Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Âme

When a musician succeeds, with his or her first records, in leaving a deep imprint on the musical landscape, paradoxically he or she finds himself or herself in the uncomfortable position of having to cope with ever-increasing expectations. Indeed, this new record by the transalpine musician inevitably exposes itself to the criticism of those who are always waiting for the stroke of genius or the innovative element that makes an album memorable. Perhaps I am going against the grain of the criteria used by most critics, but whenever I listen to a new record, I try to remove as much as I can the identity of the artist, his or her history, and anything else that might condition the judgment. It seems clear that, in retrospect, one cannot help but give due consideration to the aforementioned aspects, but solely in order to express a more comprehensive opinion. This premise is necessary to remark how Alcest‘s album is a work of absolute value, even if, in fact, it does not bring any new component to the band’s discography. Neige, joined by drummer Winterhalter (also engaged in Les Discrets), offers us a fascinating work, which we can place halfway between the previous Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde and Écailles De Lune; 50 minutes of dreamy atmospheres, of delicate sonic frescoes sporadically mottled by rhythmic accelerations and scream vocals, the only legacy of that black metal that characterized Alcest‘s very first steps. With Autre Temps and Là Où Naissent Les Coulers Nouvelles the album gets off to a decidedly good start, with two tracks of absolute value, however different from each other; while in the former, in fact, the more spiritual aspect emerges, expressed with almost impalpable atmospheres, the later still presents the residual metal side in the form of guitar distortions combined with the fleeting appearance of the scream. The vocal gimmick is also repeated in Faiseurs De Mondes, another splendid episode that helps break the homogeneity that characterizes almost all the tracks following the initial pair. “Journeys of the Soul” concludes with the gentle pacing of Summer’s Glory, and the feeling one gets is that of having reached, in total harmony with the artist, inner peace. The album is not, however, free of imperfections: the causes are to be found both in Neige’s always somewhat flat vocal timbre and in a certain underlying uniformity that, apart from some sporadic acceleration, weighs down the listening experience at several junctures; for that matter, one would seem to discern a natural evolution of the French musician toward even more ethereal sounds than in the past. This invalidates only to a limited extent the value of a work that, in the end, consolidates Alcest‘s status as a guiding band in a sphere that can be defined as shoegaze or post metal but that, in the end, is just excellent music composed by an artist whose name is now synonymous with high quality.

2012 – Prophecy Productions