By Will Li
To honor the passing of Aziz Sergeyevich Shavershian — better known as Zyzz, a Soviet-born Australian bodybuilder — Tevvez, a prolific French artist, produced a prodigious portfolio of songs and video accompaniments in his album “Phantom.”
Deemed the “son of Zeus,” Zyzz revolutionized fitness by popularizing aesthetics — training to look like a Greek god — and ultimately inspired a legacy of pursuing dreams beyond the monotony of everyday life. Given Zyzz’s passing 10 years ago on Aug. 5, I thought a dive into Tevvez’s memorial album was fitting.
This 12-track, 42-minute album romanticizes the journey and legacy of Zyzz with layers of orchestra-like chords and intense, resounding kick drums that comprise the songs’ baselines and dictate the tempo. The songs’ names, such as “Vision”, “Guardian Angel” and “Legacy”, also pay tribute to Zyzz, and the album cover depicts him ascending to the clouds.
Except for bits of choir-like singing at the beginning of some songs, “Phantom” features almost no vocals. Essentially, any human voice functions as just another instrument in the symphonic masterpieces of Tevvez’s tracks. The album also includes both major and minor tones to contrast the inspiration Zyzz provided and the sadness of his passing. With both computer-generated and classical instrument sounds, the musical style resembles a blend of techno, trance and hardstyle that is more sophisticated than either genre alone.
Generally, the individual tracks commence with simple, light melodies. Over the course of each song, deep chords, kickdrums, clap drums, among other features, are smoothly woven in. The songs later return to their basic melodies before building up to greater intensity than earlier, evoking fervent feelings of strength and determination.
The musical variation among the songs allows the album to string together different aspects of Zyzz’s life and legacy in an elaborate narrative. The opening track, “Vision”, begins with a slow, brooding melody, as if symbolizing the bullying Zyzz suffered; “Vision” later progresses to distorted arpeggios, as though representing Zyzz’s dejection from the bullying and his subsequent vision to transform himself. The track then diverges to portray Zyzz’s hard work, exhibiting a faster tempo and exhilarating drum sequences, and concludes in the same way it began — possibly to depict Zyzz’s passing.
Continuing to tell the story of his life, “Infinity” begins with eloquent, high-pitched wailing juxtaposed with sorrowful chords, perhaps representing an individual mourning. The song then switches to a bouncing melody, evincing the sparks of hope Zyzz provided fans, and continues to add layers of chords and kickdrums to denote the individual’s endeavor to achieve their dreams — ultimately conveying that Zyzz’s essence will remain on Earth infinitely.
My favorite piece by far is “Legend.” Compared to other tracks, “Legend” evokes the most emotion and displays the greatest contrast between its climax and mellower preliminary themes. The song begins with a short drumroll and an elaborate prelude that resembles funeral music. Then, after an epic crescendo, the air is quiet for a transient moment. A thundering beat-drop shatters the fleeting tranquility, and the ensuing climax seemingly portrays the awakening of a sleeping giant with its emphatic kickdrums, possibly corresponding to the posthumous popularity of Zyzz in the past decade.
“Phantom” proves useful for a Zyzz-worthy purpose: pushing past limits in the gym. Especially on high volume, the intense chords, beat and kickdrums evoke passion and motivation, perhaps in an attempt to drown out any perception of pain.
I would consider “Phantom” to be Tevvez’s greatest album. It includes all the musical styles he utilized in previous albums — “Waves,” “Obsidian” and “Divinity” — while also sounding noticeably more refined and intricate than previous works, featuring cleaner and purer-sounding chords. I find no fault with this album. Considering its songs together, I feel that “Phantom” excels in generating a desolate depiction of Zyzz’s childhood and death, as well as serving as a poignant call-to-action for listeners to better themselves. The distinct elements of each song and the album’s short duration ensure that the listener never feels jaded. It is, therefore, no surprise that the comment sections of the songs of ”Phantom” on YouTube are almost exclusively filled with praise for masterfully preserving Zyzz’s spirit and inspiring millions to pursue their dreams.