Since sowing the seeds of raw sounding black metal back in 2001 with more than respectable demo ‘Tristesse hivernale’, Neige has been growing ever skyward with his project Alcest. Incorporating elements of post rock and shoegaze, Alcest has made music that has had every scarf-wearing, horn-rim bespectacled “black metaller” foaming at the mouth. While the words “beautiful” and “pretty” are often bandied about when discussing Alcest’s musical offerings, there’s no denying that they have all been creative pieces of musical excellence; towing a thin line between metal and ambient. All this considered, when bringing the creative mind of Neige together with Sigur Rós producer Birgir Jón Birgisson and Slowdive vocalist Neil Halstead (for lead vocals on’Away’) what transpires is going to be nothing short of excellent, right?
Wrong. What we have here is eight tracks of flat, boring and uninspired crap. While this album may be a reinforcement of the fact that Alcest wish to depart from the metal scene it also indicative of the fact that the heavier elements of the music were an integral part of what made the band interesting. Take away the devastatingly crushing passages featured on previous album ‘Les voyages de l’âme’ and we are left with an opus lacking tension and appeal that quickly becomes a chore to listen to.
Surprisingly, there are still a few inspiring moments to be had littered through this record – but you have to dig deep to find them; the guitar work featured on ‘Away’ as well as the powerful chorus of ‘Voix sereines’ are two major points to look out for if you decide to persevere. Taking into account how eagerly anticipated ‘Shelter’ has been it has proved itself to be a disappointment; after laying down such a strong black metal foundation, Neige has wasted a good opportunity by building a house of shoegaze straw opposed to anything that will last the test of time.
(Angela Davey 4/10)