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Alcest - Les Voyages De L'Ame (Cover Artwork)

Alcest

Alcest: Les Voyages De L'AmeLes Voyages De L'Ame (2012)
Prophecy Productions

Reviewer Rating: 3.5


Contributed by: gugl0003gugl0003
(others by this writer | submit your own)

Before I review this album, I must admit a few things. First, this style of music isn't normally my thing. I find black metal to be the most insufferable noise on the face of the earth, and atmosphere-heavy post-rock usually puts me to sleep. Any combination of the two (Deafheaven, Liturgy, etc.) us.
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Before I review this album, I must admit a few things. First, this style of music isn't normally my thing. I find black metal to be the most insufferable noise on the face of the earth, and atmosphere-heavy post-rock usually puts me to sleep. Any combination of the two (Deafheaven, Liturgy, etc.) usually confuses the hell out of me and leaves me bored about two minutes into the first song. Second, from thorough Wikipedia research, I've gathered that Alcest is the brainchild of some French dude named Neige (Snow, in English), who writes songs as an adaptation of some magical "fairy land" he had "contact" with as a kid. For real. Sure, on paper this album sounds like a total disaster, but bear with me.

The first thing you notice about Les Voyages De L'Ame is how huge and operatic it sounds. The first four songs especially wouldn't sound out of place on the soundtrack of a Tolkien movie adaptation. As Neige's crooning, almost trance-like voice soars over top layers of guitar dubs and crashing cymbals, I get the mental image that I'm flying over a CGI-friendly New Zealand landscape, or a "fairy land" as it were. All the while, Neige's counterpart Winterhalter keeps it down on the drums, creating a very metal/punk-sounding bottom end. This allows Neige to freely explore the atmosphere he has created without getting too far off the path, which is something very hard to do when you're writing songs as long as these (Only two tracks on this album fall under the five-and-a-half-minute mark, four are longer than seven minutes).

The second half of Voyages is noticeably darker, as the drums get a bit faster, the guitars get a bit heavier and Neige replaces his soothing voice with occasional screams and a chorus of synthesized vocals that blend into the songs rather than soar above them. The change in pace is welcome, as by this point the "fairy land" shtick has run it's course and starts to get a little self indulgent. Alcest also starts experimenting more here--the first half of "Faiseurs De Mondes" reminds me a bit of Envy, while the guitars on "Summer's Glory" wouldn't sound out of place on a Butch Vig album. But for all the twists and turns, the album still sounds cohesive, partly because the layering ensures that huge, spacious quality remains.

Space is something that both ambient rock and metal thrive on, and Alcest use their headroom very effectively throughout this album. Post-rock has a tendency to abandon all kinetic aspects for the sake of sounding "epic," while black metal prefers to bury it's cool parts behind an impenetrable wall of distortion, bad drumming and piss-poor production. Voyages does neither; you can hear all the good parts, but there's enough room to ensure they aren't being jammed down your throat. The best example of this is midway through the second song, when without warning, Neige breaks out the black metal scream and Winterhalter comes crashing in with the blast beats. Although the concept sounds cool in theory, the way they pull it off without disrupting the momentum of the song is what's truly remarkable.

The only time the album falters is when it strays too far into one of the genres that influenced it. The "fairy land" atmosphere is so much a focus on Voyages' first half that no amount of good drumming could save the concept from getting stale by the middle of the third song. Conversely, Neige's work on "Beings of Light" is some of the most textured and interesting stuff on the album, but the four-and-a-half consecutive minutes of blast beats makes the song a challenge to get through.

All that aside, Les Voyages De L'Ame was a pleasant surprise for somebody who doesn't particularly enjoy what Alcest pulls from. The fact that I could actually sit through this album long enough to review it, let alone actually enjoy it, speaks volumes to how well executed it is. I'd seriously recommend checking this out if you enjoy black metal, post-rock or even screamo a la City of Caterpillar, Daitro or Pianos Become the Teeth. That, or if you enjoy well written songs by artists pushing their craft forward. Either way, it's pretty cool.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
dontfearthereefer (January 15, 2012)

so stoked to see this reviewed. not my favorite but a great non the less

keithybobeefy (January 13, 2012)

This album makes me want to stare at a wall., but in a good way. Like, stare at a stucco wall during a trip.

Cheesetits (January 13, 2012)

I was won over after seeing them live, stoked on this.

danperrone (January 13, 2012)

really good band. amesoeurs (they share some of the same members) are also really good too.

Skibz777 (January 13, 2012)

"Eh, I don't think so... At least not when it comes to bands like this, the vast majority of which are really boring."

I'm not going to fault the reviewer for his perspective: if I wanted a comprehensive review of a metal album, I'd go to a metal site. It makes sense for this website to review this album from an outsider standpoint since it's more relevant to their punk-based readership, which usually isn't part of the black metal demographic (your stated opinion on it being "really boring" a fine case in point).

However, myself being a bit more into this genre than most people on this website, I'd have personally preferred a more detailed and discerning review, but, of course, that's why I'd go somewhere else. I have no issue with this review, I'm just musing...I just typically don't ever like reviews that start out that way (for any genre), as it's not a reliable opinion: a reviewer unfamiliar with black metal could highly recommend an album that experienced black metal fans just find mediocre, or they could easily dismiss an album that experienced fans might consider a masterpiece. Thus is why I only consult specialized niche reviewers for such albums, and why I'll similarly consult PunkNews for new punk/hardcore releases.

slowstupidhungry (January 13, 2012)

"It always annoys me whenever I read a review that starts out like "I don't listen to this genre of music nor do I like it all that much". I'm sure that perspective is relevant to some outsider readers (especially on this site, which I assume is not Alcest's target demographic), but I always prefer to hear analysis from a more knowledgeable source."

Eh, I don't think so... At least not when it comes to bands like this, the vast majority of which are really boring.

Misanthropee (January 13, 2012)

This sounds right up my alley, downloading now. Will buy if good.

eatdogs (January 13, 2012)

blackgazeshoemetal...

naw, but seriously i lovethis band.

Cthulhu (January 13, 2012)

I love that music like this gets discussed on this site!
Now please review more bands like Amesoeurs, Lantlōs, Agalloch, Eķs, Les Discrets, Helrunar, Negurć Bunget, Klabautamann, Dornenreich, Empyrium, Ulver, Lifelover, and so on! :-D

Skibz777 (January 13, 2012)

It always annoys me whenever I read a review that starts out like "I don't listen to this genre of music nor do I like it all that much". I'm sure that perspective is relevant to some outsider readers (especially on this site, which I assume is not Alcest's target demographic), but I always prefer to hear analysis from a more knowledgeable source.

Regardless, I've yet to hear this album, although I quite enjoyed their last one. And apparently it's streaming through their label's YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7BF53AFB2555C55E

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