Alcest are a band hyped beyond comprehension, but not without merit or reason. In their debut, Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde, there is something beautifully otherworldly about the sound Alcest creates; A mysterious aura of pure ecstasy – a melancholic veil. I call it a veil because the beautiful melodies and personality of Alcest‘s music are just a disguise, hiding a narcissism and lack of ingenuity. The “oo’s” and “aa’s” which riddle Alcest‘s music may be very pleasant, but this angry metal guy finds himself screaming for Neige, the project’s motor and vocalist, to bloody sing something, rather than simply using his voice to portray nothing. It’s almost frustrating to me that I’m totally in love with this band.
Since the first Alcest record was released in 2007, Neige has gone into other projects, such as the ever-popular Amesoeurs. This has had the effect of helping to mature Neige’s songwriting and Écailles de Lune certainly showcases a certain maturity. It’s beautifully multi-layered, practically spewing thought-provoking and emotion-evoking power.
For the first three songs, anyway.
Luckily enough, as soon as you start this CD, you’re getting the best of it. “Écailles de Lune – Part I” is stunning. The guitars are hypnotically beautiful, the sound is diverse, the vocals are spellbinding, and nearly everything is perfect. I cannot describe how good this song is, it completely surpasses every other song on Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde. The sheer beauty of this song shakes my very spine, and it isn’t just the beauty that has improved. The writing itself is much more diverse, there’s a lot more going on. “Écailles de Lune” portrays a lot more emotions, and with the song constantly changing and projecting itself further into the realm of beauty, it was as if it couldn’t get any better. One thing that amazed me is that this song perfectly painted the picture on the cover of the album in my head, which is something an album has never done to me before.
While “Éscailles de Lune – Part II” is a step down from the superb beauty of the first track, Neige’s improved songwriting still makes itself apparent, and is still a step-up from Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde. The screaming vocals may come as a surprise to some, but since this song has a faster tempo and mood than Part 1, the screaming worked rather well. Luckily, Neige’s mysterious clean voice is in this song too, which accompanies the slower moments of this song. The song comes to a halt with a beautiful clean guitar melody, slowly bringing this song to an end. Very enjoyable, even if it wasn’t as good as Part 1.
The third track “Percées de Lumière” then comes running in, with an almost punk-like beat and mood. The melody is really good, and repeats itself throughout the song – but such repetition certainly isn’t unwelcome, as it never grows tiresome. This song may be the favorite of fans of Amesoeurs, as it has a feel very similar to that of songs on their debut. The screaming-shrieks chill you, the clean vocals spellbind you, and the guitars send you into a trance that binds you from pressing the pause button on your stereo. Though this song doesn’t spew with the emotion “Écailles de lune – part 1” does, it’s very enjoyable and a certainly welcome addition to the CD.
Unfortunately, the winning streak ends rather abruptly. The next 3 songs do nothing but disappoint an Alcest-hungry metalhead like myself. “Abysses” is noise-filler. No point going in-depth on this one. “Solar Song” is just a projection of the the exact same problems and feelings of Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde had, but it just isn’t as captivating as any of the songs from Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde were. The instrumentation is relatively weak, the vocals get annoying and the song just doesn’t seem to go anywhere. “Sur l’ocean Couleur de Fer” just shows how comfortable Neige is with what works, the song is a fully acoustic symphony with fully clean vocals. But there just doesn’t seem to be anything here, a guitar and vocals. Whilst this may work with a lot of songs, all it does is draw back the veil that is Alcest – lack of innovation covered in beauty and oo’s and aa’s.
The contrast of quality in this album frustrates me beyond any album I’ve ever reviewed. We have songs that have (rightfully) earned their place in my list of favorite songs, and songs I just have to skip. This may have been fine if there wasn’t only 6 songs. I genuinely think Alcest should have just kept the first three songs, waited another year for other ideas to spur, and wrote a masterpiece. The first half of this album is wasted on the second half, and it almost breaks my heart to only give this a 2.5/5.0 knowing how good the first half is.