Alcest
Spiritual Instinct


4.5
superb

Review

by Scheumke USER (21 Reviews)
October 29th, 2019 | 193 replies


Release Date: 2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Alcest's most accessible and focused effort to date.

In the summer of 2015, I was at the only festival I’ve actively attended for years: Graspop Metal Meeting. Once a year, 130.000 people descend on a little village in Belgium to celebrate metal music and culture. I remember it being a particularly warm evening and the sun was setting, when we decided that no, the band we were watching was not at their best, and we’d go hope for luck elsewhere. And so we wandered into a big, dusty and smoky festival tent where Alcest started playing. The tent was not even half full, but those who were there were treated to the best performance of the weekend. Whether it was the dreamy, atmospheric music, the hazy lighting or the complete unexpectedness of wandering into it, Alcest at Graspop 2015 became one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. I’ve seen them a couple of times since then, and while they were always excellent, that first impression has never been topped.

It should need no saying that after that, Alcest holds a special place in my heart. Yet when a band keeps delivering time and again, it gets to a point where I get a little nervous when new material gets announced. Surely at some point they will slip up and have that one record that’s either too much of the same, or a failed experiment? Listening to the first single of ‘Spiritual Instinct’, Protection, didn’t help much to calm my nerves. Alcest’s trademark melodies and gorgeous earworms seemed to have been given a backseat over riffs and a more traditional ‘metal’ sound. I figured that I would do myself a favor and not listen to the second single before the entire album was released, because clearly the songs needed to be heard in context.

After listening to ‘Spiritual Instinct’ in full though, the only thought I have about these early reservations is: They did it again! The dark and brooding start of Les jardins de minuit give a great picture of what you can expect from this album. A moody bass and drum section lays the foundation for the main theme of the song, that gets introduced by a lead guitar and is quickly taken over by Neige’s ethereal vocals. It is a short but sweet buildup before diving headlong into a ferocious blast-beat that hits with a force we have not seen since their earlier work. It’s angry, melancholic and immediate. Yet Alcest wouldn’t be Alcest without drenching it in a delicious sauce of atmosphere, coming from both lush guitar melodies and Neige’s characteristic clean vocals.

Although ‘Spiritual Instinct’ is never revolutionary, it does have its clear evolutions. For one, it is a step further towards a more riff driven, rougher sound. It’s almost as far from ‘Kodama’ in its aggression as ‘Kodama’ was from ‘Shelter’. Yes almost every song still has its moments of quiet introspection, but only Le Miroir is actually calm. Whether it is the more up-tempo nature of Sapphire or the recurring riffs in Protection, every song here has something that demands attention. It keeps the six songs from blurring together and makes for a very focused listening experience.

Speaking of demanding attention, the second half of the album might be the best 23 minutes Alcest have ever put on tape. L’Île des Morts especially feels like the centerpiece of the record, combining every aspect that make Alcest great. Otherworldly, almost dream-pop melodies, great musical layering, Neige screaming from the top of his lungs, outbursts of instrumental ferociousness and a godly climax. The song has it all. It’s easy to see the following Le Miroir as a breather, but after a few listens it opens up as its own beauty, building on a clear theme in almost post-rock fashion. It paves the way for the final song, the anthemic title track, to come in with full effect. The most traditional Alcesty song if you will, it is the only song you could argue would fit better on ‘Kodama’, but that is precisely what makes it stand out to me and fits as the perfect closing track.

‘Spiritual Instinct’ stands strong in Alcest’s already mighty discography. It progresses from ‘Kodama’ without losing any of its core traits, and the more riff driven approach and short runtime make it Alcest’s most accessible and focused effort to date.



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user ratings (563)
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Robert Garland STAFF (2.5)
Alcest’s sixth installment relaxes the band’s soundscape....



Comments:Add a Comment 
Scheumke
October 29th 2019


2010 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Was surprised nobody jumped on this yet so figured I'd do a short writeup for it to get the discussion flowing. Somehow I had more difficulty with this one, so (as always), feel free to provide any feedback!

Digging: Boss Keloid - Family the Smiling Thrush

Tundra
October 29th 2019


6076 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yup, I dug this a lot, contendor for AOTY list for sure, good review as well

Trifolium
October 29th 2019


24886 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

YESSSS finally a review for this! It's been 4 long days in other threads!

Have a well-earned pos Scheumke!

Trifolium
October 29th 2019


24886 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Only one little thing, the accent circonflexe on the I of ''L'Île des Morts'' is missing. Amazing track that, agreed, the second half of this is stunning. Already feeling this 4.0 is too low.

Scheumke
October 29th 2019


2010 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks buddy, edited it. One of those things that I'm writing it and thinking 'nah i'll find that alt code later' and then forget xD

Trifolium
October 29th 2019


24886 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, recognise that haha!

Seriously super happy they are able to maintain the momentum they built with Kodama (not a big fan of Shelter). Impressive album and love the grittier direction this has taken.



''Yet when a band keeps delivering time and again, it gets to a point where I get a little nervous when new material gets announced. Surely at some point they will slip up and have that one record that’s either too much of the same, or a failed experiment?'' this especially resonates with me, felt exactly the same way!

Morningrise767
October 29th 2019


3092 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sapphire is sooo good < 3

beefshoes
October 29th 2019


8025 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review, and I am so happy to see this album getting the love that it deserves.



Pikazilla
October 29th 2019


17012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Spiritual Incest

Pikazilla
October 29th 2019


17012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pos'd. Nice review as always, Scheumke!

kalkwiese
October 29th 2019


7285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Another album like this that's basically Kodama 2.0 would be too much, but sometimes it's desirable to explore a certain sound a little more. This is one of the latter cases. Next album should be leap from this though.

Looooove this album < 3

kalkwiese
October 29th 2019


7285 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Is anyone else feeling like one of these tracks is heavily inspired by Slowdive's Spanish Air?

Egarran
October 29th 2019


22949 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

as the kids say, inject this into my veins

Pikazilla
October 29th 2019


17012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nah.

Egarran
October 29th 2019


22949 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Haha you're so neurotically fast. I edited it out because Scheumke doesn't deserve that grief.

Pikazilla
October 29th 2019


17012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nobody deserves that grief.

DungeonBoy
October 29th 2019


8239 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review dude. small evolution agreed, but solid output from an amazing band

Scheumke
October 29th 2019


2010 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Now I'm curious what you posted lol.

Pikazilla
October 29th 2019


17012 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

He made an atrociously erroneous statement regarding what the best bands are.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
October 29th 2019


24531 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn it.



I was working on this one, but you did a good job dude.

Digging: Kajsa Lindgren - Momentary Harmony



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