Release Date: January 6, 2012
One generally ascribes the term “poetry in motion” to movement of the visual and tangible. However, music is also fluid, even more so than animate objects and beings. Therefore I can think of no better description of Alcest’s newest album, Les Voyages de l’Âme. This marks the third full length studio album from France’s Alcest which is a side project of black metal artist Neige (Peste Noire, Mortifera, Phest, Amesoeurs). Neige combines pieces of black metal with elements of post-rock and shoegaze (perhaps the dumbest sub-genre term out there). Even that assessment does his music a disservice. Alcest’s music is about emotive ambience and introspection.
Alcest’s 2010 album, Écailles de Lune became one of the year’s most heralded releases, finding love from most metal circles. With the follow-up, Les Voyages de l’Âme, Neige, along with drummer Winterhalter, continue to forge stunning sonic landscapes, that quietly demand your attention. The title translates roughly to journeys of the soul. Very apt indeed.
From the atmospheric ethereal opening of “Autre Temps” the voyage begins in earnest. There’s something of the mystical here. While black metal is often associated with darkness and despair, there is none of that here. In fact calling this black metal at all feels inappropriate. Neige’s voice is uplifting and hopeful.
Alcest paints in aural imagery on “Là où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles”. At nearly nine minutes, this is the longest track on the record. Here we find moments of Neige’s black metal roots here, but still it does not feel dark. We have a cacophony spiraling distorted guitar work reverberating around Neige’s guttural screams.
The title track is simply put a work of divine aural beauty. When Neige uses his clean vocals he has a touch of the romantic, and a very serene quality to it. Feel free to take away my man-card, but the truth remains, this is a stunning and lush soundscape.
“Faiseurs De Mondes” is one of the album’s heavier tracks, with more harsh vocals and growling but controlled guitars. Yet there remains no feeling of despair or darkness, even here. This is one of the many standout tracks on this record.
The final track, “Summer’s Glory” feels like sun on your face. A very buoyant piece, with a rich melody and more clean vocals. Perhaps the best track on the record. The vibe of this song takes the listener full circle to the album’s beginning, and the journey starts a new.
Track by track, listening to an Alcest album is like walking through a fairytale. Les Voyages de l’Âme is a captivating gift for the ears, the mind, and as intended, the soul. One of the year’s first releases, and one of the best the year will produce. Simply brilliant, nearly perfection, and a sheer delight.