Alcest – Les Voyages De L’Amé (2012) Album Review

Seeing that 2011 was a pretty poor year for the metal scene, I gathered my hopes for a more splendid and resourceful 2012, a year that I hoped to be one full of creativity, passion and especially, filled with better disc quality and music quality. I don’t mean to say that 2011 was a wasted year, when you have bands like Anaal Nathrakh, Amorphis, Draconian, Vader, Primordial or Septicflesh who released some of the best albums, some of the bands even outran themselves and released probably the best album in their career (Septicflesh).

I think that 2012 began in a majestic way. And what better way to begin it with the new Alcest album, entitled Les Voyages De L’Amé (The Journeys Of The Soul). A short introduction for this band, it is currently a duo project between Neige, the man responsible for most instrumentals and vocal duty, also the founding member of the band and ex-member of two other important French bands, Amesoeurs and Peste Noire and Winterhalter, the drummer of the band, a rather new guy, but a pretty talented and capable one nonetheless. The band approaches a sort of unique metal style, combining the extreme part of metal, black metal, with a rather atmospheric and relaxing genre, named shoegaze (named because of the way the people that play this genre gaze at their shoes and barely move on stage).

In my eyes, Alcest is not an ordinary band that managed to receive some results after an experiment, but rather an innovative band, who managed to tone down one of the most violent metal genres and turned into something very relaxing and pleasing to the ears, which does not emanate a lot of energy but rather encourages the listener to meditate. Another thing that I like about this album is that it is not sung in English, but in French (I support the bands that sing in their native languages as a militant anti-globalization) which gives their music more charm and makes it more special, after all, French is a language that inspires elegance. This material is not different in contrast with the previous ones. At the beginning Alcest might’ve been a black metal band, but once leadership was bestowed upon Neige, the band changed completely. You can hear their early roots in their first and only demo, and with the EP Le Secret released in 2005 (and remastered in 2011) the band embarked on an unknown territory.

You can still hear the black metal riffs, the tremolo picks, the blast drum beats and the typical shrieked voice, specific for black metal, but not in such intensity and not so often, only in some select songs. However, I prefer the atmospheric part of Alcest, it fits much better in the mood that this band provokes with its chord progression flows like a calm river, depicting some atmospheric and melodic elements. Unlike the nonconformism of black metal, Alcest, in my opinion, is the kind of band that could be enjoyed by various audiences, since it has a little of everything, harshness and calmness, agony and delight, aggressiveness and peacefulness and the most important part, it is a memorable album, an album that from the beginning until the end it will keep you attracted and captivated and it will not fade away that quickly, requesting a second hearing by the time it finishes.

How can you not love it after hearing the first track of this album (which was released firstly as a single and also has a video)? Autre Temps (Another Time) represents a perfect choice for an introductory song, a song that manages to catch your attention. It is very relaxing, it is atmospheric, it is much more than a mere sound that attracts you, that impresses you, it is more like a living experience and while watching the video, you realize the theme on this album. Basically this song depicts a couple in various stages of their lives, in their childhood, in their teenage days, in their adult days and also in their old days. The video made for this song is actually the meaning of the album’s name “the journey’s of a soul” a soul that experiences different stages of life, the innocence of childhood, the changes of the teenage days, the responsibility of the adulthood and also the nostalgia present during the old days. It is a song that contains an emotional load, something that demands a person to meditate and to fast-forward the film of their life.

The album moves forward with the second track Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles (Where New Colors Are Born), a song that is much more aggressive than the previous one, with fast tremolo pick and blast beats a lot of guitar distortion and a combination between clean vocals (present mostly in the first part of the song) and shrieked voice, both majestically performed by Neige. I have to admit that even his shrieked representation tends to be atmospheric in this album rather than aggressive, probably because of the way the album was mixed and auto-tuned before obtaining the final product. Also, this song is the second largest song of this album, spawning 8 minutes and 50 seconds.

The fact which proves the level of professionalism of this band is in the composition on the way the album was organized. Practically, the composition differs a little bit from the previous works, chasing another direction, a much softer one, with shoegaze as the predominant element in the song tracks while the way this album is organized is also pretty ingenious, an soft rather relaxing track followed by a raspy aggressive one, and so on until the end of the album. This element is combined is combined in the third track of this album, Les Voyages de l’Ame (The Journeys Of The Soul) which begins in an atmospheric way and ends in black metal style. The fourth track, Nous Sommes L’Emeraude (We Are The Emeralds) has probably some of the most amazing drum works I’ve heard in this album, clearly Winterhalter showed his skills in performing the drum works in this song.

Beings Of Life (rather interesting, until now all the songs had French titles until this one) the fifth track of this record begins with a hypnotic prologue. This song is rather dark ambient, featuring blast drums and tremolo picks which dominate it however, the lack of shrieked vocals makes this song feel rather boring and monotone. However, shrieked voice appear on the next track Faiseurs De Mondes (The World Makers) of course combined with clean vocals, the guitar lines and drums did not change, following the path lead until now. It features a break in the middle. It is followed by a short instrumental Havens which prepares the stage for the final song of the album, entitled Summer’s Glory which ends this album the same way it began, by welcoming the listener into an imaginary world, a world where he can witness his past memories and unforgetable  moments. The instrumental of this song builds a shape of mysticism which surrounds the imaginary world.

What a way to begin a new year. I have to admit, Alcest was not one of the bands that I was looking forward to hear, but I am happy that I ended up listening to their new record. It may not be a masterpiece, only time might tell how appreciated it might get in the future, but I believe that it should be more supported and much more appreciated, not only the album, but Alcest as a band too. Because of the globalization, today, being a band that sings in another language is tough. The language barrier for most people serves a problem in their way of understanding and enjoying a record. I am not good with french either, though I live in a Latin speaking country, however I can recognize the meaning of the words. Les Voyages De L’Amé is a journey into the spiritual, an album that is only good to listen and definitely not headbanging material, an album that encourages it’s listeners to meditate, an album that has it’s own world within this world, in other words, a tasteful and unforgettable album, something that I want to experience every day, not only the sound, but the emotions too, this is what music should deliver nowadays, not only pleasure to the ear, but pleasure to the mind as well.

Overall Impression: 98/100