Alcest // Les Voyages De L’Âme
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Sweet nothings.
Label: Prophecy Productions
Websites: alcest-music.com | facebook.com/alcest.official | myspace.com/alcestmusic
Release Dates: EU: 2012.01.09 | US: 01.21.2012 [01.06.2012 digitally]
Every once in a while the scene gets a hair up its ass and decides that something that is explicitly not metal is totally OK to love. So, in the 90s, when I was first cutting my teeth on the extreme metal scene, Anathema and Katatonia were both giving up their extreme pasts and putting out records that were much more akin to sort of depressing alt rock than anything they’d previously been doing. Then there’s black metal guys’ love of swirly keyboard soundscapes (such that it ends up on Metal Archives, despite them actually banning other bands that I, and most others, would consider metal. Well, since the release of Amesoeurs really broke this sound in 2009, this sort of post-black metal shoegaze stuff has becomes the scene’s favorite non-metal thing. And, really, the description of it by one reviewer I read really sums it up: “Black metal that pisses off the indie kids and indie rock that pisses off the black metal kids. Brilliant.”
However, post-split (the split record, not that they were the same band) with Les Discrets, the Alcest production has been somewhat hit and miss. The first half of Écailles de Lune was brilliant, but the record sort of regressed as it went on, leaving new listeners and fans alike to wish that the album had really just been a 3 track EP. So, in early 2012 with the introduction of Alcest‘s newest piece of work Les Voyages De L’Âme, there were definitely concerns as to whether Alcest could live up to the gigantic expectations that everyone has for them. Because, really, given how ostensibly not metal these guys are, they sure do get a lot of love from the scene. Contrary to what the haters would tell you, generally such expectations are not unwarranted, and such is the case with Alcest.
What makes this stuff good is that it is beautiful and delicate and the melodies waft over the listener with a sort of ethereal grace that you don’t really get out of a lot of other bands. Rarely does Les Voyages de L’Âme move the listener to nod his head or engender any kind of physical reaction. Instead, it is meant to be listened to in darkened rooms on winter days. It’s essentially mood music. This kind of moodiness is perfectly embodied by the filler track “Beings of Light.” Lush vocal harmonies that are processed to the point of almost sounding like keyboards gently pull the listener further into the ambient calm before launching into blast beats, something that should be jarring, but even the blast beats have a non-aggressive feel to them because there’s nothing raw about the production tone. And when the vocals come in over that, they sound are more reminiscent of the mourning music in Lord of the Rings in the house of Galadriel and Celeborn than anything else I can think of. There is a definite appeal to this, and with time I have grown to love these melodies and this feel.
The problem that I have with this album is that I get bored with it. In its totality, the album feels very long, even though it clocks in at 50 minutes. That’s because a song like the aforementioned “Beings of Light” is basically 6 minutes of “oohs” and “aahs” and the chords progression doesn’t even change. It might be beautiful, but the minute you pierce the veil of beauty and begin thinking beyond whether or not its aesthetically pleasing, it feels a bit empty. Like sweet nothings whispered in your ear, they warm the heart. But after a while, you start to realize that they were empty and ultimately, forgettable. This, I fear, is the problem with Les Voyages De L’Âme.
Still, it should be noted that this record has actually grown on me quite a bit. I didn’t like it at all at first, but with time it’s taken on a character that I truly enjoy. Songs like “La Ou naissent les couleurs nouvelles” and “Summer’s Glory” kill me with beautiful and anthemic melodies and the soft edges that reach the near border of their black metal influences. But the crowning achievement of Les Voyages de L’Âme is the track ”Faiseurs de mondes” which has brilliant melodies and a build that just makes my Angry Metal Non-Soul soar, listen to it here. But despite these successes, the filler tracks like “Havens” and “Beings of Light” kind of kill the vibe for me. Even when I’m just listening to this in my monitors in a chill environment, my mind begins to wander. Damn my Angry Metal Attention Deficit Disorder.