low-key elements. Akphaezya have a similar approach in parts; bold piano work, diverse yet melodic female vocals, unorthodox guitar leads and a liberal employment of influences outside of the rock spectrum. Not as heavy or technical though, Akphaezya could be seen as a kind of bridge between the aforementioned Quebec unit and their ex-labelmates Stolen Babies. I don’t want to use the word “soft” because they’re not afraid to blast and growl in small doses. There’s just less of a focus on being aggressive.

It’s expected of a band as experimental as Akphaezya to show growth between their albums and this is where “Anthology IV” really shines. The first album was quite an engaging and interesting listen but I find myself instantly preferring the band’s latest release. The basic formula is similar but more refined. All of what caught my attention the first time around is still present but there seems to be a better sense of flow and more focus on atmosphere. The tone is overall just a little darker and an improved production helps bring the right moods across. This comes across more like a cohesive album than a collection of songs, something I generally consider a plus. It sounds like Akphaezya took a look at what worked the first time around and brought those elements to the forefront. The entire band sounds more confident, different instruments taking the spotlight when appropriate and each member adding their own unique personality to the mix.

Vocalist Nehl Aëlin shows off her lower range a bit more than on “Anthology II” though she’s not afraid to throw in some surprisingly vicious death metal growls. Not to mention the woman’s engaging keyboard work which ranges from eclectic synth sounds to piano work that can be equally jazzy as it is baroque. The rest of the band show remarkable talent as well. Stephan H, the sole guitarist, is damn crafty with his instrument. He handles difficult passages with ease but knows when to play it simple. The technicality is never the driving force, just a side effect of the band’s progressive tendencies, used to express new and interesting ideas rather than show off. If you’re a fan of strong bass presence (complete with funk-influenced slaps and pops) than you’ll enjoy Stéphane Béguier’s performance. For a lot of bands this colorful approach wouldn’t work but it’s refreshing to hear bass approached as its own instrument instead of just a lower guitar. Everything’s kept together by one Loïc Moussaoui, gliding easily through appropriate percussive arrangements for the band’s diverse songs. Being in a band this varied must be challenging to a drummer and requires them to participate as a songwriter rather than just keeping tempo.

Well worth the wait, “Anthology IV: The tragedy of Nerak” should appeal to adventurous listeners who want to see the boundaries of metal stretched.

8

  • Information
  • Released: 2012
  • Label: Code666 Records
  • Website: www.akphaezya.com
  • Band
  • Nehl Aëlin: vocals, keyboards
  • Stephan H: guitar
  • Stéphane Béguier: bass
  • Loïc Moussaoui: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Πρόλογος (Prologos)
  • 02. Act I: Spring: Scene I : A slow vertigo…
  • 03. Act I: Spring: Scene II: Σωφροσύνη (Sophrosyne)
  • 04. Act II: Summer: Scene I: Utopia
  • 05. Act II: Summer: Scene II: Υβρις (Húbris)
  • 06. Transe H.L. 2
  • 07. Act III: Autumn: Genesis
  • 08. Act III: Autumn: Dystopia
  • 09. Act IV: Winter: Nemesis
  • 10. Act IV: Winter: …The harsh verdict
  • 11. Επιλογος / Epilogos