For followers of underground metal – regardless of genre – Alcest need no introduction. Their 2007 album, ‘Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde’ took the shoegaze metal template popularized by bands such as Jesu and The Angelic Process, and whacked it about the head with the bloody mace of black metal. Reviews were mixed, but fast-forward three years and the album has influenced legions of bands looking to try their hand at this newfangled take on an otherwise stagnating genre.
The style of this release is very much a mix of ‘Souvenirs’ and frontman Neige’s other project, Amesouers’ full-length. Neo-folk flavours can be found dotted around the place and black metal is given more than the passing nod it was presented with in the band’s debut. This gives ‘Écailles’ a real sense of depth in ideas and also a darker atmosphere.
I shall just emphasise the last word from the previous paragraph. Atmosphere. The music bleeds atmosphere like few others, meaning this is an album that should be listened to on its own – preferably with headphones or a powerful sound system – to be fully appreciated. The character of the record is very distinctive; whereas ‘Souvenirs’ felt like lying amidst tall grass and closing your eyes against the warm glare of the sun, ‘Écailles’ feels like being carried through the night on the wings of angelic beings.
On this transcendental flight, the ugly, grizzled screams of black metal race towards you; dark lines racing from the nothingness at top speed. The angels – unafraid – unfold their arms, releasing wandering white clouds of fuzzy and hypnotic guitar lines. The screams fight through the fog but are engulfed in sound. Your otherworldly carriers let their heartbeats shape the haze before piercing it with their calm and beautiful voices. Then some Frenchman stuffs the cloud onto a bit of plastic and sells it with some pretty pictures on the front.
If you enjoyed ‘Souvenirs’ you will undoubtedly enjoy ‘Écailles De Lune’. The writing is more mature and the music more varied. If you had no idea who Alcest were at the start of this review, then I urge you to at least listen to a couple of tracks from this effort, as I am sure it shall be held up as an important release in years to come.
01 – Écailles De Lune (Part I)