ALBUM REVIEW: Alcest - Les Chants De L'Aurore

ALBUM REVIEW: Alcest - Les Chants De L'Aurore

Les Chants De L'Aurore will be released June 21st on Nuclear Blast

France's post-black metal act Alcest, along with Deafheaven, pushed black metal into a new progressive and emotional direction. With the success of their second album Écailles de lune, the band began to rise and influence countless other bands to add more guitar effect pedals and push the shoegaze sound into their black metal. Creating the subgenre known as blackgaze. Following countless positive critical responses with their most recent albums Spiritual Instinct and Kodama, and a surging fanbase, the band has returned with their brand new seventh album Les Chants De L'Aurore. With only seven songs, and riding the hype train that the band builds with the anticipation of new material, does this live up to the hype?

The album opens with "Komorebi". A beautiful string section and distorted, almost alternative sounding guitars with kick drums starts the song off. Drummer Winterhalter's drumming is punchy with a lot of reverb and high in the mix. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Neige delivers a somber, quiet and clean vocal delivery. Though the song has blast beats going into the chorus, clean vocals and 90's radio rock sounding guitar, it is an odd mixture. But, with the atmosphere of the strings, backing vocals and reverb on the guitars, it builds and create this very spacey like feel. Very symphonic with its pacing and peaks and valleys throughout the middle section. The clean, acoustic guitar is a nice touch and is subtle, but can sometimes be buried underneath the drums and so much layers of elements in the song's mix. On "L'Envol", the opening has a very, slow paced black metal style sound, but lacks the distortion of traditional black metal, before again the guitar mutates into an atmospheric and progressive section. I think one thing that hurts the record is the mix. There is sometimes so much going on with the layering of instrumentation and effects, that Neige's soft vocals just get buried or blurred. Hurting any emotional delivery or sentiment he is trying to get by. It can be done successfully, look at Devin Townsend and his masterful production style on his solo material. Combining so many distinct layers, but able to clearly understand him and his vocals and message. If Neige's vocals were a little higher in the mix, maybe amped up with some reverb, it might work (which it does near the mid-point). But its like trying to whisper at a concert, it just doesn't work and you get drowned out. Neige delivers his first black metal vocals around the five and a half minute mark, which is loud, prominent and with such vocal distortion, delivers enough anguish and punch to the close of the track.  

"Améthyste" opens with very heavily reverbed tremolo guitars, with backing building drums beneath it. The pacing and feel of the song has an almost doom metal feel due to its tempo. Musically, it is a solid track and I like Alcest's atmospheric take on blackgaze, and Neige does have good clean vocals, which his vocals do improve mix wise. Especially when accented by his screams around the three minute mark. I love the acoustic guitars and light drumming while the vocals rise near the five minute mark. Creating a subtle lull before Neige's scream vocals break the ice and come in HARD over the clean, atmospheric musical piece. The church organ sound near the close, into a heart-pumping drum fill into the closing moments is very cinematic in its performance.

"Flamme Jumelle" begins with clean, electric guitars and a simple drum beat. Neige's vocals are somber, and I can understand them. The underlying, almost 80's sounding guitar lead into the musical break is a nice touch and a good transition. The drums give it a nice bouncy feel to the song's vibe. It REALLY has that post-rock feel to it, similar to acts like Sigur Rós or even early U2 in it's emotional and elaborate feel. The song definitely has a lead single/radio play feel to it. A nice piano interlude opens "Réminiscence". Somber in its tone, the addition of cello beneath the piano creates a really emotionally heavy sounding piece before Neige delivers light vocal improv. Adding to the space of the mix before the addition of acoustic guitars. "Les'Enfant de la Lune" opens with a pulsing synth kick drum over heavily reverbed guitars in the background before drums and guitars enter hard and fast. The black metal blast beat, beneath the production, is just a pounding pulse amidst the beauty and scale of the production. I can picture the band potentially doing musical score with songs like this one. While listening to it, I had moments of scenes of people crossing desserts or a building something montage, which I can see the band heading in that direction with their music. Couldn't hurt, worked for MULTI-Academy Award winner Trent Reznor. The album's closer "L'adieu", has a nice, effect-heavy twang on the guitars. A song that has a sound channeling reflection and looking back on one's own past. Subtle acoustic guitars beneath the electric guitars play so well together as Neige brings Alcest's new album to a close with a lullaby and not with a scream.

Les Chants De L'Aurore shows Alcest continue to stray away from the blackgaze sound that they helped bring to the mainstream. It seems like the band is beginning to pull an Opeth, or their counterparts Deafheaven, in eventually phasing out growl/scream vocals. With most of the album being clean vocals and only brief sections of screaming vocals. Almost just enough screams to still keep the black in their blackgaze genre title. Musically, I did like the record, which Alcest doesn't disappoint with. My main issue/gripe with the record was with Neige's vocals intermixed with the over production. I understand that the band wanted to go more cinematic and grandeur in its sound, but with vocals, if you want to convey emotion, you have to give them a platform. With layering upon layering of guitars, drums, effects and other vocals, Neige's clean and almost high vocal range just get buried in the production. Whatever the emotion he tries to sing to the listener, just get lost. Overall, a good record from the band and I think will take a couple listens for it to grow on the fanbase. It will be interesting to see where the band takes their unique sound on future albums.  

SCORE: 7.5 / 10

1) Komorebi

2) L'Envol

3) Améthyste

4) Flamme Jumelle

5) Réminiscence

6) Les'Enfant de la Lune

7) L'Adieu

FFO: Deafheaven, So Hideous, Dawn of Ouroboros

The band will embark on a fall European tour with support from Svalbarduk and Doodseskader. You can order tickets on the band's website HERE .

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