Sound: Alcest are known for their gorgeous combination of ethereal melodies with black metal and shoegaze harshness, which thus creates some of the most emotionally charged metal we have heard in recent years. Since this is so, it's no surprise that they have stuck to their same formula on their latest release "Les Voyages De L'Ă‚me".
Their previous album, the acclaimed "Ecailles De Lune", was much more piercing and sharp with its melodies and songwriting as each note was made to stand out and the melodies would remain in your head for days. On "Voyages", it's a bit different. The whole album is much more smooth surfaced and it flows with much more fluidity. The shoegaze influence is much more noticeable on this album as every song brushes past you as if it were a dream. That essentially will lead to the one problem with the album, but I will get there in a second.
The focal points in each song end up being the highlights of the album. This sounds like a redundant statement, but if you give the album a listen yourself, you will know exactly what I mean. Most of the songs work as a build up for these specific moments, like the triumphant climax that happens midway of the title track and the vicious ending of "Faiseurs De Mondes". Listening to the album, you will finish three quarters of it and believe that not only has Alcest topped their last album, but this is easily one of the best metal albums to have come out in a very long time.
Then you reach the last song.
Honestly, there isn't anything wrong with "Summer's Glory" if you take it out of the album and observe it as a stand alone song. It's just incredibly anti climactic and the wrong choice of song for an album closer. Especially when almost every song has such a triumphant moment, "Summer's Glory"'s "epic moment" seems pale in comparison. It's unnerving because all you can feel is that this album was so close to being simply outstanding as a whole. In the end, "Voyages" has some of Alcest's best songs, but "Ecailles" remains the better album simply because of how much more complete and satisfying it is as a total body. // 8
Lyrics and Singing: Neige's vocals have only gotten better. His black metal screams, the very few times he actually screams anymore, are as piercing and powerful as ever, but his clean vocals have become far more dominating. Before, I felt that he sang too much through his head and not enough with his diaphragm, as he lacked a certain tenacity. I didn't mind, as it works with the style of music. With "Voyages", which seems to be more of an "epic" album, he has gained enough power in his voice to add more emphasis to the emotions he is trying to convey while sticking to the minimalist-shoegaze style, and it works very well. His vocals stand out of the mix much more on this album, but again, with shoegaze it would be alright if it didn't. It's your call if this is a good thing or a bad thing. // 9
Impression: "Les Voyages De L'Ă‚me" is definitely a good album. Save for the uncertainty I feel with the ending, it starts off with a punch and it carries this rush for the majority of the way. What pleases me the most, even with the incomplete-sounding ending, is the fact that Neige is progressing as a musician and songwriter as a whole. The fact that "Voyages" still sounds like Alcest while sounding like its own creation and body of work is great, and is a feat any passionate band or artist dreams about accomplishing. The Alcest sound is here to stay, and Neige may very well have much up his sleeve for us to discover. For any fans of metal, this album is worth checking out simply just to see how Neige challenges what constitutes as metal in a Godard-ian fashion.
Standout tracks: "Faiseurs De Mondes", "Les Voyages De L'Ă‚me", "Autre Temps". // 8