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Alcest - Spiritual Instinct Award winner

Alcest
Spiritual Instinct
by Justin "Witty City' Wittenmeier at 04 November 2019, 4:09 AM

If someone told me ALCEST are the kings of Post-Metal/Blackgaze, that is a point that I would not argue.  They were my introduction to Post anything and that probably goes for a lot of fans.  The subgenre has really grown in the past few years and certainly ALCEST have a lot of peers and competition in the field now.  Still for all the bloat that might be coming the genre’s way in the future, none of the bands out, or any that will probably ever form, will be able to balance elements of both Metal and non-Metal as delicately and masterfully as ALCEST have.

It probably goes without saying but their latest, and sixth, full length album, “Spiritual Invasion,” sees the band continue their journey of combining the light with the dark to create a new type of atmosphere that most bands of this style just can’t achieve.  “Spiritual Invasion,” sees the band with a renewed focus on everything that makes them great in the first place.  The most immediate difference between this and 2016’s “Kodama,” is the songs are a lot more focused.  Don’t confuse focus with streamlined or mainstream—the band’s adventurous style of forgoing traditional song structures remains intact.  But on this go around, the songs get started a lot sooner and have more riff based moments intertwined with the band’s calmer, more atmospheric tones.

As a child, Neige had visions of another world and ALCEST’s music is a direct emotional response to that.  Someone might doubt these visions but those people have clearly never heard ALCEST’s music before.  Indeed, the lush atmospheric layers of melodies and harmonies mixed with Metal take a listener, such as myself, to places that I couldn’t otherwise go.  It is music but it also a force of nature, a monolithic force that permeates your very senses.  When an album doesn’t have a lot of tracks, I try to talk about most, if not all, of them.  But with an album like this, I would hate for someone to base an opinion solely on words—this one needs to be experienced first-hand so I will speak of my personal highlights of the album.

The first track, “Les jardins de minuit,” starts immediately with Winterhalter emotional filled drums leading the charge over NEIGE’s wailing lead guitar and thumping bass. There are a lot of song writing teams within Metal but a better duo would be hard to think of. Drums are a very difficult instrument to make emotional but by god Winterhalter pulls it off. By the time the song is two minutes into it, ALCEST have already given listeners some of the best riffs of their career.  There is an underlying intensity beneath the otherwise beautiful tones; however, it isn’t intensity born of rage or hate that so often is the case with other Metal bands.  No, these intense moments are more alien or born out of curiosity to traverse a journey, however difficult it may be.

Sapphire,” starts with a minimal approach, using drums to build up the notes like a wave that gets bigger before it crests.  Ethereal clean vocals from Neige are the light that guides the way to a safer shores—this track is one of the most laid back on the album but the underlying rhythms and Winterhalter keep rocking enough to satisfy the most jaded fans. The title, and last, track of the album “Spiritual Invasion,” fully encompasses everything the band has to say with this album.  The way it switches back and forth between light and heavy textures is nothing short of stellar.  The guitar tone when the distortion turns on is a bit rawer than the previous few albums but the clean notes are still there to give us that contrast we all love from the band.

ALCEST began as a more Black Metal oriented project before morphing into closer what they are today.  But 2014’s “Shelter,” showed them leaving out all Metal elements while “Kodama” brought those elements back into play.  As such, it really feels like the band has finally found the balance they always just seemed to have out of reach of themselves.  “Spiritual Invasion” definitely sounds like an album from a band that nods to their past, focuses on the present, and sets up their future success.  As respected and popular as they already are, I think this album is going to blow things wide open for them.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Les jardins de minuit
2. Protection
3. Sapphire
4. L’ile des morts
5. Le miroir
6. Spiritual Instinct
Lineup:
Neige – Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards
Winterhalter – Drums
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
     


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