I don’t know quite where to begin with this band. Some basics, then? They’re French, they’ve been together since 2001. They used to played black metal and now they don’t.
Their movement out of the black metal bracket wasn’t a marketing ploy, or anything else sinister. It was simply the evolutionary path of a band intent upon constant discovery.
Since their 2001 demo Tristesse Hivernale, Alcest have walked a path that few metal musicians dare to walk, from cold and crushing roots this band have evolved into something that is warm and embracing without ever becoming false. In 2013 Alcest headed to Sundlaugin Studio in Iceland and under the watchful eye of Birgir Jón Birgisson (Sigur Rós) the band formed a 46 minute masterpiece.
Shelter is an album that feels like that, precisely like its name; a warm home, a place to feel relaxed and comfortable. Entertaining and ethereal, it feels like a warm embrace, but at the same time this album never seems to have a physical presence. This album isn’t metal, it’s not even close – it has electric guitar lines and here the similarity ends. Playing through like a film score this album just gets bigger and bigger all the way through. From the intro track Wings, it opens out like those of a butterfly about to take flight for the first time.
It’s with the title track that this band flaunts their new style with such delicious grace, and in some ways takes a slightly psychedelic tone delivered with grace. The record itself never feels lost, but you could definitely become lost within it. Closing your eyes while listening makes each and every note shape into something different. Away takes a slightly different approach, most notably with its English lyrics, delivered beautifully by guest vocalist Neil Halstead of UK shoegaze legends Slowdive. Each line of this track is delivered with heartbreaking intensity, that when it’s over you can’t help but feel unashamedly blessed for having heard it.
Délivrance is the grand and magnificent finale to this 8 track of excellence, which as the title suggests feels like true deliverance, like you’re being set free. To me this track feels as if I’m floating above a city at night, lights are shining and the world has a decadent yet tranquil tone. Through this lengthy finale you’re given closure, you’re given time itself. Some things can’t be explained with words.
I thought I’d find the departure of styles difficult to understand, but I see this album as a natural continuation of the group’s earlier sound. Alcest are a band that aren’t insistent upon sitting comfortably and living off their ‘style’ – they’re about progress and for that I adore them.
I believe this album is a life cycle, it has a delicate and brilliant beginning, the centre soars higher and brighter until it starts to descend into it’s finale, a grand goodbye that brings Shelter to a close with a reflective and cathartic finale.
For Fans Of: Aoria, TesseracT, Katatonia, M83, Sigur Rós.
- La Nuit Marche Avec Moi
- Voix Sereines
- L’Eveil Des Muses
All Tracks 10/10
- Neige – Guitars, Bass, Synth, Vocals
- Winterhalter – Drums
Label: Prophecy Productions
Release Date: January 17th 2014.
Physical: Buy It Here