Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

One of the things that music journalists love to do, especially the ones involved in the ever expanding Metal scene, is to create new sub-genres and then christen them with all sorts of complicated names. While this tends to become an overty complicated and ever so confusing process, there are times when one could say that it is totally justified as there are numerous bands out there whose musical orientation can no longer be confined by the strict boundaries first set more than three decades ago. One such band that defies categorisation is the French duet Alcest – an outfit that has been under the spotlight for quite a few years now and whose third studio album “Les Voyages De L’ Ame” will soon occupy a prominent position on the shelves of record stores – real or virtual - around the world.

Alcest began their musical life as a Black Metal outfit but, following the departure of two of its original members, guitarist/vocalist Neige began to steer the outfit towards different musical waters, indulging in and depending further on clean/melodic vocals and droning guitar riffs. It is this unique approach that brought to life the eight compositions of “Les Voyages De L’Ame” – eight compositions that will surprise you with their depth of emotion and their technical and structural dexterity, all attesting to the high levels of musicianship of the band members of this emotionally powerful musical project.

You can really understand the levels of passion and devotion involved in this great album simply by listening to the introvert melodies of the opening composition “Autre Temps” – an array of beautiful clean vocal harmonies and equally impressive supporting lead guitar melodies. In “La Ou Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles” we find the band indulging in its own musical diversity, mixing beautiful melodies similar to those in the opening track with, at times, harsh Black Metal vocals and hypnotic/distorted guitar riffs! More impressive vocal contributions can be found in the Paradise Lost influenced tunes of the same-titled “Les Voyages De L’ Ame” and its ‘sister’ composition “Nous Sommes L’Emeraude”, while the instrumental and atmospheric “Beings Of Light” comes across as a unique musical proposition, with some truly impressive high-speed drumming. The one song that truly stands out for me is the eight minute “Faiseurs De Mondes” as I found that Neige’s harsh Black Metal vocals combine so harmoniously with the modern-day Anathema guitar melodies. The numerous contrasting feelings experienced throughout this track’s long duration are both powerful and truly overwhelming. “Havens” is a truly emotional piece which operates as a form of introduction to the eight minute “Summer’s Glory” – slowly-paced and heavy-riffed, with a closing guitar harmony that is one of the most memorable of the album.

Last year’s “Ecailles De Lune” found Alcest on the receiving end of numerous accolades from some of the most prestigious music magazines devoted to Metal – something that, instinctively, made me approach their music with much caution and scepticism (based on prior experience). This, I am happy to say, is one of the few occasions where every positive thing that you’ve heard about this band is dead accurate, so I am more than happy to join in and praise “Les Voyages De L’ Ame” not only as a truly remarkable album, but also as one of the best atmospheric Metal offerings in recent years. Alcest came quite close to perfection with this one and I, for one, simply cannot have enough of it!

John Stefanis

Rating: ****1/2 (4.5/5.0)