Record #330: Alcest – Les Voyages de L’Âme (2012)

I have written at length about my relationship with metal music (most of those sentiments can be found here), but I’ll sum it up again.

I don’t like a lot of metal (chuggity chugs, show yourself out. You too, obnoxious tapping solos), but the metal that I DO like, I absolutely love. ISIS, Palms, Jesu, Pelican, Russian Circles, Pallbearer, Deafheaven, Thrice (are too metal, shush), Wolves in the Throne Room…

​I’ve joked that I like my metal like Ben Carson: black, not progressive, and kinda sleepy.

And unto that punchline, a friend of mine suggested Le Voyages de L’Âme by blackgaze pioneers Alcest. Hailing from France and grabbing onto the same sort of life affirming sentiment as post rock often does (the title means “Journeys of the Soul”), Neige and Winterhalter (awesome metal name is awesome) ride loud waves of guitars and soaring melodies into one of my new favorite metal records.

Dynamically, there’s a lot of soft/loud changes that black metal rarely gets into (never, if the purists have anything to say about it). Clean guitar lines saturated with reverb (more Perfect Circle or ISIS than Explosions in the Sky) tensely build into frenzied bursts of clanging drums and ripping guitar tremolos.

And while a majority of the album features sung vocals and less extreme drums, there are few moments of sheer black metal catharsis, shrieking, blast beats and all, like the climax of “Là où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” (“Where New Colors are Born”) or the entirety of “Beings of Light” which would be a straight black metal song were it not for the ethereal choir and angelic alto that run through it.

Also, unlike most metal, much of this record plays in 6/8 time, giving a balladic feel even to some of the more aggressive numbers like “Faiseurs de Mondes” (“Makers of Worlds”). Closer “Summer’s Glory” restrains itself, pulling larger portions of cinematic post rock than metal to end the album on as victorious a note as they can muster, and they can muster quite a bit.

All in all, Les Voyages de L’Âme takes the most heartstring-pulling tricks from black metal, post rock, and shoegaze and throws them together in one beautiful, gorgeous whole. There’s not a bad moment on this disc–every second is aurally breathtaking and dripping with joie de vivre. And as someone who loves triumphant, melodic metal, Alcest is a revelation to me.

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