Akphaezya - Anthology IV: The Tragedy of Nerak
Code666 Records
Gothic doom/avant-garde
11 songs (51:53)
Release year: 2012
Code666 Records
Reviewed by Charles
“Let’s take a picture of a goat in a boat
Then we can float in a moat, and be freaky

Thus begins the Flight of the Conchords classic I Told You I was Freaky. At the risk of killing humour through explanation, the gag there stems from the earnest attempts of our heroes to be as damn edgy as possible, by juxtaposing as much weird shit as they can and hoping it sounds avant-garde. In certain corners of the metal scene, this kind of thing seems to have been rife ever since the supreme lords of weird-shit-juxtaposition, Mr Bungle, seized upon the post-modern bricolage as their choice means of expression. Mr Bungle were, obviously, completely brilliant, but nobody has really done this sort of thing as convincingly ever since, at least not in the extreme metal realm. Maybe Sigh, but to be honest I have always just found their music annoying. Having an open mind is like having an open mouth- you have to close it on something substantial, as… er, someone… once said. I have often refrained from introducing that little saying to metalheads lest they use it as an excuse to listen to nothing but old Darkthrone ever again, but here it seems to fit.

Akphaezya do this sort of thing pretty well. At least, they do it with polish and craftsmanship- whether their work culminates in something genuinely worth hearing is up to you. Anthology IV is a fiendishly clever record, filled with guffawing musical jokes and babbling eccentricity. Here we find lounge-jazz, flamenco, and melodious gothic metal all mashed together; the work of impish musical ragamuffins, at whom Old Father Convention is no doubt shaking his angry fist as we speak. What are we to find here? Well, some very neat little pieces of musical intricacy, actually, with its routes in female-fronted goth-doom but its branches shooting off into fuck-knows-where-next. Look at Slow Vertigo, for instance. It starts its eight-minute life as a more lively and synth-oriented Lacuna Coil, then goes into hideous piano ballad territory, before emerging as a surprisingly graceful and effective mimic of If_Then_Else/Souvenirs-era The Gathering.

Thus far it seems to rove widely, but still roughly within the confines of the goth-metal continent. But then we get onto stuff like Utopia. This is a flamboyant and show-offy whizz through metallized gipsy folk territory, at times reminding me of Diablo Swing Orchestra, System of a Down, Madder Mortem, or most obviously Gogol Bordello. That song is great fun, actually, but inevitably there are also less convincing moments. Whilst Hubris, for example, starts imposingly, striding mysteriously through church organ-augmented doom, it gets waylaid in a muddy bog of doo-wop swing. I don’t think the latter is something metal bands can ever really pull off effectively. Jazz is something you have to feel, and these elements are like a Casio-keyboard demonstration of jazz for kids.

Much preferable is the likes of Harsch Verdict, which reveals this record at its best. Slow, meaty doom riffing forms the centrepiece of the track, and the diversions merely feel like taking the scenic route to a definite destination, rather than branching off into culs-de-sac. Thus, despite flamenco sideroads, it revolves loosely around the band's more simply effective ideas, playing to their more humble strengths- specifically, the craftsmanship that goes into their female-fronted goth-doom sections. It features the album's best riff, at around three minutes in. This is a complicated record- perhaps on occasion unnecessarily so- but it sort of works as a gothic metal equivalent to Mr Bungle. A definite curiosity, worthy of investigation but which may be all too easy to brush off as an eccentric bit of fluff in the long term.

Killing Songs :
Harsh Verdict, Nemesis, A Slow Vertigo
Charles quoted 70 / 100
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