With Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde, the feeling of black metal is there, especially in the lo-fi distortion of the electric guitars as they ring out in the distant background of the production. However, the majority of the time Alcest is whirring away in a shoegaze-influenced land of pristine acoustics and meandering clean vocals which don’t so much form words, in French or otherwise, as they do hum and coo in an overly pretentious sense which almost comes off as arrogant. The entire album is devoid of anything resembling harsh vocals, something which is expected considering the central focus on shoegaze, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with a band using solely cleans, here it grows tiring as we are presented with uninspired, one-dimensional singing which stays constantly soothing but never emotional.
Wallowing amongst the machine-like electric/acoustic/electric/acoustic guitar arrangements lay a few solos which throw in minimal variation to the overly lengthy tracks, but are always well written and performed with skill. It pales, though, in comparison to the fact that, say, 30 or 35 minutes of this 41 minute album follows the exact same structure. The bass attempts to work its way to break things up a bit, but when it does it sadly only plucks away at one or two frets, making any hope of a nice bass line carrying the song for a bit only that, a hope. The final track, “Tir Nan Og” is a saving grace for Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde, working in a piano-driven melody, calm acoustic pieces and lofty cleans which hint at pitch changes and a brilliant climax which sadly never comes to be. This tendency for songs to build and build only to suddenly and abruptly end is an alarming tendency which the album showcases on more than one occasion, most notably the melodic electric guitar riffing which makes the end of the title track “Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde” seem so promising, only for it to end rather quickly and shuffle the listener onto the next track.
The ideas presented in Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde are solid, and rather revolutionary for the genre, but the songwriting is so blatantly flawed that any hope of this fantastic idea coming to realization are swiftly carried away, never to return again. Instead, we are left with an average, one-dimensional album which promises so much yet delivers so precious little. With a heaping of variance in the vocals, more careful acoustic/electric guitar transitions, more memorable riffs, and bass and drums that actually deserve to be mentioned, then maybe Alcest would be a band to marvel at. However, for the time being, Alcest is yet another band which promises so much, yet delivers close to nothing.
I don't get it, why should this be black metal at all? who cares what the dude usually does, this album is shoegaze, post rock, art rock, whatever you want but not metal. and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.