An album released so early in 2012, it is far too easy to think it was released in the previous year. It is an album that is metal in feel, but is often turned away as part of the metal community due to its reliance on clean singing, production qualities, and the singer’s concept. However, it is the seminal work in Neige’s career thus far and an example of the burgeoning new genre known as blackgaze, of which Neige is a progenitor.
The music’s concept focuses on a world apart from our own, in which there is no sorrow or sadness (taken directly from Alcest’s website). The tone of the album reflects the warmth and joy of this world that Neige feels he understands and offers to the listener a journey to it. As one youtube commenter wrote, Alcest’s music “feels like sitting under a warm blanket in the winter’s sun.”
Blackgaze, for the uninitiated, derives from two very different musical stylings: black metal and shoegaze. Black metal’s atonality, tremolo picking and evocation of cold landscapes and desperation and shoegaze’s utility as a melancholy indie rock phenomenon used famously by bands such as Radiohead (blech). Its combination did not easily come, leading Alcest’s first EP release “Le Secret” to be termed as untenably aggressive and cold (a fact to which Neige personally responded with his distress over this fact).
However, on this album, his use of these elements achieves wondrous success. The use of black metal in a folk fashion similar to Agalloch and Drudkh, create a hypnotizing effect in the songs. His use of a major key provides warmth to the album. These combined with the shoegazing sounds and effects offers a path to introspection. Combined with the album’s production qualities, Alcest’s offering demonstrates efficient and powerful use of a new and now mature sound.
Highlights from the album are “Autre Temps,” “La ou naissent les couleurs nouvelles,” and “Summer’s Glory.” Neige’s gentle, nearly whimsical clean singing voice facilitates his sound to worm its way into your soul, while his use of wailed vocals evokes passages of either bliss or cool hungering.
In summation, Alcest’s attempt to provide a positive and warm listening experience is a resounding success. This year’s release is an example of the emotional nature of music and what it can do to its listener (for example, I’ve listened to “Autre Temps” over 20 times and I cannot yet remember a time when that song did not cause my eyes to tear and my throat to close). There is something truly magical and loving in Neige’s creation and it comes through unabashedly in his art and is something that drives creativity.
The album’s stream is here: LINK.