You know those bands that aren’t really metal but are always lumped into the metal genre? You know, groups like Primus, Tool, AC/DC, Kiss, etc. Well, I think we can add another band to this list: Alcest. In the band’s early days, they were quite clearly a metal band (their first release was a pure black metal demo). Since then, they’ve progressed away from the genre, now playing almost exclusively shoegaze music. Their latest effort, Les Voyages de l’í‚me (translates to The Journeys of the Soul in English), was released between January 6th and January 31st worldwide (staggering release dates).
Mostly the brainchild of Stéphane “Neige” Paut, Les Voyages de l’í‚me is the most cohesive album put out under the Alcest moniker. Mostly devoid of all pure black metal sections, a vast majority of the musical content is very much moody, atmospheric shoegaze. Even when the black metal roots are apparent on the album, such as the second quarter of “Lí oí¹ Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles”, the over-arching feel and mood of the shoegaze style looms overhead. Employing a pretty narrow set of moods, many of the songs portray a rather somber story (lyrics, though in French, reinforce this), though often times there is a slight hint of hope portrayed through the lyrics, contrasting the musical content of certain songs. In very fitting fashion, the album ends with a musical passage that embodies liberation after a long journey (more specifically, a journey of the soul, aka Les Voyages de l’í‚me).
The song structure and writing for Les Voyages de l’í‚me is really impressive, but it pales in comparison to the mixing and mastering of the album. Hearing the brilliant juxtaposition of Niege’s ethereal vocals intertwined between the variety of textures throughout the album is nothing short of amazing. Coupling the raw noise of shoegaze and black metal to create a massive wall pure cacophony (in a good way) then seamlessly transitioning and blending that to the spacey, clean sections is a real testament to the skill of the producers and engineers for the album. Les Voyages de l’í‚me is one of the most distinctive sounding records in modern metal (alongside the other Alcest releases).
Response to the record has been interesting, to say the least. Many fans who have commented on reviews of the album state it’s dull nature as the reason they weren’t much of a fan. There’s no mistaking that Les Voyages de l’í‚me is not an album for those with short attention spans, as many of the musical ideas develop over long periods of time (sometimes over many minutes). In that regard, the songwriting appeal is definitely geared to fans of post-metal than those of traditional black metal.
Even if you’re unsure of whether you’ll like the album or not, it’s uniqueness makes it worth a listen. Not without its imperfections, Les Voyages de l’í‚me still manages to be quite auspicious. Though it is much too soon to speculate what the next Alcest record will be like, the trend seems to suggest that it will be even more interesting than the previous three albums.
To hear a song from Les Voyages de l’í‚me, check out “Autre Temps” (the album’s first single) below: