Although 2014 just kicked off, let’s start things by stating that this will likely be the least metal album review you will read at The Age of Metal for the entire year. For those of you who haven’t already moved on to the next article, but are wondering why we chose to review this album, allow us to provide you with the briefest of history lessons. Alcest began as a French black metal band in the early 2000s, but had been gradually adding other non-metal elements to their sound. The band is essentially a one-man show known as Stéphane “Neige” Paut and although he has moved away from the band’s cold and dark black metal beginnings, many metal fans continue to enjoy his music.
With the newest release entitled, Shelter, any last traces of metal have been completely eradicated and we’re left with a more hopeful and brighter musical journey to embark upon. The aptly titled track Wings – a heavenly and enchanting number that pulls us in to start the album – really conveys the feeling of floating into an ethereal plane. The pearly gates then open with a bursting ray of light as Opale presents us with a reborn incarnation of Alcest, a far cry from the band’s early days with a much brighter and optimistic disposition.
While the album is dreamy, pleasant, and warming as a whole, the aspect of the album that really will pull you in is the ridiculously catchy and memorable pop-like melodies on several of the tracks. Voix Sereines is the first that will make you stop everything you are doing so you can whisk yourself away to a distant place and hum along during the ride. As the song progresses, it builds and builds until splashing off and beautifully cascading into the horizon. The title track, Shelter, is another with a captivating melody that navigates its way throughout the entire song and doesn’t reserve itself for just the chorus. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting lost to this number over and over again.
Away is the only track on the album performed in English. While it certainly didn’t ruin the album, as a non-French speaker, not being able to understand the lyrics and simply concentrating on the extra layer of sound Neige’s calming voice provides, added to the depth of the album’s character.
To bring Shelter to a close, Délivrance takes you away on an epic 10-minute journey through the clouds and the outer reaches of your soul. As you exit, you are left with another angelic chorus to finish in a similar way that started the album. It is a great final opportunity to close your eyes and really get lost in the inviting atmosphere Shelter wonderfully constructs over the course of 45 minutes.
If there is any complaint that could be said of this album, it is that Shelter is not long enough. After repeated listens you will still find yourself wanting the album to carry on just a bit longer. Maybe that isn’t so terrible and perhaps it’s the mark of an artist who knows exactly when to end a good thing. Although it is early into 2014 and there are many highly anticipated albums yet to be released, Shelter may have enough staying power to make it on several lists when December finally rolls around.
2. Opale (“Opal”)
3. La Nuit Marche avec Moi (“The Night Walk with Me”)
4. Voix Sereines (“Serene Voices”)
5. L’Éveil des Muses (“The Awakening of the Muses”)
8. Délivrance (Deliverance)
Genre: Post Rock/Shoegaze
Record Label: Prophecy Productions
Playing Time: 46 Minutes
Stéphane “Neige” Paut – vocals, guitar, bass, synth
Winterhalter – drums