Review Summary: and neige sounds like an angel as always.
From all the so-called "post-black shoegaze" albums I've had to drudge my way through, it's difficult to enter an album like this without an overwhelming sense of pessimism - mostly because just about none of these bands have any post-rock or shoegaze influences past the occasional use of a shimmery clean melody. Not only that but the majority of the fanbase of this music see it as some of the most beautiful, amazing music that mankind has made yet - which puts the reviewer in a bit of a difficult spot. Really though, if anything has to be learnt by any music fan on the internet, it's to not let any fanbase ruin anything for you. Alcest has a wonderful knack of stirring up emotions and dreamy atmospheres that can only be admired and applauded. It's not amazing, it never has been. It's shamelessly pretty sounding music, and for what it is, there aren't many people that do it better than Alcest - especially on this album, which might just be the album of Neige's career.
On Les Voyages de L'Âme
, Neige refines his dreamy, catchy form of metal to near perfection. But where it's catchy, there's also a sense of diversity and depth in the sound that you never really got to hear in the last few albums. It's still straight forward for the most part but in terms of structure it's a huge step up from Écailles de lune. The first track "Autre Temps" may fool you at first, almost taking a verse/chorus structure with one of the most senselessly pretty and pop-like guitar lines that Neige has ever done with his almost angelic-voice harmonizing over it, but from there things really take a huge step up into much more impressive music from both an emotional and musical standpoint. Just about every track here has a distinct feel of its own, taking influences from just about every single album he's done or participated in, making what could arguably be his quintessential work. There's nothing about this album that makes it a significant step up from his previous works, but it forms a logical conclusion to everything he's tried to do up to this point and he seems to finally get just about everything right. The guitars are as distorted as ever but with a sense of smoothness that would otherwise overwhelm the listener. Many of the songs here take a lot from post-rock too (really this time!), with dynamic and suspenseful builds and climaxes, which makes the song progress wonderfully and really feel so much more enticing as a whole.
Écailles de lune
faltered due to how the album was structured. Les Voyages de L'Âme
learns from this mistake, being consistent and engaging through its entirety, which is even more impressive considering this is Neige's longest album to date. The album has a great way of lulling you into a false sense of security, making every single moment where the almost ethereal-sounding screams of Neige or perhaps a blastbeat hits with so much more impact than it would have done if the album was structured like its predecessor. Everything in this album is far more dynamic, with tempo changes and the like handled with so much grace, a farcry from the almost painfully simplistic structures and songwriting of the debut. Nothing really gets lost in the background either, the drumming from Winterhalter being the best they've ever been, making every single moment on this album an engaging one. There could be more bass, but it certainly does the job and one could argue that it might have distracted from the main focus of the music, and still as a whole this is certainly the most full Alcest has ever sounded. But not only that, there's something here to please every fan of Alcest since it takes something from every one of his works (except perhaps his first ever demo). "Beings of Light" takes ethereal sounding vocals and synths with some of the most black-metal inspired material yet, sounding like a direct cut from the Le Secret EP. The title track sounds like a more evolved version of the style from his debut, taking everything about what made that album great and making it greater. Then we have tracks like "Faiseurs de Mondes", taking absolutely everything great that Alcest has achieved and putting it together into one song, far and away the best song on this album and perhaps one of the best pieces Neige has composed and performed in his career.
There may not be enough here to convince nay-sayers of Alcest and this style of music in general, nor does there really need to be. As far as this branch of metal that arguably Alcest gave birth to, Neige has progressed his sound to the best that it's ever sounded, but also with a lot more grace and refinement that can only be applauded. Les Voyages de L'Âme
is the best Alcest album to date, especially if you accept it for what it is (and what Alcest has always been) - almost excessively pretty and enjoyable music that's so easy to just get lost in, and I don't think I'd have Alcest any other way.