Review: Alcest – Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde

Posted: November 7, 2013 in Reviews
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‘Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde’ is a strange beast. A one-man French black metal project has an implied sound and style, i.e Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega. Alcest is neither, having much more in common with My Bloody Valentine and Burzum than their Gallic peers. ‘Souvenirs…’ is the debut album from Neige, the one man behind Alcest.

‘Souvenirs…’ provides an oddly outward view of the black metal landscape; it reaches upward with hope and light, rather than dark introversion. That alone should make it worth a listen, but the combination of hypnotic Burzum riffing and the fuzzy majesty of My Bloody Valentine create a strange beast that is beautiful to behold. Post rock meshes with blackened shoegaze (a term I had never come across before this album) to create six pieces of hopeful music, each with their own distinct identity. Ethereal vocals, seemingly devoid of lyrical content flow over each song, and weave within shimmering walls of guitars. It isn’t quite the ‘wall of sound’ approach, but there is a sense of size and scale. Vast sections of ebb and flow, coupled with crescendo-ing climaxes leave you with just a trace of Isis or Red Sparowes, but with less weight.

Multi-instrumentalist Neige combines his guitar lines well, clean guitar over acoustic working particularly effectively in ‘Ciel Errant’, and the prevalence of acoustic guitar during the majority of the record suits the style perfectly. The vocals are clean, clear and mesh in well, never taking attention away from the music yet never sparse enough to be ignored. Alcest is a project based on dreams that Neige had when he was younger, and you can believe that ‘Souvenirs…’ would provide a more than adequate soundtrack for a place of eternal happiness and bliss.

Happy black metal is not something you experience everyday, if ever. Alcest isn’t really metal, although Neige’s black metal past shows through Burzumic tremelo guitar drenched in fuzzy tones. One for the shoegazer in all of us, ‘Souvenirs d’un autre monde’ is simply stunning; proof that black metal can throw up beauty and light, as well as the darkness we all love.

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