Alcest - Kodama (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Alcest

Kodama (2016)

Prophecy


Alcest's last record, Shelter, left fans polarised as it went in the total opposite direction that their blackgaze loyalists were accustomed to. It felt out of character but was still creative, inspirational and filled with a mood and tension that Niege loves to evoke. Not the Frenchmen's best but still a series of compositions that worked. Kodama represents more than just a return to form as they use the symphonic and cinematic essence off Shelter to bridge the gap back to the past. Kodama indeed is louder, in-your-face and draped with themes of old but it still feels like an experience down a road that leads to a forward step in Alcest's evolution.

If you've never listened to them before, you'd love them especially if you're into Tool and Envy. "Je Suis D'ailleurs" is a great starting point on this record as it harkens back to the old days ("Nous Sommes L'Emeraude" in particular). The textured guitars, intricate solos and Niege's voice mixing harsh vocals back with the clean -- all what we missed off Shelter. Alcest muddy up the melodic aspects of this album with noise so well and it shouldn't come as any surprise given the production's done by the same team off Écailles De Lune and Les Voyages...

The record's complex and beautiful to say the least. One of the biggest aspects that builds the atmosphere is how the drums crack louder and louder as the tracks progress with the reverb matching the theatrical essence of Japanese culture. Niege wanted a whirlwind sound that came off like a calmed chaos to pay tribute to the tree spirits and echoes that Kodama translate to. Relentless, rhythm and filled with punch in his love letter to Hayao Miyazaki's "Princess Mononoke". Kodama thusly deals with duality -- life and death, light and dark. It rambles about spirituality and dimensions to give one of Niege's most poetic concepts to date. "Oiseaux De Proie" is another gracefully savage track that embodies this melodic, dense nature of Alcest. Melodramatic in the best sense of the word. It comes full circle on the title-track which features Sylvaine vocalist, Kathrine Shepard, and made-up vocals similar to what Sigur Ros do. Packed with the intensity of say, Mortifera's "Le Revenant" or Peste Noire's "Dueil Angoisseus".

By the time the record ends, you'll realise how it's a great blend of Alcest, old and new. So glad they didn't go full dream-pop or alternative because we'd have missed out. This album has a cultural and stylistic appeal that has enormous identity, living up to Alcest's most sublime work. Topping the latter? Wouldn't say so but definitely giving it a run for its money.  Although, where they go after Kodama could prove to be their biggest acid test yet.