Review Summary: Kodama delivers on all accounts, existing as one of Alcest's most emotionally powerful albums to date.
Allow me to spell out the lingering question that’s on every hardcore Alcest fan’s mind: Does Kodama
top Ecailles de Lune
" Well, the answer is a solid no. However, we are still blessed with the emotionally powerful album that is Kodama
. It solidifies why Alcest has remained at the forefront of the so-called “blackgaze” scene since their inception. While Les Voyages de l Ame
continued in the footsteps of Ecailles de Lune
deviated into a solely shoegaze/dream pop affair, and to great effect. If only every Alcest fan could have been happy with that. While many fans fell in love with it, the listeners that leaned more onto the metal spectrum of music were struck with staggering amounts of boredom. Kodama
exists as the best of both worlds, with it combining the charming innocence of their debut and the vast, watery atmosphere of Ecailles de Lune
. Make no mistake that Alcest’s fifth album is a swift and dynamic return to form.
First of all, Neige’s vocals remain as intact as they’ve ever been. As evidenced from the title track, his voice elevates the album’s atmosphere to angelic levels. When he’s not delivering pained black metal shrieks, his gentle French lyrics sound very pleasing to the ears. However, what’s different about his harsh vocals this time around is that they don’t become the centerpiece songs like “Eclosion” or “Oiseaux de proie.” Instead of vibrantly echoing through the spacey shoegaze atmosphere like they do on Ecailles de Lune
, they get appropriately swallowed into the moving guitar work at the perfect volume. His voice, harsh and clean like, meshes perfectly with the engrossing music.
When it comes to musicianship, songwriting and atmosphere on Kodama
, there exists almost no problems. In fact, there happens to be a strong improvement from Shelter
on all accounts. Highlights like “Untouched” and lead single “Oiseaux de proie” showcase Neige and Winterhalter’s skillful talents. In “Untouched,” the focus is to be purely beautiful. Winterhalter’s drumming sounds perfect in the mix and proves to be appropriately steady. Meanwhile, Neige’s lively guitar work provides moving emotions and dense layers of tranquility. “Oiseaux de proie” delivers on these departments as well in a heavier fashion, while throwing Neige’s shrieks into the gripping fray. The guitar work is some of the most engaging he’s ever written, but this track also highlights how fantastic of a drummer Winterhalter can be. The same goes for songs like “Eclosion” and “Je suis d ailleurs,” with both of them firing on all cylinders.
The only problem that plagues Kodama
would be the Drudkh influenced closer “Onyx.” Think of it as an ambient, droning guitar for three and a half minutes. It’s actually a surprisingly engaging change of pace for Alcest and there’s nothing wrong with it standing alone. To put it as the closer to this epic album is not a move that satisfies though. “Oiseaux de proie” would have been a worthier closer due to its thrilling blast beat driven conclusion and “Onyx” would have served as a more appreciate interlude. It would have been perfect sandwiched in between “Je suis d ailleurs” and “Untouched.”
“Onyx” aside, it’s safe to say that Neige delivered in every sense of the word. He accommodated many metal lovers by bringing back his harsh vocals and returned to his heavier style. In addition to this, he released his most powerful album in years. It’s absolutely massive, dreamy and a fine example of how well the heavier style of shoegaze can be played. Another fantastic aspect about Neige is how young he still is. Assuming he doesn’t plan on making Alcest defunct anytime soon, he clearly has a lot more to offer and his talent doesn’t seem to be drained even in the slightest. Kodama
is strong evidence of this and is one of the best records of the year.