|Black Metal, Shoegaze
Drakkar Productions, Prophecy Productions (2011)
May 1st, 2005 / May 17th, 2011
Release length: 54:19
The production quality to Le Secret isn’t the greatest, but for what the band is trying to achieve, it works out well. The overall feel of the material is a little more raw then traditional, but that raw quality is also accomodated by a rather volume level for all the instruments, which becomes a little hard to get accustomed to right away, but it’s nothing that really hurts the album. The lead guitar is a little louder then anything else though, and the drums and bass do feel a little further back and muffled in the mix. “Le Secret” starts off with a heavy Shoegaze approach to the music with acoustic guitars and lighter nature-oriented music that would feel right at home with a strong Folk band. A little more then three minutes into the mix, the band takes that slower paced acoustic in-nature feeling, weeding out some of the natural sound effects that came with it such as running water and birds chirping, and heading into a heavier, richer Black Metal approach that stays strong in the music for quite some while, varying between a faster speed that hammers some of the more intense Black Metal sound into the listener, while not being afraid to slow things down and go with some simpler chords, though these moments feel a little more barren. Eventually there are some vocals incorporated that are cleanly sung and perhaps some of the softest vocals one will ever hear on a Metal recording, let alone a Black Metal-related offering. They feel a little more synthesized, however, and that’s mostly because of how far back in the mix and low in volume they are that the guitars sound like they are actually distorting them in a manner that would be similar to performing them while slapping your throat or singing into a operating fan.
“Le Secret” remains that way until the song slows down to incorporate more nature effects against soft acoustic music and whispered vocals, effectively closing out the song nicely, giving way to “Elevation”. This track isn’t as broken up as “Le Secret” between the heavier Black Metal and more Folk sounding Shoegaze acoustic material. Instead the song seems to blend the two together at times, though never necessarily picking up an acoustic stance. The heavier Black Metal presence gives the track a slightly epic Black Metal vibe, though nothing too over the top, but the more laid back feel of the song in general, coupled with the many solid changes to the music throughout the entire song really catches the listener and keeps him/her content the entire song. There doesn’t seem to be vocals either, but considering how low they were last time, chances are good you may wind up passing them without even realizing you heard them if they even exist through the album. The song reaches a suitable climax that fades out, but even with a near thirteen minute track length, the fading leaves the song feeling incomplete instead of as if nearing the end and done so to avoid an abrupt ending to the song in an attempt to make it suit the release, or just generally sound better.
Aside the production issues of the material being a little muffled, there isn’t anything truly wrong with the recording. The natural effects of this release sound nice when placed against the acoustic material of “Le Secret”, and the final product of that song is a superb experiment with Black Metal. The transitions could have been a little better in that track, however, the while the start and end of the song are suiting for what the band is trying to pull off, the music feels a little lackluster, not quite having the impact that you might hope given the strong nature impression the band brings into it through the Shoegaze approach. The guitar’s distortion is also a bit too loud, but not enough that it will dramatically hurt the album, though it will definitely require some getting adjusted to at the start of the first Black Metal section of “Le Secret”. Other then that, having the vocals podded up a little higher in the mix would have been nice, and maybe bringing out the bass and drums a bit more too would have been helpful. The EP seems to try to pull some kind of emotional stance by doing so, and at times it does, but other times it just sounds like well composed music that is more an experimentation then a solid direction from the band, and the only real emotional take you can have from the album comes from the natural sound effects giving it a vibe that the music would be more Folk oriented towards the woods somewhere, but that only lasts during the slower portions of course, leaving the heavier elements to carry evertying on the instruments. While they succeed with the production restraints used here, they fail to present any sort of genuine atmosphere or emotional dynamic.
For 2011, Prophecy Productions picked up the rights to reissue Le Secret from Drakkar Productions. This reissue stands out a little more as it’s own release when you look at it simply by how the label and band handled it. Instead of simply reissuing the album and maybe throwing a bonus track on there from their demo, like most reissues would do, the band went back and re-recorded the two songs of this EP, effectively doubling the time of the EP to make it an actual full-length that clocks in at over fifty four minutes. With that also comes a stronger production quality on the material, and more modern take on the song compared to the originals, leaving these to sound much different when compared to the original source material. These two re-recorded tracks also are placed at the front of the EP instead of at the end, which may trick some listeners at first, but given the dynamic difference in audio quality between these and the originals, anyone with common sense will be able to tell the difference between the originals and re-recordings.
First up is “Le Secret”, which is sounds much better compared to the original. The audio levels are all proper, and the songs themselves become much louder in the process. The clearer sound kills the distortion issues that became a but of an annoyance in the original tracks with the guitar, and the song itself just sounds richer in comparison. The vocals are handled the same way, being very soft clean singing, but a little richer and louder where you can actually hear them clearly and not find the guitar performing an audio trick to make it sound like he’s singing into a fan or something like that. Due to all of this, the song sounds more engaging and becomes far more enjoyable in the long run. “Elevation” also greatly benefits from this. The music becomes more enchanting, though not by much and doesn’t set much of a strong mood outside the natural vibes you get from the softer material, and the vocals on here don’t become as questionably existent compared to the original thanks to a proper vocal level that makes it clear they exist, and just adds to the richness of the song. While the source material is great, these re-recorded tracks really stand out, and ultimately sound much better in comparison.
Le Secret is an impressive and interesting debut from Alcest, and while the EP itself isn’t the strongest in atmosphere, it does lead to some interesting moments that many bands have fed off of over the years. The Shoegaze influence leads to a slightly visual natural setting for the music, and while the transitions may not be the best, having it out coupled between obvious Black Metal and seeded in softer chords with acoustics at times becomes an interesting journey with Metal. If you haven’t heard the original, then now is the time to pick it up, but even if you did, the reissue becomes a whole other experience all together with the better production, and almost requires fans to pick it up and hear the music the way it should have been heard in the first place. But, aside the reissue, while this release is easily one of the more influential of the emotional Black Metal movement, the overall EP does live up to the expectations and much of the praise that critics, and fans, give it.
01. Le Secret – 14:33
02. Elevation – 12:46
|Initial Pressing Score: 7.5/10
2011 Reissue Score: 8.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Prophecy Productions.