Review Summary: The sound of springtime's first blossom peaking from beneath the snow.
I honestly think that there is no other band which has had as much of a game changing impact on the underground metal scene over the last decade quite like Alcest. Despite their beginnings as just another European folk metal band with lo-fi recordings and a traditionalist pride in all things medieval, Alcest's greatest achievements can be found in their least “metal” moments. 2007's Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde
made it okay for black metal to be anything but. The record went beyond the avid second generation post-rock worship of the blossoming American scene of the time and it introduced heavy music fans to names like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine rather than hearkening back to the goofy goonery and played out mysticism that had followed the genre since its accidental creation by a bunch of piss drunk Englishmen in 1982. For the first time atmosphere was more than just a synonym for the haze of shi
t quality recordings, it was actual depth. Alcest accomplished this by throwing all of their “metal” guise out the window. Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde
was a lush and sprawling record that was completely unique for its time. While its exterior clearly reverberated with the warm fuzz and gentle modulation of many of shoegaze's classic moments, the original European folk influence of the band's early work resided at its core. This experimentation laid the groundwork for not only the current “blackgaze” movement, but was the most visible impetus for the shoegaze revival as a whole.
Alcest continued to build on this, first by adding back in bits of their black metal past on Éscailles de Lune
and then again with Les Voyages de l'Âme
which saw a further exploration into melancholy traditional folk music. Shelter
on the other hand finds its way back to the radiant warmth of Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde
, and is the first record where Alcest have finally exorcised what remained of their blackened past. Shelter
resounds with a vibrant glow. Where prior Alcest records were at their roots mostly somber affairs, Shelter
is awash in a virginal innocence that permeates every note with a rapturous warmth. The distance and longing that has always found its way into the mood of their recordings now brims with hope rather than despair. It's a small but wonderful change in presentation that makes all the difference. Furthermore, the dark folk flourishes are no longer left to ramble across the musical landscape. While still present, the song structures on Shelter
take on more pop friendly shapes. It's yet another small shift that helps push the record to such emotive peaks; accentuating both the highs and the lows into a gorgeous spectacle forever pulling on the heartstrings. Shelter
lives completely in the moment yet is seemingly detached from the here and now. It exists like a dream. It molds to our deepest and most sincere emotions, bringing up the past, present, and future into one tangible vision. It is the soundtrack to every want and desire, and every wish and memory – but most of all, it is simply beautiful.