Les Voyages De L’Âme
01. Autre Temps
02. Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles
03. Les Voyages De L’Âme
04. Nous Sommes L’Emeraude
05. Beings of Light
06. Faiseurs De Mondes
08. Summer’s Glory
Ah yes, Alcest; the main project of the influential progenitor of the niche post-black/blackgaze genre Neige. Alcest’s 2010 album Écailles de Lune brought the man’s body of work and the genre to my attention, and it was my very first experience with something that was both blackened and beautiful. As with any musical innovation, many more bands have sprouted from the influence of Neige’s work in pushing black metal into a more ethereal and transcendent realm with previous bands like Amesoeurs and Peste Noire and the current works of Lantlos and Alcest, but Alcest’s latest album Les Voyages De L’Âme is a firm reminder of why he’s at the forefront of the genre.
Anyone who is familiar with Alcest will notice that the musical output has been moving further away from black metal with each release, and Les Voyages De L’Âme continues the trend of trading raspy screams for beautiful vocal harmonies and a fondness for clean guitar tones dripping with reverb and delay. Neige has made good on his promise to dial back the screaming, with harsh vocals only being used few and far between. I can see why Neige would want to shy away from harsh vocal work on Alcest, because the atmosphere isn’t all that conducive to the aesthetic; Les Voyages is the soundtrack to nostalgic daydreams and longing fantasies. While “positivity” isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind (much of the music feels quite melancholic), this is actually far from a negative record, which is a point Neige has been struggling to get across for years. Les Voyages finally drives the point home.
As mentioned, despite the post-black metal and blackgaze genre tags associated with this release, there’s not much in the realm of black metal going on here outside of a few rough patches in the path that Neige takes, and it helps with developing the album’s diversity. ‘Autre Temps‘ is absolutely beautiful and haunting while being the most clearly defined with a standard pop structure, making it Alcest’s most accessible and most memorable song yet. On the other side of the coin, ‘Faiseurs De Mondes‘ and ‘Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles’ take a more ferocious approach at times with distant gravely screams. The highlight of Les Voyages is quite possible Neige’s heavenly voice. His voice isn’t perfect, but his improvement as a singer over the years is remarkable, as he has been increasingly becoming more comfortable with clean singing. It’s a shame that there’s a language barrier in place; I don’t know what he’s singing, but all I know is that it sounds absolutely stunning.
All in all, Les Voyages is one of the most overall consistent Alcest record yet, and where Cormorant‘s Dwellings was the last great album of 2011, Alcest’s Les Voyages De L’Âme is the first great album of 2012. It may barely be metal, but it is absolutely captivating.