Sound — 8
Alcest is a French blackgaze (black metal + shoegaze) band. In the studio, the band is comprised of only a single man, who has the stage name Neige. The band has steadily progressed since its inception in 2001 from black metal to shoegaze. Now, I can't believe that this band was ever even remotely related to black metal or metal in general for that matter. With "Opale," a single preceding the release of the album "Shelter" in January 2014, Alcest has become a full on shoegaze band with a sound lighter than that of My Bloody Valentine, for comparison.
The sound on "Opale" is almost like pop in the way that it is instantly agreeable to the ear. Alcest doesn't attempt to construct an impenetrable wall of sound like a My Bloody Valentine and they do include comprehendible lyrics, unlike My Bloody Valentine. However, the guitars play the same, clear chord for most of the song and the vocals act to caress this chord, thus creating an experience that is in line with shoegaze.
The drums are well thought out and the mixing of them is excellent. For example, at the beginning of the song, what sounds like a crash cymbal is mercilessly hit. While this would surely be an annoyance in a live environment, well, studio magic exists for a reason. The cymbal, in the studio setting, sounds like it is creating a soft cloud for the vocals and guitars to lie upon. In fact, the whole song gives the feeling of lying on a cloud, being light as a feather. While one could rightfully argue that the song goes on too long since it is virtually just one repeating phrase, I believe that the cloud is so pleasant that it is worth sitting on and keeping around for the whole five minutes before it evaporates (or condensates if you want to be scientifically correct).
Lyrics — 7
The vocals are kind of in line with the shoegaze genre. They're light and harmless. They have the same impact on the music as a guitar chord. They are usually concise, preferring to hold out one syllable for a couple of measures instead of rushing out as many lyrics as possible.
Still, the lyrics are easily comprehendible, something I have not often seen in shoegaze. By the way, the vocals are in French, so they may not be comprehendible to many of you (including myself). If anyone wants to translate the lyrics and give their opinion of the lyrics' quality and meaning, the comment section is open and waiting.
Overall, the vocals do a good job of gracefully filling the sonic space in "Opale" left available by the instruments.
Overall Impression — 8
I've enjoyed Alcest's progression from black metal to shoegaze, even though I haven't followed them for most of it. Whether or not you enjoyed Alcest as a black metal/blackgaze band, you should like their new incarnation as the players of a lighter, more pleasant (in my mind), form of shoegaze. The silky smooth guitars and vocals, all expertly mixed with the drums and bass, fill the sonic landscape to provide an experience that is distinctly high like shoegaze, yet is a bit more accessible to a mainstream audience.
In conclusion, this single has me real excited about Alcest's upcoming album, "Shelter," to be released on January 17th.