Review Summary: Twenty seven minutes of pure, blissful nostalgia.
It’s fair to say at this point that Alcest has matured as an act and established its own unique niche in the metal(-influenced) community. Having grown from most humble bedroom black metal beginnings into the love-it-or-hate-it shoegaze sound discovered on 2007’s Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
, it’s clear that main man Neige has nurtured Alcest over the years with the intent of carving out a sound and niche unique only to Alcest, and it just gets more exciting with this split.
“Percées De Lumière”, the opening track on Alcest’s half of the split is probably the most rock-oriented song Neige has written for Alcest, given its stripped down instrumentation and very straight-forward delivery (choke it up to his work on Ameseours rubbing into his other projects if you want). However, those of you who listened to Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde
will immediately note the return of Neige’s patented shrilled harsh vocals that were conspicuously lacking on the aforementioned album. Thankfully, they fit perfectly with the new approach taken here and no beauty is sacrificed on their behalf – they convey a certain dimension of emotion lacking in the previous Alcest material that is more than welcome here. Plus, even if you do consider them ugly, the shimmering guitar leads should more than compensate!
The second Alcest song, “Circe Poisoning the Sea” is something completely unfamiliar for me. Where the first song is straight-forward and fairly heavy, this one sort of fades into a benign ambiance fitting of a lullaby. The guitar part is ethereal beyond description, getting its point across with simple, delicate plucking to accompany the softly sung vocals. This is a side of Alcest that hasn’t been brought out until now, and I’m hoping it can be taken to even more interesting places in the future.
Les Discrets, a band that sort of wormed their way into this scene by doing graphic designs for other various French bands, holds up their end of the split very well. Their blend of folk, shoegaze, and a pinch of metal is at times, admittedly, reminiscent of Alcest but makes for an interesting and soothing listen. The male-female vocal duet on “Après L' Ombre” is as dramatic as you could expect, and the double bass outro to “Song for Mountains” is surprisingly intense. This is definitely a band to watch.
With both of these bands coming out with albums in 2010, I can’t help but wonder, “what’s the point of this split"” But hey, I can’t really complain about a spoiler or two, and with material this strong from both bands it just makes me even more excited for their upcoming full-lengths. Highly recommended.