French avant-garde metal act Akphaezya’s Anthology IV (The Tragedy of Nerak) is not, as the name may suggest to the unaware, neither an anthology release nor the band’s fourth album, but actually their second studio album. They started with Anthology II: Links from the Dead Trinity which was released back in 2008, and five parts are planned, intentionally being released out of order. Anthology IV is released in 2012 and is written in the manner of a classic Greek Tragedy. The album features a format of four Acts, each named after the seasons, bookended by a prologue and epilogue track, and an interlude right in the middle of it all.
First off I have to say that the intro track, Πρόλογος / Prologos, is next to useless. It’s just another one of those cliché tracks that doesn’t even last a full minute with little happening to justify its presence in the album. It’s only there really to have something as a lead in to the first proper track but really what is the point, so little happens here that the track may as well not exist. Επίλογος / Epilogo is not any better, although the interlude track, Transe H.L. 2, fits into the album really well. Fortunately the actual songs, starting with Act I: Spring, Scene I : A Slow Vertigo... (which is a much better way to kick off Anthology IV), are most definitely worthy of high praise. Any and all criticism I have for Anthology IV ends here.
Musically what we’ve got here may be considered as much in line with progressive metal than the avant-garde metal this is promoted as, as we only come into full blown avant-garde weirdness with Act II: Summer, Scene I : Utopia, although there’s definitely strong traces of it throughout, it’s only really in your face in this track and again in Act IV: Winter, Scene I : Nemesis later on. There are most certainly lots of different influences from all around the musical spectrum going into Akphaezya’s music though. Just calling it progressive or even avant-garde is generalising to the extreme. If you’re a fan of metal bands that include anything and everything in their sound then Anthology IV is definitely an album worth investigating. I guess the amount of jazz parts is the most notable of Akphaezya’s forays into other styles. They do the jazz stuff really well in my opinion, conjuring up an excellent atmosphere in the process.
A female-fronted act, Nehl Aëlin’s vocals are generally pleasant sounding and at it isn’t hard to imagine her voice working in context with a more simplistic style of music, but she’s also very capable of throwing some quirky tones in there when the music behind her demands it. Less often she also throws some growling into the mix. She’s pretty good at that too. Although I enjoy the music on the album quite a lot, I really have to praise Aëlin’s vocals in their own special mention here, as the amount of tones this girl comes out with give the record a real special feel to it.
With those intro and outro tracks aside, I really enjoyed Anthology IV (The Tragedy of Nerak). The album took me more than a couple of listens to get into, but once I was in the zone the flow of the album quickly became apparent and with every listen given to the album it got better and better to the point that I’ve eventually come to regard it as something really exceptional, whereas my initial reactions were along the ‘good but not great’ lines. It’s a grower for sure, one that I’m not going to hesitate to highly recommend to the more adventurous metalhead, or perhaps even to the adventurous general music fan, since this music goes well beyond just being confined to the metal genre. In any case I think that Anthology IV (The Tragedy of Nerak) is an excellent second release from Akphaezya that represents a clear contended for progressive/avant-garde album of the year.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))