|Black Metal, Shoegaze
January 31st, 2012
Release length: 50:22
The audio here is simply perfect for the growth that Alcest has made since their debut album. Les Voyages De L’Ã‚me really packs an audio quality that does still come off a bit hazy, but that’s more like a dream and portrayed through the music being played. In fact, the sound of this release itself has a high quality to it that feels pretty clear. The guitars here hold that Black Metal sharpness, but it’s very faint, and the rhythm guitar seems to just not have any distortion at all at times. The bass here does stand out slightly as its own element to the music instead of simply backing up the guitars, though that’s all it really seems to do here. It’s fine though given the more laid back approach from the Shoegaze and Post-Rock influences that dominate the music this time around. The drumming finds a good amount of cymbal usage than anything else, having a decent volume in the mix that helps the hazy dream-like state of the compositions well when slower, but really seems to take a backseat when the Black Metal tendencies show, such as during “LÃ OÃ¹ Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles.” The snares come off a bit rich and louder, though not enough that it offsets anything else, and the bass kicks have a pretty deep thud to them that sounds more natural to the instrument, as well as very suiting to the music itself, though not so much during the faster, heavier moments. But what really stands out the most is the vocal performance. Much of the time you are given a very soft and soothing clean singing approach that feels a lot stronger compared to the previous efforts, and there’s also some Black Metal wails going on at times, like during the aforementioned song. However, in this case they seem to be that rasp approach but heavily distorted, and a bit pushed into the background.
Much of this album is a softer release geared towards being a bit beautiful and heavy in atmosphere, and “Autre Temps” demonstrates that right from the start. The song has a bit of a toned down introduction, similar to an acoustic piece but done with low distortion on an electric guitar before it picks up a little more and closes out the introduction of the track. The soothing vocal performance goes well for the very intimate performance that clearly takes the Shoegaze and Post-Rock ideas into consideration a lot more than its Black Metal foundation that you can pick up on slightly. The emotional chorus finds a slight echo on the vocals while a depressive tone is carried in the guitars that really tugs on the listener’s heartstrings until it comes to its inevitable stop, leaving you to wish the song would carry on a lot longer then it’s just under six-minute track length. The emotion involved and even epic homage atmosphere that is incorporated is enough to leave you speechless after this song alone.
The title track also does a fantastic job of keeping that magic alive. This one doesn’t quite feel as intimate as “Autre Temps,” but it definitely holds a melancholic beauty to it that, at times, has a bit of a cold, slightly frostbitten sense to it’s more natural wonder. There’s more energy in much of the song here, which is carried over from the last track and is varied heavily throughout here. There are also a good number of moments where the tone shifts from a colder touch to a glorious rebirth vibe around the half-way point and on until the end that is very uplifting, to really soft moments that feel empty musically as if in the form of a self-realization that would make sense towards the previous altered setting just mentioned. None of this feels forced or out-of-place in any way either, and it feels like a whole different experience compared to what the album has already presented the listener. “Nous Sommes L’Emeraude” manages to carry that glorious feel along with it a bit, but without keeping that uplifting tone present in the previous track. Instead, the depressive Black Metal returns once more, and it’s easily at its saddest during the bridges and chorus. The main verses, however, don’t really leave much of an impact, but there is still a decent emotional bond you can pull from them, even though they become more of what one might expect from a tight Rock group with a sad message to convey through their music that comes from a French or even Italian region thanks to some of the chords played.
Similar to “LÃ OÃ¹ Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles,” “Faiseurs de Mondes” includes some Black Metal style wails in the background that are altered quite a bit. However, the slight push of that style musically with the already present glorious atmosphere really works out well here. The transitions feel a lot more natural, and even the more aggressive side of the music shows off through the same kind of melancholic touches without anything really having to change, or even coming off altered in any way. There’s also “LÃ OÃ¹ Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles” that essentially does the same thing, but comes off a little out-of-place with its heavier moments and stronger Black Metal spurts that appear at times since the transitions are not as good, and the meshing of the styles ends up being hurt by it.
But, of all the songs that Les Voyages De L’Ã‚me has to offer, the only one that really feels like a bit of a letdown is “Beings of Light.” This song really feels like it’s just completely out of the ballpark as far as the fluidity of the album goes. The track really incorporates a heavier sound and vocal performance that feels better suited to a Progressive Rock or Metal release, and with the way the male clean vocals are handled here, one could almost look at this one as something you might expect to appear on a random calmer The Devin Townsend Project release. The additional female vocals are pushed into the background along with the airy, clearly distorted male leads, and it actually comes off more technical than human in the long run. Even the music doesn’t sound right in any way. It sounds like the song is trying to be somewhat spiritual, with or without a religious backing behind it, or even mantra influence, but despite what slight changes exist it sounds like the same riffs and drum beats from start until near the very end for over six minutes, sadly getting boring really early on.
If you didn’t know that Alcest had originally started their career out as a raw Black Metal band, you certainly wouldn’t think that listening to Les Voyages De L’Ã‚me. This album is simply a stunning effort with almost every track really feeling like emotionally driven magic. Granted almost nothing compares to the intimate sound of the starting track “Autre Temps,” but there’s plenty of solid material that does a good job at carrying a depressive, upbeat, or heavier tone with it. Even if you weren’t a fan of Alcest before, Les Voyages De L’Ã‚me may be the album to convert you. If you’re already a fan, then there’s absolutely no reason to put off buying this phenomenal release. It may have only been a short time between albums, but Alcest truly deliver an emotional album worthy of any fan of Metal, or music in general. It’s just a shame that this album will be greatly shadowed by the far less talented mainstream musicians of our time currently clogging today’s radio waves.
01. Autre Temps – 5:50
02. LÃ OÃ¹ Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles – 8:50
03. Les Voyages de L’Ã‚me – 6:57
04. Nous Sommes L’Emeraude – 4:21
05. Beings of Light – 6:11
06. Faiseurs de Mondes – 7:57
07. Havens – 2:11
08. Summer’s Glory – 8:05
|Overall Score: 9.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Prophecy Productions.