Anthology IV: The Tragedy of Nerak
02. A Slow Vertigo
06. Transe H.L.2
01. Harsch Verdict
Akphaezya are a French Avant-Garde/Gothic metal band. They are female fronted like a lot of their fellow gothic metal bands, but there’s more to Akphaezya than your average Nightwish-alike. Their albums are based on a Greek theater play they “found” (and by found they mean fabricated by their guitar player, but still a great idea). Their music is very ethnically influenced, and appropriately contains a lot of instruments, like organs, cellos, accordions and such. The avant-gardeness in their sound comes from their blend of many genres from smooth jazz, to folk. Their singer even performs harsh vocals, so a very broad palette of music is covered here. But when all these elements are piled on top of each other, does it sink or swim? Let’s find out! Hint: It’s pretty good!
The album opens rather slowly, sounding like a mixture of light Opeth elements and gothic metal, but don’t be turned off or fooled by the semi-conventionality of it, because Akphaezya slowly lure the listener in with increasing weirdness. Suddenly you will encounter a smooth jazz section or an odd time riff, and soon the wheels come off with yodeling, eastern European folk with slap bass, Psyopus-like guitar tricks and Greek influenced progressive sections. Singer Nehl Aelin is so much more than a standard gothic metal singer. Not only are her growls pretty good, she can also sing in a very broad range and with a very diverse set of techniques, taken from all kinds of cultures around the world. Hearing middle-eastern chants juxtaposed with smooth jazz and xylophones is not something one gets to experience in a day, and we should be thankful to Akphaezya for that. However, the songs aren’t simply there for the sake of the novelty. Anthology IV can stand on its own merits as a progressive metal album, it doesn’t rely on gimmicks, it just has good songs that happen to be enhanced by the cultural touches.
In a somewhat typical turn of events for avant-garde metal, the production isn’t “top of the line”, but not necessarily in a bad way. By not having the distortion of the guitars be turned up all the way, Akphaezya can project more nuances of their playing. Similarly for the mixing, the comparably tame mix allows for all the different instruments to mesh together and breathe. There’s a very bare and intimate feel to the sound of the band, as if they were in the same room playing with you. Overall the production isn’t a disappointment.
The songs are of varying lengths, and they have different moods and tones to them which keeps the album flowing well. At no moment do they feel thrown together or forced, the music progresses very naturally. The heavy moments are there, the soothing moments are there, and the ethnic dance-y moments are there. Akphaezya’s breed of avant-garde is less focused on confusing the listener, instead they aim to have intriguing and fulfilling songs. There aren’t many bands that achieve that while still being avant-garde, so Akphaezya deserve props for that. The band that they are closest to in this regard is Diablo Swing Orchestra, but they’re also much more metal-influenced than DSO. Overall, Anthology IV is a very satisfying experience that can appeal to both avant-garde metal listeners and progressive metal fans.