Before I start this review I'd like to point out that this release is not Black Metal
at all. Nothing
about this album has anything to do with what the genre is commonly associated with. Although their latter work is clearly more Black Metal
sounding (and better for that matter) this release is pure shoegaze. That
's not to say it's a bad release, it's not in actual fact it is really good but the fact of the matter is there is no Black Metal
to be found on this release what sp ever, unless you're the kind of person who thinks anything with slightly distorted guitars is Black Metal
So before this album was released there was apparently a lot of hype surrounding it, many people believe Neige is transcending the boundaries of Black Metal
and pushing it into new and exciting directions (he has done on Écailles de Lune
). I wasn't aware of Alcest
when all this hype was surrounding this album so basically I went into this album not knowing what to expect and with an unbiased attitude, this allowed me to look at the album from a critical stand point rather than approach it as someone who bought into all the hype. So what we have here is a very solid piece of shoegaze (not Black Metal
!), this was my first taste of Shoegazing and I must say I was very impressed and it inspired me to look more into the genre. So you may be asking yourself what exactly is shoegaze? Well simply put it's a subgenre of alternative rock with a heavy focus on droning hypnotic riffs from noisy guitars to create a wall of sound. Yes I know it sounds similar to Black Metal
but trust me it's nothing like it. First off shoegaze is soft and shameless about it, the vocals are dreamy ethereal chants pushed back into the mix to create a sense of serenity and overall it emulates a feeling of hope and light. Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde
has all of these characteristics so how this release picked up the Black Metal
tag is beyond me, maybe because of their first demo which was pure raw Black Metal
so people were probably expecting a Black Metal
Okay so how does the music fare? Well you'll be glad to know the music is great, even brilliant but it has some flaws. I'll get the flaws out of the way first so I can focus more on the positive aspects. If you look up Alcest
on the Metal
Archives and read the reviews from this album you're going to see an extremely divise set of opinions. One of the more common flaws levelled at this album is that it's boring and all the tracks sound similar. Although I really like this album I can see where they are coming from. If this album fails to grab your attention then it can go to trance inducing to flat out boring and repetitive. It's not a particularly an easy album to get into, although it doesn't have the harsh hostile sound commonly associated with Black Metal
in general for that matter the tracks do drone on without much changes and a lot of repetition so it lacks anything that would make it easy listening as well. This creates a really bizarre and eccentric sound to the album. The best description I can give is inacessible softness, I know that sounds really quite ridiculous but if you listen to this album you'll understand what I mean.
But this is where this album stands out, ridiculous as it sounds, this really is what makes it succeed in what it is trying to do. The music is hypnotic, surreal and tranquil. It creates wonderful overlapping soundscapes full of dreamy textures that will suck in the listener and cover them with an aura of hope and light.
The guitars do retain a small (and I really do mean small) amount of Black Metal
influence. Their still slightly distorted but not enough for it to be considered Black Metal
. The riffs aren't anything complex and there is a focus on minimalist compisition commonly found in Black Metal
but the execution just isn't what I would call Black Metal
. The riffs are hypnotic and at times beautiful, where as in Black Metal
they are barbarous and dissonant. There is a lot of clean electric guitar usage and it is done very well, they are added at suitable intervals and are played brilliantly.
The bass guitar is fairly audible though not over powering, it's a perfect fit as it creates some pretty good under tones to the music. Although they don't do any stand alone moments and they don't even do anything that really stands out it does its job perfectly and fits in brilliantly with the rest of the music.
The drums don't do anything complex and just play simple beats to keep the rhythm, there not really stand out but they do their job just fine.
Okay now onto the vocals, the vocals here are a set of ethereal, dream like chants that are a subdued within the mix. The vocals are handled by Neige most of the time but Audrey Sylvain provides guest vocals on one track. Neige has an EXTREMELY feminine voice, he's an excellent singer and his vocals fit perfectly with the rest of the album. There is no usage of harsh vocals to be found on this album and to be fair if there was it would have ruined the album because the music on this album was designed for clean vocals rather than harsh ones and if it was used it would have ruined the album.
Overall this is a very good shoegazing album, it may not be as good as Écailles de Lune
and Les Voyages de l'âme it still should be heard by fans of shoegaze and metal fans who are more open minded and don't mind something soft once in a while. I would strongly recommend you pick up Alcest
's other two albums first though as you might find yourself enjoying them a lot more, I know I did. Still it's still a great album it's just not up to the standard of their latter releases.
Favourite tracks-Souvenir d'un Autre Monde, Tir Nan Og