Release Date: Jan 31, 2012
Record label: Plastic Head
Genre(s): Metal, Heavy Metal, Black Metal
When I first encountered French metal outfit Alcest, my reaction was similar to when I first listened to Liturgy: “This can’t be black metal.” I’m certainly no black metal purist (I’m not even that drawn to the genre), but records like Souvenirs d’un autre monde and Écailles de Lune flew in the face of how I had experienced black metal. The music was too beautiful to be black metal. That’s not to say it isn’t a good genre, but it’s definitely better known for its harsh, dark, and abrasive aspects rather than its texture.
Though French black metal has always been full of experimental weirdness that pushes at the genre's narrow boundaries, none has pushed the envelope as far as Alcest, a band that willfully combines black metal's buzz, gorgeous shoegaze melodies, ambient soundscapes, and post rock feedback. Les Voyages de l'Âme, Alcest's third full-length, arrives with great expectations based on the shock-of-the-new that greeted their debut, Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde, and its follow-up Ecailles de Lune. Alcest stands in its own "blackgaze" space at the crossroads of Burzum's Filosofem and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless.
Since 1999, Stéphane Paut (aka Neige) has been composing sunny, shoegazing post-black metal under the Alcest moniker. Alcest's third LP, Les Voyages de l'Âme, feels like his ultimate statement on this particular approach. Paut, who first made his mark playing purer black metal, has been at Alcest longer than he contributed to the eccentric, raw, politically tricky black-metal crew Peste Noire.
AlcestLes Voyages De L'Âme[Prophecy Productions; 2012]By Jason Hirschhorn; February 10, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetFirst and foremost, let’s dispel the rumor that Alcest is a black metal band. Everything from their press clippings to even the very promo copy used for this review refers to them as such. Those familiar with the career arc of Alcest (or those who are at least acquainted with their early Tristesse Hivernale demo) understand how little the current incarnation of the band has in common with its metal roots.
It’s unfair to argue with how Neige, the brains behind the much genre-addled Alcest, has based the entirety of his current moniker from one defining moment in his life. He’s continually challenging himself to concretize an otherworldly occurrence he had early in his childhood, one he constantly defends so convincingly that it has ultimately taken a whole life of its own. Neige is upfront about having had an astral experience, but there are never any clear answers – from the start, he’s been headstrong about justifying Alcest as one more component to an ongoing spiritual search in which, to superficially summarize, terrestrial life is merely a platform to evolve, learn and repeat until achieving complete liberation.
The third full-length album from French iconoclasts Alcest is a journey. Characterized by a strong forward movement and breathless, buoying optimism that was somewhat repressed by the melancholia of their previous efforts, this release sees the band reaching forward to expand their sound into new, more surreal landscapes. The record unfurls like a narrative, full of adventurous tones and tremulous, emotive melodies.
When Alcest's debut LP Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde dropped in 2007, no one in the metal world had heard anything quite like it. Neige, then the French band's only member, had the audacity to stand with one foot firmly in the perceived hipster mecca of shoegaze and the other somewhere on the hillside from the cover of Burzum's Filosofem. The album sent shockwaves through its ostensible genre that culminated in the inane (and still active) debate over what it means to be black metal and whether positivist philosophy and tremolo picking can peaceably coexist.
Jade Alston A young R&B singer from Philadelphia, Jade Alston, has made a first mixtape (“Single on a Saturday Night,” for streaming or download at jadealston. com) that alternates between wholly new songs with “she-mixes”: her rewritten versions of songs by men, including Lil Wayne’s “Bill Gates,” Wiz Khalifa’s “Up” (redone with more passion and open space as “More Than Friends”), and J. Cole’s “In the Morning.