Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alcest - Les Voyages De Lame (Lame Indeed)

Alcest is one of the frontrunners in the hackneyed "blackgaze" front. Oftentimes these bands overlap with "Cascadian" black metal, which is significantly more tolerable than this shit. You could see the beginnings of the movement in progressive goth/doom metallers Novembre, but at least they had the riffs to back it up. Here, sitting at Alcest's third and arguably most accessible (along with 2010's Éscailles De Lune, which I hated) release, we have more of the same shit.

Les Voyages De L'Âme is another attempt at creating a somber, dreamy atmosphere with tremolo riffing and the occasional "tormented" black metal screech. Neige's voice was never particularly strong on either front, and some of his better harsh vocals were done with his Lantlôs side project which I vastly prefer to Alcest, although part of me did enjoy the fuzz rock on Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde. Here we have Neige once again using his dream-like timbre in an attempt to soothe or create an emotional response with half-melodies, but like most of his attempts, it falls flat on it's face the second the corny harmonized riffs play along with his voice. Les Voyages reeks of cheese, and if you came looking for an album with a compellingly ethereal atmosphere far from morbid teen angst, you're looking in the wrong place.

Perhaps it's the occasional symphonic keyboards which irk me. They're blatantly placed in the mix so they always reach the peak frequency as Neige sweeps into a crescendo, except on "Nous Sommes L'Emeraude," where they're just annoying all the way through. The instrumentation on Les Voyages is perfectly fine and fitting for this kind of music, ignoring the irritating keyboards. The major-scale tremolo riffing harmonized with Neige's high-pitched vocals tries to convey a sense of dreaminess, and sometimes the combined two do a really good job of that. "Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles" is a good example here, as the riffs and layered effects build up rather nicely until they all come crashing down, leading into one of the few black metal rasps you'll hear on Les Voyages De L'Âme. "Summer's Glory" is another cool one that builds well into one of the few sequences where the dreamy atmosphere is realized. However most of the time the atmosphere is terribly executed, like on "Beings Of Light," which reaches Darkthrone levels of repetition in all its two-note glory. Sadly it's probably the most intense song on the album.

I keep getting the recurring idea that listening to the riffs is like peering into a rippling stream that reflects the sky, the sun, and all the fun, fruity things in life. This might be the atmosphere that Neige's trying to convey on Les Voyages, but I don't like it. It's whimsically happy as opposed to realistically happy, and it isn't really psychedelic or dense enough for me to get behind it. The latter is what Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde achieved and is the reason I can at least give that one a half-nod of approval. Les Voyages however? No. Not In the slightest.

4.0 out of 10


1. Autre Temps

2. Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles

3. Les Voyages de l'Âme

4. Nous Sommes l'Emeraude

5. Beings of Light

6. Faiseurs de Mondes

7. Havens

8. Summer's Glory

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