Emma Ruth Rundle was a naturally complementary opener for the first U.S. stop of Alcest's ongoing North American tour, which took place in Allston, Massachusetts, at Brighton Music Hall (Alcest kicked it off two days prior in Mexico City, with Rundle joining up tonight). Her dark singer/songwriter fare gets rightly compared to Chelsea Wolfe a lot, but the music is definitely removed from the latter's industrial/weirdo metal leanings; throw in dashes of the Cranberries' Celtic folk and Daughter's haunting, emotive atmospheres and you get a better idea of her whole picture. Naturally, live she played on her own, standing stage left with a plugged-in guitar and a little bit of samples for effect here and there. She howled out some standouts from last year's Some Heavy Ocean with her hair often hanging down obscuring her face. "Shadows of My Name" was a major highlight, as Rundle yowled the anguished climaxes of the track.
Set list (8:10-8:45):
- Some Heavy Ocean
- Run Forever
- Oh Sarah [?]
- Shadows of My Name
- Arms I Know So Well
- Living with the Black Dog
Alcest entered my radar with 2012's Les Voyages De L'Ã‚me, and opportunities to see them live here have been few and far between, if not non-existent, as far as I know. That meant two things: I'd get to see how their atmospheric post-black metal-gone-post-rock/shoegaze would translate live, and how their older material would mix in with it, as their last two albums have obviously established a new chapter in their sonic lives. Mind you, I still haven't gotten caught up on their pre-Voyages albums, though I understand they skewed a little more towards a traditional black metal template. A little.
As it turns out, because the band have always had that unusual atmosphere for the genre and a strong melodic foothold, the two eras flow together in a set real well. The band is on point live, seemingly never missing a beat while crafting a heartrending atmosphere with a ton of power, momentum, and emotion, referencing post-rock greats in the process. They even encouraged clapping along at points.
Vocalist/guitarist Neige's vocals were a little low in the mix for the first few songs, but they emerged enough to make the right impact soon enough. The prettiness of last year's Shelter (essentially the Valtari of their catalog by this point) didn't make the set too airy, with slightly heavier songs making the cut and older stuff like the set-closing standout "PercÃ©es De LumiÃ¨re" acting as a fully engaging dynamic changeup (especially as it was one of the few songs in the set where Neige screams). They played just shy of an hour and a half, including a 14-minute encore that included Shelter closer "DÃ©livrance", and warmly thanked the crowd a few times in well-spoken, French-accented English, as I'm sure they were appreciative to play to a good few hundred people on a Monday night as an esoteric "metal" band from a foreign country.