Alcest - _Les Voyages de L'Âme_
(Prophecy Productions, 2012)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7 out of 10)
While Alcest seems to fall in line with a dozen other post black bands, the history surrounding this band seems genuine. Created in France in the early '00s, Neige began Alcest as a solo band before being joined by Famine and Argoth. Together, the members created Alcest's first black metal demo as well as the formation of another, more caustic, group Peste Noire. Neige stayed with Peste Noire up until the formation of the group's debut album. While Peste Noire would later go on to be one of black metal's most hilariously outspoken groups, Neige went off to create something more tender.

Alcest's 2005's _Le Secret_ was a triumph in experimentation, successfully marrying black metal's structure with soft shoegazing elements. Blast beats were played on wire brushes and the tremolo fury was reduced to a soft white noise. Since _Le Secret_, Alcest has had a successful career offering a more delicate form of black metal for the more discerning customer. Alcest's continuation will ultimately yield a further expanse of style and the inevitable period when Neige will cross some imaginary line. I hate to be the one to say this, but I think Alcest just went out of bounds.

This review is difficult, because _Les Voyages de L'Âme_ is phenomenal in its structure and execution of melodic elements, but there is not enough black metal for me. This is not Alcest's fault but my own. The second track "Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles" is segmented by an inhuman yet beautifully mastered black rasp. While most of the song is decent, it is this contrast between melodic and skin peeling excitement which makes the track a success. The middle ground between ferocity and delicacy is sobering much in the same way early spring is underscored by the echoes of winter. After hearing this brief exhibition of tenacity in "Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles", I waited... and waited... and waited. The expectation of more black metal emerging from shoegazing chrysalis soured my experience. While the black rasp returned in "Faiseurs de Mondes", my unrealistic expectations led to full out disappointment. It is not as if _Les Voyages de L'Âme_ is not deserving in merit, though its quality will most likely be polarizing.

Neige's melodic voice has been a pillar in Alcest's music since _Le Secret_. The mournful yet rounded voice soars over the top of varying degrees of deconstructed metal. Alcest, much like Earth and Opeth, have traveled beyond the horizon into a world where the conventions of metal make little sense when judging. Questioning _Les Voyages de L'Âme_ and its role in the metal world should not be viewed as an insult or critic of allegiance; rather a redefinition of parameters when writing reviews. I applaud the band for continuing to push its own aesthetic boundaries. The album has and will continue to make people appreciate the levels black metal can be pushed. For others, it may be too light where one expected dark.

(article published 12/2/2012)


ALBUMS
10/10/2010 P Azevedo 8.5 Alcest - Écailles de Lune
3/11/2008 P Azevedo 7 Alcest - Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde
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