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Alcest - Les voyages de l'āme CD (album) cover




Experimental/Post Metal

3.83 | 190 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' - Alcest (7/10)

For a genre of music which is infamous for often basing its content on male bravado, gore, misanthropy and depression, it takes some serious balls to be a metal band that looks to fairy tales and uplifting emotion in their music. Alcest may have once been a typical black metal band a decade or so ago, but this project has since dissolved their ties to a dark sound, now gravitating towards an atmospheric mix of post metal and shoegaze. Led by frontman Neige, Alcest's sound culminated in 2010 with the masterpiece 'Ecailles De Lune', an album which ranked as my unlikely favourite of that year. Although I rushed to the opportunity of hearing a sample from this follow-up to 'Ecailles' about a month ago, the song 'Autre Temps' had me worried that Alcest had now fallen into a strict formula for their music, and that I could not hope to be surprised by the band any longer. Although 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' is a worthy follow-up to my favourite album of 2010, my fears are sadly confirmed; Alcest's third record feels like a reprise of ideas and sounds from their past. While 'Souvenirs D'Un Autre Monde' and 'Ecailles De Lune' took their listeners to two separate- albeit similar- realms of fantasy, 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' is a nostalgic return to the second.

People will cry the familiar 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' rationelle, but I think 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' might have felt more otherworldly and atmospheric if it didn't sound so damned familiar from the first listen onward. Alcest's music is full of vast reverb, emotionally stirring guitars, and the presence of seemingly out-of-place drum blastbeats; an homage to the time when Alcest was a straight-up black metal act. Neige's voice is the most distinctive sound of the band, a soft clean vocal that often wanders about the higher register rather loosely. There are also black metal shrieks, but there are even less of those this time around than on 'Ecailles'. With a conventionally beautiful sound that is instantly pleasant to the ear, Alcest will attract listeners who don't usually like metal. The black metal elements are scarce, but they are there, and it makes them a perfect potential gateway to heavier, darker sounds. Although Alcest have spawned a legion of clones, their sound remains individual and unique. Even at the most intense moments of 'Les Voyages De L'Āme', things never feel dark; there is always a soaring melody to keep the listener planted firmly in the light.

'Les Voyages De L'Āme' is a move for Alcest that reminds me much of what Wolves In The Throne Room did with their last album 'Celestial Lineage'. Instead of experimenting with something new, they chose to further develop the ideas of their best work and see where it went. For Wolves In The Throne Room, that album of inspiration was 'Two Hunters'. In Alcest's case, 'Ecailles De Lune' is the most obvious palette from which Neige draws his brush. 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' is a sequel in every sense of the word; a slightly different angle of what is essentially the same thing. In terms of differences, 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' is more optimistic than the often melancholic 'Ecailles'. The listener is meant to feel light and hopeful the entire time through. Although this album achieves that feeling in me, there is nothing else in the music to contrast it; no conflict, no tension. As a result, 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' does not have that same lasting emotional impact that 'Ecailles De Lune' was graced with, despite being nearly as successful in terms of its musicianship and composition.

'Les Voyages De L'Āme' will always be compared to its predecessor, and in the end, I think it will be 'Ecailles' that enjoys the status of a 'classic'. This album has all of the traits that have made Alcest great in the past, and 'Les Voyages De L'Āme' is good, but there isn't much here to set the album apart as an independent work. My insistent complaints aside, this is a great way to star the year.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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