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If there’s one thing that makes music interesting, it’s imaginative lunatics. Y’know, the type of creative collectives such as Sigh, Mr Bungle or Magma that plunge themselves into the depths of music, grab what they can, and then mangle and manipulate whatever they lay their grubby hands on to their advantage. Akphaezya are such a band. One listen to ‘Anthology IV: The Tragedy of Nerak’ and the word ‘eccentric’ rapidly leaps to mind. Jazz, folk, blues, all varieties of metal, gothic, classical and all else is combined into this soundtrack to a story that draws on the basic elements of Greek tragedy for its narrative. The track titles give an indication of what the story entails: vice and virtue, pride and arrogant defiance of the gods, adversity, and, judging by the title of track ten, I’d put money on Nerak coming a cropper in the final scene. Whether you like love, blood, or rhetoric – either concurrent or consecutive – in whatever measure in your Greek tragedy, blood is compulsory after all.
Accomplished musicianship and consummate song-craft are successfully combined in every facet of this audacious album. Plotting the trajectory of the narrative and, with it, the emotions of the characters, the music is, to say the least, diverse. Where most who dare to tackle such variety in their music usually fall foul of style over substance and drown in their own technical ejaculate, Akphaezya are self-indulgent but only to satisfy the needs of the work, and so as grand as the plot line is, so is the quality of the music and the individual and collective performances. Nehl Aelin’s vocal range and capabilities as a vocalist are outstanding, as are her skills at tickling the keys. Stephane Béguier’s bass is melodic, grooving, and aggressive where and when the music/story requires it. Loic Moussaoui’s drum-work is second to none, again moulding itself to the tracks with dynamic control and a clinical attention to detail. In surrounding himself with such a wealth of talent, main-man Stephan H. Zag-Zero’s dexterity on the guitar is equalled not just by his choice of musicians but also his ability to string together an interesting plot and successfully represent it through music. ‘Anthology IV: The Tragedy of Nerak’ is magnificent and Akphaezya are the kind of lunatics to which the keys could be gladly handed over to and left to run the asylum.