Review Summary: one can only hope that this album gets the whole 'shoegaze black metal' thing out of Drudkh's system, because if this album and Handful of Stars have proven anything, it's that nothing good can come of it.
Drudkh and Alcest, you say? Yes, it seemed pretty perfect on the surface when we were expecting to essentially get Alcest but with more of a black metal tinge, coupled with more interesting melodies and a nature-inspired atmosphere to top it off. Both of these bands were experienced, highly acclaimed with a huge cult following. Which makes me ask this question, where did it all go wrong? Alcest's usual material is more black metal than this, Drudkh's normal material is far more atmospheric than this and generally everything they do separately is just better than this. When one of the tracks dropped from the album, titled "Burnt Letters", many people were hoping it would be the worst track and the rest would be better. Turns out that it was the best track on here, if that doesn't say enough for the album's quality, nothing will. One can only hope that this album gets the whole 'shoegaze black metal' thing out of Drudkh's system, because if this album and Handful of Stars have proven anything, it's that nothing good can come of it. To give the album some credit, if this was released about 5 years ago it would have been far more impressive - it's a sweet album, easy to listen to and digest. But since the release of Alcest's debut album, we've had hundreds of albums like that - we didn't need Tales of Wanderings
on the pile as well. Apart from those who have been living under a rock, this is just another album on the pile, and that just doesn't cut it anymore - especially for musicians as renowned as these ones.
But Neige on vocals has to give the album some credit, right? Well, perhaps it would if he didn't sound as if he was half asleep. Sure, even a bad performance from Neige is about as listenable as what people would expect from an album like this, but when you listen to his other material, this just sounds like a joke. It's made worse by the fact that he only uses clean vocals here, so it becomes incredibly tiring before the album is out - made even more tiring by the sheer lack of effort on his part. It's listenable if you're not all that experienced with Alcest, which is incredibly doubtful if you even know of this band. Perhaps the instrumentation would be enough to save it if that was any more interesting than the vocals. But even if they are, it's not by much. The guitars sound thin and insubstantial, in both composition and actual sound. The riffs here mirror exactly what was going on in Drudkh's last album, Handful of Stars, a bland tone with even blander melodies. Only here there's more post-rock - and let's be honest, Drudkh didn't need any more post-rock after Handful of Stars. The songs meander through the ideas and overall just seem totally direction-less, which is one of the worst things anything post-rock influenced could ever be since post-rock is meant to progress and build to a conclusion or climax before fading into the next track. These just flow awkwardly from nothing to nothing, blurring into an experience that can only be described as unmemorable.
Whether it's due to lack of effort, bad songwriting, or just being a bad idea in the first place (or all three), Tales of Wanderings just gets lost in the sea of modern post-black that Alcest helped create. Judging by how this album turned out, it's all three. This might be enough to impress your uncultured friend into thinking it's the most beautiful thing since Slipknot's Vermillion Part 2, but to anyone who knows anything about Drudkh and Alcest, this will just seem like a watered down version of the two. But the worst thing about this album is the fact that when listening to this you get the impression that the musicians involved with this know that too. Neige does a lot better when he's singing to stuff that he's written himself and Drudkh do better when they stay as far away from the post-black thing altogether. Mind you, apart from the occasional blastbeat that doesn't even approach intensity, there's no black metal here. It's just rock with slight shoegaze influences in a deep shade of misty, super-mysterious blue. It's easy-going, easy to listen to and nothing to write home about. Yeah, that doesn't necessarily mean bad, not every album is an opus - but knowing the musicians involved in this, you'd at least expect the performances themselves to be above-par. There's the occasional stand out moment, "Burnt Letters" is one of the few songs that keeps the momentum for at least half way through the track. "Star Catcher" is pretty nice too. But it's not enough to warrant a purchase since this is the album you'd just slap on in the background and forget it's even there. It's fairly listenable, but this is Drudkh and Alcest, not to mention it's 2011. That just won't cut it anymore. Stick to Écailles de lune or the Les Discrets material, since this is just a diluted version of those.
And Neige sounds like an angel (admittedly a bored one) as always. :]