Souvenirs D'Un Autre Monde
UG Team, on august 27, 2007 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: The debut album from the one-man French project took many familiar with its previous efforts by surprise. Alcest started its life as a black metal project with a fairly straightforward, if slightly more artful and melodic sound. The full-length leaves those aspects largely behind, and the six tracks presented here are a strange combination of black metal riffs over shoegaze-like songwriting and aesthetic.
From the opening track, the soaring guitars and dreamy, ethereal vocals establish an evocative, contemplative atmosphere. The instrumentation comes through strong and the songs are well constructed; parts and various layers flow in and out of the mix in a very fluid style. My favourite aspect of the instruments are easily the acoustic and clean electric guitars; recorded with wonderful clarity, they are immediate, yet gentle and soothing, evoking a peaceful and melodic ambience.
Another note on production. This is a wonderfully recorded album. Every instrument has plenty of room to breathe; clarity ensures that every note gets heard and that the songs sound lively and organic. My only concern was the lack of bass presence in the final mix. This is often the case in black metal, where guitars and drums overpower bass and mid-range frequencies rule the mix, but I feel this album could benefit from more bass guitar to give it extra depth.
As mentioned previously, this album owes a lot to shoegaze, and I believe the music benefits from this infusion of influences. Overall, it gives the songs a very epic and open feel, especially where guitar and vocal tracks are concerned. The tracks tend to build up into a great wall of harmony-driven riffs, giving a mood that's melancholic and reflective, but rejoicing at the same time. If I was to make a critical observation about this aspect, my criticism would lie in the heavier parts occasionally wandering into the bland and clich territory. This only happens a few times, and for most of the album it's a very original and enjoyable collection of music. // 7
Lyrics: The lyrics are in French, which I sadly do not speak. The general themes of the album, however, are children and the return to youth, regaining the innocence of that age. This atmosphere is reflected in the misty, dreamy vocals from Neige and guest vocalist Audrey Sylvain (Amesoeurs). On the contrary to the black metal of the Tristesse demo and Le Secret EP, there are no screamed vocals at all on this album, furthering the dream-pop/shoegaze comparisons. Either way, they interact wonderfully with the music, providing an interesting counter-point to the bleak riffs. The way the vocals were recorded makes me think of a kite; the music is like the person on the ground, and the vocals are soaring high above the person, yet both are connected by the same thread. // 8
Overall Impression: The element of surprise seems to have split the fans into several camps. Some have completely dismissed the album and locked themselves in the Le Secret universe; others are praising it as the new black metal revolution. I tend to agree somewhat with the latter, if with some reservations. The album definitely breaks some new ground, and can go some way to change the perception about what is black metal. The genre is often considered a sum of its parts, rather than a culmination of one band's effort, so no matter what Venom say in interviews this album is just as valid. Besides the occasional bland touch and somewhat in-the mood feel, the music is very good. Vocals are beautiful and mesmerising, backed up by great production. To the fans of Neige's other efforts (Amesoeurs, Mortifera, Peste Noire) this is a must, but I would also recommend it as a safe purchase to most fans of metal. And as the band recently signed a 5-album contract with their label, one can expect more greatness to come. Very promising. // 7
Souvenirs D'Un Autre Monde
UG Team, on august 27, 2007 0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sound: Anyone who has seen my [review of Alcest's previous release, 2005's 'Le Secret'] will know that I'm not quite the conventional listener. If you don't want to read, basically I thought it was toss. However the sample song I had heard from their new full length, 'Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde' was far from that. I was very impressed and I couldn't wait to buy my copy of the new album (I avoided downloading the internet leak). So I had it in my hands, my expectations were high and I just wanted it to be what it was hyped up to be. The six tracks of 'Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde' are between six and eight minutes long, much shorter than the 10+ minute drones of 'Le Secret'. I was glad because the repetition and dire arrangement of 'Le Secret' annoyed me no end. I was hoping that this album marked the end of that compositional wasteland for Neige.
It seems that my hopes were well founded.
The music is pretty similar to 'Le Secret' in a strictly melodic sense. There's the same ethereal vibe going on, with the tremolo picked guitar parts along with clean vocals. This time, however, the songs are concise and every note matters. I really didn't get that feeling with Alcest before. The transitions between distorted and acoustic parts are still nothing more than a fadeout which kind of breaks the flow of the song; especially as most of the time the acoustic part is only there to introduce a new melodic thread. It's not a big problem but when music like this is meant to be about the build-up, having it interrupted by another 'profound' acoustic break sort of spoils it.
Still though, the quality of the music is very high, especially when it involves Neige's clean guitar over an acoustic (see 'Ciel Errant' and the title track). I think the lack of black metal is part of it. I have no problem with black metal in Neige's music (in fact I was disappointed when I found out that his other project, Amesoeurs, would contain no black metal after their debut EP) but the apparent need to include some BM elements in 'Le Secret' made it seem kind of forced (or quite the opposite, something which encompassed too much to make it coherent). Aside from a couple of half-time blastbeats, there's nothing metal about 'Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde', and really 'Le Secret' wasn't metal either. The only reason that most of Alcest's fanbase is from the metal community, and the only reason I'm writing this for the metal forum is because of Neige's involvement in his longer-running raw BM band Peste Noire. This is shoegaze music. I think the only reason people find this music 'overwhelmingly beautiful' or whatever is because it's put in a different context, and people link it to black metal, which this music is very, very different to.
The vocals on the album confuse me after I read that all vocals were done by Neige, aside from a guest appearance on 'Sur L'autre Rive Je T'attendrai' by Amesoeurs bandmate Audrey Sylvain, because on every track there is an audible female voice. I've also been told that the title track of 'Le Secret' was also sung by Neige. I just find it impossible because it just sounds like a woman, plain and simple. It's not like Neige has to chance his voice to hit any pitches because he sings in a similar range in his 'regular' voice too. In any case, if it is Neige, his vocals on the entire album are amazing. There's no screaming this time (and if there were they would be terrible inappropriate), it's all clean and it just works with the music better. It creates far more atmosphere and gives the music the true dream-like feel that previous releases were trying to attain. There's only a few times where I feel his vocals slip up, most notably on 'Tir Nan Og', where his vocal melody (and the light effects that are put on it) and the mood of the song just don't mesh. The song instrumentally is very interesting, with very textural percussion and piano in relation to the acoustic guitar. However that C# he hits just doesn't work, but I digress. // 8
Lyrics: The lyrics are all in French, but strangely enough, only four of the six song's lyrics are printed in the booklet. I've researched a little and found some translations into English (only for the four printed songs) which, knowing what I know about Alcest from interviews, make some sense, so I trust that they're correct. The concept behind Alcest (from 'Le Secret' onwards, anyway) is based upon daydreams that Neige has (and had frequently as a child) of an ambient otherworld of eternal happiness and peace. The lyrics definitely portray that, and combine with the music perfectly. Some of the songs describe this 'dream world', while others talk about Neige's longing to be there and not on this earth. Neige's lyrics for all his projects have always been of a high standard and this album continues it. The lyrics in fact mirror a part of the song, with any negativity in the lyrics (which is rare in Alcest) coming at a more negative sounding musical section. The lyrics really heighten my enjoyment of the album, particularly the lesser songs. // 9
Overall Impression: Most of the melodies compliment each other and the bass in particular adds interesting takes on the rest of the music which differ from conventional harmonic paths. I still think the one thing which doesn't really impress me about Alcest is the guitar tone. It's just too fuzzy for this music. I find the best songs are the ones where it is least prevalent ('Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde', 'Ciel Errant' and 'Tir Nan Og'), and they start with acoustic guitars more often. Don't get me wrong though, I think this album is a huge improvement on 'Le Secret' and it's very enjoyable for the most part. The atmosphere is great and the bass and vocals in particular are outstanding but still the huge acclaim this band gets is not yet deserved, I feel. One can only hope that his music continues to improve at this rate. // 8