Alcest
Les Voyages de L'ame

Alcest’s ‘Les Voyages de l’Âme sure as hell is a niche album. Clearly, Neige’s intention with his approach to shoegaze is to convey a positive and mellow type of ambiance, and while he’s succeeding in said task in a few songs (while drifting into depressive musings in others; at least according to what I could pick up on while blasting this full volume) while bringing up front both talent and dedication on this third studio album of his (with Winterhalter from Les Discrets fame carrying on with the drum duty, being Neige’s sole team mate in Alcest since ’09), it’s gotta be said that sitting through the whole deal from front to back without zoning out is a daunting task. It’s a very introverted, pensive, and slow-evolving type of songwriting. It does contain a couple surprises thrown in the mix for those patient souls that feel prompted to stick around through the various flat areas of those songs, but I’m hardly being thrown by the overall experience. It doesn’t have nearly enough personality to sit among the rack of unforgettables, for the very simple reason that it goes through the motions stubbornly enough to often cause this effort to sound like a mechanical delivery. Dosages of real variation in rhythmic patterns have to be well thought-out for this sub-genre to be interestingly enhanced, and on this release, punchiness is unfortunately too scarce to ensure memorability. Dullness reigns supreme, no matter how sincere this record can be in its endeavors.

”Autre Temps” opens up with a fairly pleasant bunch of accoustic melodies with a nice Åkerfeldt touch to them, and a certain meditative mood is immediately brought forward in the same breath. Neige’s soft and ghostly vocal approach fits in this layout no doubt, being well framed-up by the instrumentation and on-key in this song as much as the rest, although it doesn’t hit the mark much in terms of expressiveness all through the disc. ”Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles” rapidly comes up with a handful of sharp licks that do take aback with the strength of their emotional grit, which leads the tune on a safely tight stride shifting between poetically somber verses and some solid and genuinely black metal-associated buildups, coupled with a sore n’ deliciously bleak end wrap-up that brings to mind band names in the vein of Katatonia, Daylight Dies, and Paradise Lost, to name only three. It’s one of them moments on this release that would’ve made it a must-own, weren’t they so rarely aiding its ability to grip and crush. Les Voyages de l’Âme‘ is much more linear and watered down in terms of notable nuances, and whilst its psychedelically hypnotic nature is definitely wrapping up the mind with sheer passion from both of these musicians, filler bits and pieces of the tableau could’ve been fleshed out more or trimmed from the track since it quickly begins to sound like it could stretch out for three eternities and a day when the pace variations skip out of the picture completely. ”Nous Sommes L’Émeraude” suffers from the same kind of problem to a perhaps slightly lesser degree.

The drumming sounds more lively and persistent, and there’s a strongly and positively desperate intensity in the riffage that definitely works quite well back to back with Winterhalter’s attack, but even so, this is hardly a monumentally essential highlight to speak of. ”Beings of Light” comes up with a touch of genuine originality with an upbeat hivernal gallop and entrancing background melodies that sure are inspiring and attention-absorbing. Still, ”Faiseurs de Mondes” is the one absolute must-hear out of those eight tunes, masterfully rushing all through it’s damned near 8 minutes-long duration with one seriously entertaining and frankly anarchic-sounding collection of pattern shifts that brilliantly drove my excitement up the wall, breaking out of the audibly pre-defined comfort zone of the first half of the record (which seemed to take a bit of a drastic turn with those two tracks raising the bar a peg). Nevertheless, both ”Haven” and the excessively lengthy ”Summer’s Glory” go straight back to the tame and honestly platonic take on alternative meets post-rock mind-wanderings. I can’t for the life of me find a trace of a hook or head-turning evolution in this final cut, which brings me to raise an eyebrow at the two very contrasting faces of this band’s sound.

Regardless of that mildly puzzling fact, and of some very hit and miss passages, this album is okay for what it is. It has its noticeably good traits, but sure doesn’t blow me away as much as it could’ve, had it been pushing out of the box ever so slightly more often.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Noch
April 23rd, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: gabaghoul

    beautiful melodies but debatable whether this even classifies as metal anymore. good write-up, glad someone covered it.


  2. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Don’t think this is metal at all anymore. Don’t really care, it’s beautiful.


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