Alcest is a difficult artist to classify, because it is evident what he is supposed to be classified as, one as the leading pioneers in France’s black metal scene, but what he should now be classified as is something different entirely, he sounds about as metal as Eminem sounds child-friendly. It’s not surprising that Alcest would leave the shackles of his metal genre to explore more fertile grounds, most metal bands get to the point where they either simmer and calm down, or get trapped in a stagnant habitual purgatory, but very few bands approach the metamorphosis as enthusiastically as Alcest.
The result is an album that displays an artist as comfortable with its sounds as he’s ever been. Les Voyages de l’Âme, Alcest’s newest record, translates into the title “Journey Of The Soul”, and the title is shockingly appropriate. The album consists entirely of long metaphysical escapades that soon descend into a climax of narcotic haze, and simply said, invites the listener to get lost in all of it. This is nothing entirely new for Alcest; this is a style of music he has been perfecting for the last several years. What is new is the increased sense of melody that worms its way into the record. The old metal influence is increasingly abandoned throughout the record, and in its place is a rigorous exploration of post-rock and shoe gaze. The melodious elements that come into effect are not only ethereal; they can also be described as beautiful.
It’s a direction that might make metal purists eat their heart out, but it’s a welcome change to a genre that has been growing increasingly stale. Unfortunately, Les Voyages de l'Âme gets most of its influences from post rock, which ultimately means that it inherits the genres flaws as well. The songs often edge on being predictable, often starting with a simple melody and building upon it until it reaches a graceful crescendo. It’s a tried and true formula, but it has been so tried in the last decade, that the album can’t help but feel a rehash of what has been heard time and time again.
Also, with such a hazy and lucid approach, many songs just cease to be memorable. This is no problem for a song as “Faiseurs de Mondes” which features an ingenious and riveting conclusion which is as experimental as it is powerful, but it is an evidently massive problem for the track that follows shortly after, “Summers Glory”, a slightly above-standard affair that sinks into near oblivion in comparison.
In the end, Les Voyages de l’Âme (pardon my French) is a blissful work that displays its strengths as proudly as its weaknesses. In the grand scheme of things, although the music its skillfully done, it is nothing new, bold, or defining, but for an artist who was never supposed to dive into these waters to begin with, it can’t help but feel rejuvenating, and even greater then that, inspiring.