Review Summary: Kodama exhibits all the dreamy and engrossing qualities one can expect from Alcest, while progressing their complex sound magnificently.
Creating a fusion genre places a massive spotlight on the band responsible, with frontman and songwriter Neige of Alcest frequently expressing the desire to go his own way. A perfect example of this is the release of Shelter
in 2014, sounding like Sigur Ros going mainstream more than anything else. An enjoyable record in its own right, the shedding of all metal elements worked. However, Kodama
is a darker, more urgent affair; Japanese folklore and the dream world of Neige's youth collide in a euphoric odyssey, casting aside genre labels and harnessing a more sophisticated sound than the typical dynamic motifs one hears in the genre of "blackgaze." Sweeping post-rock atmospheres fused with intense metal soundscapes is what Alcest do best, and make for the sheer power exhibited within album epics “Eclosion,” “Je Suis D’ailleurs," and “Oiseaux de proie,” all taking a multitude of avenues and frequently building to a swirling blend of chaotic musical beauty.
The softer sides of Alcest emphasized in Shelter
play a role in Kodama
, with surreal album closer “Onyx” giving the feeling of sinking underwater. The meandering bonus track “Notre sang et nos penséesas” extends the album's falling action even further. Strange endings, these quieter sides of the band also explored in “Untouched” and the heavenly title track further the spiritual qualities that Neige has always exhibited with Alcest. These otherworldly traits lie in the more dynamic epics as well, with multicolored waterfalls of sound hearkening to the dizzying atmospheres and intense crescendos of magnum opus Écailles de Lune
. For the first time, Kodama
rivals Neige's greatest creation for his most focused and cinematic effort yet. He is still going his own way to outstanding effect, plunging into the familiarly dreamy, yet abstract and complex musical explorations he has always excelled in. Continuing to dominate the fusing of musical styles he unintentionally started, the punchy yet gorgeous qualities of Kodama
sees an impressive balance of contrasts, darker and more purposeful than Shelter
while evolving triumphantly.