Avant-garde Metal • France
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Akphaezya are an eclectic avant-garde metal band from France. They add jazz, classical, and oriental flavors to their music.
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Anthology IIAnthology II
Ascendance Records 2008
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Anthology IV: The Tragedy Of NerakAnthology IV: The Tragedy Of Nerak
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Anthology II by Akphaezya (2008-07-29)Anthology II by Akphaezya (2008-07-29)
Ascendance Records
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AKPHAEZYA Discography

AKPHAEZYA albums / top albums

AKPHAEZYA Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity album cover 4.30 | 7 ratings
Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity
Avant-garde Metal 2008
AKPHAEZYA Anthology IV : The Tragedy of Nerak album cover 4.19 | 9 ratings
Anthology IV : The Tragedy of Nerak
Avant-garde Metal 2012

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AKPHAEZYA Anthology II: Links from the Dead Trinity album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Anthology II: Links from the Dead Trinity
Avant-garde Metal 2004

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AKPHAEZYA Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity

Album · 2008 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: Album selected by adg211288.

Avant-garde metal is usually an interesting listen, as you never quite know what to expect. It's home to bands that exceed the boundaries of other genres, often incorporating many elements of non-metal music beyond the usual classical music and jazz fusion technique of instrumentation. Now, interesting doesn't always mean good, and I often find avant-garde metal to be a mess of ideas. Because of this, it can either be fantastic when those ideas are all incorporated into a cohesive whole, or very painful to listen to when those ideas are scattered all around with nothing to put them together.

French avant-garde metal band Akphaezya unfortunately ends up sounding like the latter in the first song after a sort of ambient intro. "Chrysalis" sounds like separate jam sessions placed over each other in a smorgasbord of styles that lack the cohesion that could put all the pieces together. One second there will be a calm and serene folk melody, then without warning black metal blastbeats and growls come in like you just turned on a different album. This keeps repeating throughout the song with various styles. It's a real shame, as I love the jazzy lounge/swing metal moments when they come in, but nothing lasts long enough to get the listener really invested.

The album isn't entirely like this however. Thankfully, there are several songs that each stick to one style for the most part. I think this is what generally works better. Mixing a slew of ideas is great, but it can be much more rewarding when each song uses one or two of those styles rather than trying to stick as much as you can into one song. "The Golden Vortex of Kaltaz" is the highlight of the album, and it takes on a somewhat thrashy symphonic metal sound. The guitars have a gritty crunch, while the vocals range from melodic clean vocals to growls a couple times within the song. "The Secret of Time" is another one of the best tracks, this time with a middle-eastern vibe.

Besides the lack of cohesion on several tracks, what often kills the album for me are the vocals. The instrumentation is very often great when it all fits together, but Nehl Aëlin's thick accent and eclectic use of vocal techniques end up ruining some songs that would otherwise be great. Take "Reflections" for example. There's some killer guitar licks, but I find it's easy to get distracted and annoyed when the vocals are switching from bouncy J-pop, to maniacal squealing a la The Mars Volta, to simply average melodic vocals. While vocalists who have this eclectic range of tones and styles to their voice are often lauded, I often find the multiple singing styles works better overall when multiple singers are applied, as usually the singers can play off of one another, making them all blend well. However, I will give credit where credit is due, as her vocals on the two songs I mentioned in the previous paragraph are pretty great.

Akphaezya's Anthology II: Links from the Dead Trinity is certainly an acquired taste. While it will probably be an excellent album for the staunch followers of the genre, this may be a bit of a tough listen at times for those who like a bit more cohesion in their music. It's nowhere near the worst of the genre, but nowhere near the best either. If they focused in on one or two styles for each song and didn't include crazy vocals, I think this could be a great record. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

AKPHAEZYA Anthology II : Links from the Dead Trinity

Album · 2008 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Anthology II: Links from the Dead Trinity (2008) is the debut full-length album by French avant-garde metal act Akphaezya. The album is a total re-recording of the band's 2004 demo of the same name. In an apparent attempt to be avant-garde in ways beyond the musical the album is a part of a conceptual series, the second part, as the title implies. The group followed the album up with the fourth part, Anthology IV: The Tragedy of Nerak (2012). A total of five parts are planned and at the time of writing the first, third and fifth parts have yet to appear. It's unknown at this point which one will appear next.

The music on Links from the Dead Trinity is primarily avant-garde metal with a strong jazz influence being of particular note. The direction of the music hops around a fair bit from the strange to the more straight-forward and direct, using both metal and non-metal sections to great effect. I'm reminded of the perhaps better known and now defunct band Unexpect, but I find Akphaezya's music to be a little more reined in and focussed, which I find to be a great benefit to my enjoyment of the album. And musically there's a lot to enjoy on Links from the Dead Trinity. Heavy guitar riffs mesh well with dominate piano use and bouts of weirdness give the music a quirky side, without falling into the rather cliché so called circus metal fare than is often heard in progressive and avant-garde acts. The non-metal sections of the album are just as strong as the heaviest material, in fact Beyond the Sky is probably one of my favourite acoustic guitar pieces ever written.

But as impressive as the music is, and it is damn impressive, the real star of this album for me is the vocalist (who is also the keyboardist), Nehl Aëlin. The band has a really diverse vocalist here, who compliments the music perfectly with her style flitting about in much the same way as the instrumentation. Sometimes direct and with a rather normal sounding (and a very good) singing voice, at other times crazy and quirky as hell and then...well...she also happens to have one of the most intense and brutal death growl's I've ever heard, especially from a female vocalist. She uses such vocals sparingly, this maximising their effect when they do appear, though there are heard as early as the first proper song on the album, Chrysalis. The point where her growls really take the centre stage though is during The Golden Vortex of Kaltaz, the heaviest and most in your face metal song on the album. Nehl Aëlin is pure gold in vocalist form. Thinking about it, even though there are a lot more obvious choices out there, especially in symphonic and power metal bands, she's probably my favourite female metal vocalist. I can't actually think of another female singer who consistently wows me the same way Nehl Aëlin does.

Links from the Dead Trinity easily ranks among my very favourite albums of all time; one of those rare releases that I can listen to at any time and enjoy just as much even though I know the album pretty much by heart now. It's that good. 5 stars and would give it 6 if I could.

AKPHAEZYA Anthology IV : The Tragedy of Nerak

Album · 2012 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
The Tragedy of Nerak resembles what would happen if a symphonic metal band along the lines of Nightwish were locked in a room and had avant-prog and jazz albums from the likes of Henry Cow played at them for a few days straight without sleep. Keyboardist-vocalist Nehl Aëlin mixes up clean vocals with some downright startling growls as the band lurch about in an experimental frenzy. Occasionally, the corset-bound coastline of gothy-symphonic metal can be seen on the horizon, but for the most part this band explores uncharted waters, attempting to apply jazz ideas to symphonic metal in much the same way as Atheist or Cynic did for death metal.

AKPHAEZYA Anthology IV : The Tragedy of Nerak

Album · 2012 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
You like diversified Avant-Garde Metal but think that bands such as Ebonylake, Le Grand Guignol or UneXpect are tough to digest? You like epic Symphonic Metal with some experiments but think that bands such as Nightwish, Rhapsody Of Fire or Therion happen to be too overloaded for you? You like experimental Gothic Metal but bands such as Crematory, Moonspell or Orphanage are a little bit too brutal for your taste?

Well, then this record should be your new bible. The French Akphaezya (they could have chosen a catchier band name but it fits) take influences from multiple genres such and mostly Gothic and Symphonic Metal and add some progressive elements to it. One can for example hear jazz piano parts mixed with blackened gothic moments and haunting classic influences in "Scene II : Σωφροσύνη / Sophrosyne" as well as for example circus music and some danceable folklore moments in the vivid and bass orientated album highlight "Scene 1: Utopia". One can hear swing and jazz parts again in the brilliant "Scene II : Υβρις / Húbris" and even colourful samba and tango passages in the overall very heavy neckbreaker "Scene II : ?The Harsh Verdict". A couple of calmer tracks like the piano interlude "Trance H.L. 2" help this record to work better and give some time to digest and get deeper into the concept. The running time of a little bit more than fifty minutes is just perfect. It's not too short like a release coming from Spacemak3r and it's not too long as a release from Opeth might be.

Each song has multiple influences but in comparison to many other so called Avant-Garde bands, Akphaezya don't lose themselves in overlong and endless technical passages that seem only to show how extreme they are. No, the songs on this release don't only fit conceptually together and have a good guiding line. Each single track has its catchy moments and rarely exaggerates on too many changes of style. The musicians in here are in fact truly talented without wanting to show their abilities all the time. The band prefers to focus on the intellectual but never too overwhelming concept of a Classic Greek theater play and on the song writing itself. The smooth flow of this profound album is a clear trademark that makes this young band standout from many others. This release doesn't try too hard to surprise but rather wants to move the listener. A great example is the chilling "Scene II: Dystopia" with beautiful piano and especially violin melodies and sweet acoustic guitar riffs. This track reminds me of a calm Ayreon ballad but I even think this here is better than the great Dutch master of progressive music and you won't read this very often coming from me.

Right now, they are only known to experts of the genre but they really have the potential to make it far and please to any open-minded metal fan. And even beyond this, some bits and pieces could even please to fans of other experimental genres such as Progressive Rock or Free Jazz. Each song grows quickly and makes this record to one of the musical highlights of the year. Don't miss to check this release out. It may sound a little bit unusual at first try but already after a second spin, the catchy tracks will really grow on you. After more than five spins, I'm ready to say Akphaezya are one of the most gifted bands I have ever heard from many points of view. I could not listen to this kind of music all day long but if I do so I really happen to be into this little masterpiece of art. There are not many great bands coming from France but the few ones that I know are more than just great. I highly recommand to check out the releases of this band as well as of The Old Dead Tree if you care for atmospheric, imaginative and progressive metal music. These bands truly are one of a kind.

AKPHAEZYA Anthology IV : The Tragedy of Nerak

Album · 2012 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
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))

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