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Alcest - Écailles de lune - 85%

ThrashManiacAYD, April 6th, 2010

Yes! More black metal that will make the purists howl in anguish! 'Shoegaze black metal', as French residents Alcest seem to be described nowadays by the label and accompanying press, is gloriously another faction of the incredibly diverse black metal tree and one I'm only just entering the world of with their second album, "Écailles De Lune". For those not in the know, shoegaze black metal sounds pretty much like what the genre title would sound like set to music - sombre, sad and emotional black metal, obviously sans the corpsepaint, Satanism, crap sound quality and all the other stereotypes that are usually labelled with the parent genre. I mean just look at that cover – the most beautiful you've ever seen claiming to be BM?

Considering the path from which Alcest, and their subgenre, have come, "Écailles De Lune" is incredibly ethereal in it's stark and passionate beauty. Doing away with the bravado and outwards show of strength and fortitude that is effectively the bedrock of the entire metal genre, songs like "Sur L'Océan Couleur De Fer" and "Écailles De Lune (Part I)" possess a painstakingly transparent emotional core, allowing the heartfelt feelings of mainman Neige to be laid bare through almost pop-like guitar craft and dreamy vocals in a way one would never believe could still have the words 'black metal' attached to it. It is only during "Écailles De Lune (Part II)" and "Percées De Lumière" when the intensity overflows into Agalloch-ian heathenistic black metal, the riffs resonating beautifully in the manner that makes Wolves in the Throne Room one of the best BM acts around today, where Neige feels implored to scream out his poetic lyrics rather than use the gentle delicate meanderings that epitomise his vocal delivery at all other times. The contrast, naturally, works superbly by lending a strong humane aura to the uptempo moments, however it does make me wish Alcest would utilise this tempo more often across "Écailles De Lune" as the sounds created here ring dramatically with atmosphere, and far more than most 'proper' BM bands can ever muster. Go figure that one out.

'Shoegaze' it may be but much of "Écailles De Lune" pertains a fresh, spring morning feel, gently welcoming back the life that has been hidden away across the dark cold winter months; a feeling recent history will tell us all is a pleasant and joyous one to behold. Like the other bands mentioned here Alcest's potential reach is far beyond the realms of black metal, so let's hope "Écailles De Lune" gets the success it warrants and we all enjoy this shoegazing black metal before it gets crowded out with imposters attempting to convey the depths of feeling Alcest have managed here, because this isn't something you hear every day.

Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net