REVIEW: ALCEST – “Spiritual Instinct”
The music of Alcest holds a special place in my heart. It has been there to comfort me at times, good and bad. It all began a few years ago while returning home from a disappointing Mayhem gig. A Facebook post showed me that this band called Alcest had played a show somewhere else in town the same evening. I got home and decided to give their music a try. By the time I finished listening to ‘Kodama’ in its entirety, my life was changed.
Hailing from France, they are one of the most influential yet undiscovered bands in metal. Their music may be technically associated with genres such as post-black, post-rock and shoegaze. But, In my opinion, their music is defined by their ability to convert emotions and feelings into audible waveforms. The band was formed by frontman Niege in the year 2000 and was joined years later by Winterhalter on drums.
Since its inception, the duo has written and released stellar albums. They caught the attention of the metal community with albums ‘Ecailles de lune’ and ‘Les voyages de l’ame’. They were one of the earliest bands to bring to the world, a more cathartic side of black metal. This was followed by the release of the stunning yet infamous ‘Shelter’, which saw the band depart from metal and explore post-rock and shoegaze landscapes. ‘Kodama’ marked their return to the darker realms, and their latest offering ‘Spiritual Instinct’ follows the same path.
Come this fall, and they unveil yet another stunning piece of art to transport you to other worlds as they always do. Alcest are one of the bands who have never written a bad album or even a song. Even so, this one surpasses all, to become their best work. The sound is not contained by genre restrictions and is even more progressive than ever. To be able to invoke a meditative state for the listener, even by sounding raw and angry is the key around which the album is built.
“Les Jardins De Minuit” begins with a serene soundscape of comforting melodies, something you could imagine being conceived right amidst nature. Soon follows the signature wall of sound they are known for creating. This is further followed by Niege weaving pure magic with his vocals. The beauty of everything that goes on is extremely overwhelming. For fans who are able to connect to this type of music, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if you find yourself crying and smiling at the same time.
Next up is the stunning “Protection” which also happened to be the first single released. The constant build-up and the eventual deliverance of the song into the screams embody the true spirit of the angel and the beast that lies within all of us. This emotion is aptly portrayed in its stunning music video as well. Follows next, is this journey of a song, “Sapphire”. To be honest, I wasn’t much impressed by the track when they released it a few days ago, but an album listen changed my perspective towards it. The track works as a perfect bridge between two sides of an album binding all of them together.
“L’lle des mortes” is where the feels start getting even darker. The darkness is alternated again and again by the light in Niege’s vocal melodies. Somehow, this song paints a picture of a war rage between Hope and darkness. If this music does not move you and make your soul twitch, I am not sure what will. For the album as a whole, it is a definite evolution of Kodama. I might be wrong, but I do hear certain Japanese influences as it was in the previous album rendering a minimalistic folk sound to the album.
This brings us to the penultimate melting point of the album “Le Miroir”, an absolute emotional ride. This is the song that would play from the skies on the day all life and world ends. Heart-wrenching and peace-inducing, sadness and nostalgia amalgamated into this one beautiful track.
The final and the title track “Spiritual Instinct” is yet another one that demonstrates the interplay of light and darkness. Equally stunning as its counterparts, it perhaps symbolizes the triumph of light as it sounds bright for most of the track. There is an apparent sadness throughout as the album descends to its final moments – The end of an overwhelming ride.
Shortcomings wise, I have none. I simply wish it never ended. Each time I listen to this album, I connect to it and drown in a state of trance and tranquility. This year has been a great one for metal and Alcest is here with a definite ‘album of the year’ material. ‘Spiritual Instinct’ is out on October 25th via Nuclear Blast records.
‘Spiritual Instinct’ by Alcest is a meditative journey through light and darkness. It embodies the existence of the spiritual and feral sides inside us. With sounds tending back to the roots and melodies from other worlds, they have created a stunning masterpiece – an overwhelming journey of emotions.