Anthology IV: The Tragedy of Nerak
posted on 2/2012 By:
Finding success in the twisted branch of so-called “avant-garde” metal and rock is tricky. First, as the eccentricity scale increases from Arcturus to Unexpect, the target audience gets narrower. Secondly, music of this nature takes a lot more than costumes and waxed mustaches to achieve the heights that the aforementioned acts and bands like Mr. Bungle have reached. The songs – and most likely the people – have to be as completely audacious, brash, and outlandish as humanly possible. Anything less feels tentative, and this is exactly what we have with France’s Akphaezya on their second long player, Anthology IV: The Tragedy of Nerak.
This is the musical equivalent of the melting pot. And it’s a big pot. The most obvious influence is the Unexpect strain, followed closely by prog ranging from DT to PT, the soaring expanses explored by The Gathering mid-90s, and touches of dark metal, goth, chamber music, an insane Vaudevillian vibe, and the blackened flourishes Ihsahn utilized in Peccatum. Throughout all of this, the star is clearly vocalist Nehl Aëlin, who manages to sound like Anneke Van Giersbergen on one track and then shift to a theatrical version of Julie Christmas on another, bringing a charisma that can match any of her influences.
However, it isn’t this dangerous variety that sends up red flags, as Akphaezya is generally adept at every style they attempt. Instead, there is a nagging feeling that the band is holding something back, and it just can’t be shaken. Certain songs take the safer route, eschewing the demented aspects in favor of metal that is almost conventional. “Slow Vertigo” offers a proggy, If_Then_Else-ish vibe, but doesn’t do much more than remind of when The Gathering was heavy, and the attempts to expand it (gothish piano sweeps towards the end) feel out of place. These types of half leaps into the fray are all good in their own right, but they pale in comparison with the wacky stuff, and one gets the feeling that any of the more routine material would be downright boring without Aëlin’s talents.
It is only when the band tosses off the shackles that their unique talents really come forth. “Utopia” sees Aëlin doing a rather mousy performance, while the guitars swirl in and out with the pinpoint touch of a small bug running across a hardwood floor. Stops and starts, whispered vocals, slap bass, minor key melodies and even some scat singing all add up to an unforgettable track that will annoy some but delight the intended audience. This is what they are capable of, not the half-blackness of “Sophrosyne” (the harsh moments feel a bit flat) or the first half of “Húbris,” but the second half of that track and the complete bonkerdom of “Nemesis.”
Put simply, Akphaezya is good at doing conventional stuff, but they’re great when they decide to overload the scales with self-indulgence. The Tragedy of Nerak doesn’t have any glaring faults; it just has a shortage of what this band is clearly capable of, which makes it feel softly disjointed. I want this to be like a burlesque show in a seedy London neighborhood, but it’s more like the equivalent network television series with a few risqué scenes. There is undoubtedly a target audience for this particular ratio of sophisticated-to-batshit, so a tryout is still strongly recommended, but if you’re only an occasional fan of the style, you’ll likely find that this isn’t quite a strong enough dose to transport your mind into the warped Ringling Brothers visions of childhood nightmares.
Register to post comments.