(2012) Alcest – Les Voyages de L’âme

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The Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, once wrote, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” While some of us may view life as a magnificent opportunity to pay bills until the day they die, life can also be understood as a spiritual journey, which would raise the question: where is this journey taking us – and who’s at the helm? On January 6th, 2012, the French metal eccentrics, ALCEST, released their third studio album, “Les Voyages de L’âme,” via Prophecy. The album title translates into English as “the journeys of the soul.” The lyrics are in French, but you don’t need to understand a single word. You simply cannot avoid getting the impression that the voyage hinted at in the album title has something to do with the journey through darkness that everyone has to go through at some point in their life – the dark night of the soul or whatever you want to call it. Then again, life itself is but a journey through darkness. The somewhat trembling beauty conveyed by the haunting mixture of dreamy shoegaze, post-rock, and black-metal drives the point home without a shadow of a doubt.

Foreshadowing the album release, the opening track, “Autre Temps,” was released as a single, paired with a music video, in December 2011. For me, it was the gateway drug into the band’s music and it got me hooked, instantly. Already being a fan of bands such as LUNATIC SOUL, ANATHEMA, and DEAD CAN DANCE, I detected a musical kinship of sorts. Beneath the somewhat hippie-folksy surface, the song resonates with the thick air of a strange kind of wanderlust or a saudade – that is, the profound melancholic longing for something that is gone forever or might not have even existed in the first place. The sentiment is somewhat reminiscent of the work by the French poet, Charles Baudelaire. Befittingly, the song title translates to English as “other times.”

It seems to remain forever enshrouded in mystery, who first coined the term “hipster black metal” or “transcendental black metal.” Both of these terms are debatable and, apparently, they both engender a lot of controversy… but if the shoe fits, why not wear it? The primus motor of ALCEST, Stéphane Paut, who goes under the artistic alias Neige, has adamantly rejected comparisons to black metal altogether since his music is not centered around hatred or even anger. On “Les Voyages de L’ â me,” in particular, the songs sound like such treatises on the human condition that I see no problem with touting the music as transcendental black metal. While the music is inseminated in darkness, there is also a deeply ingrained promise of light.

The most prominent black-metal influences radiate from tracks such as “Lá Oú Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles” and “Faiseurs De Mondes.” The barbed screams and blast-beats are contrasted by fairy-dusted folk moments and post-rockish plateaus of serenity to a nothing short of resonant effect. The music is charged not so much with the church-burning vehemence of vintage black metal but the intensity of, say, California dreamin’ gone by the wayside due to a spiritual crisis. These harsher moments nicely punctuate the album’s otherwise rather smooth-sailing “post-rock meets flower-power” flow. The title track, for instance, is an onslaught of sophisticated post-rock elegance, par excellence.

Maybe in a slightly unexpected way, the album brings the journey to a close with the track “Summer’s Glory,” which radiates a strong 1990s-alternative vibe, particularly that of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. In a way, the album’s style is a synthesis of the previous two ALCEST outings – and the closing track kind of hints that the band has embarked on a journey that is by far not over yet. It is not that esoteric of a truth, that our intentions determine the trajectory of our life. “Les Voyages de L’âme” demonstrated an intention to keep moving forward, to progress, because – let’s face it – the ride that we’re all on is the journey of a lifetime.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Autre Temps
  2. Lá Oú Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles
  3. Les Voyages De L’ame
  4. Nous Sommes L’emeraude
  5. Beings of Light
  6. Faiseurs De Mondes
  7. Havens
  8. Summer’s Glory

Lineup

Neige – guitars, bass, synths, vocals

Winterhalter – drums

Label

Prophecy

Links

http://www.alcest-music.com/home

https://www.facebook.com/alcest.official

https://www.instagram.com/alcestofficial/?hl=en