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Lacking in distinctive qualities and emotion - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 14th, 2013

On "Les Voyages de l'Ame", Neige continues his quest to rediscover a lost world of perfect beauty, memory and innocence. Of course, he and the rest of us here know that such a world exists mainly in our minds but as long as it's there, plus the very fact that we can imagine such places, gives humans hope that the real world in which we live can be transformed into something much better and more positive. And why not use black metal and indie pop, in the past the musics of choice to express negative emotions, to paint pictures of hope, serenity and impossible beauty and convey them to audiences? As Neige demonstrates here, the black metal can add a sharp fresh zest and meaty substance which enhance the optimistic and hopeful mood conveyed in the melodies and jangly guitar tones.

The early songs begin energetically with dreamy, jewel-like guitar raindrop tones, smooth vocals with occasional black metal rasping, good drumming and some noisy effects mixed into a general melodic structure and a sharp, raw (but not too much so) black metal guitar texture. The pace is constant but not varied: usually in my book, this is a sign of trouble in an album where emotional expression might be important. Into the title track and I start to sniff something not quite right here: the songs lack distinctiveness and tend to sound much the same to the point where parts of them could be cut, swapped around and pasted into other songs, and regular listeners not notice much difference. The singing is rarely impassioned: Neige has a narrow vocal range and there might be at most two emotions expressed throughout. There is not even any attempt to add effects to the singing and so it sounds the same on just about every track that features vocals. As a result, listeners must rely on the music, pace and ambience of the songs to express a range of emotions; disappointingly, only a few tracks (mostly the more overtly black metal ones, like "Faiseurs de Mondes") do so.

This could be a very uplifting and joyous album but after hearing it all the way through, I still have the feeling that while Neige has found what he's after, he's portraying it in a way that appears stereotyped and bland. There is too much reliance on structure, as if Neige is afraid to let the music go and wander where it will. This to me is strange because you would think, when you find freedom and beauty, wouldn't you let the music run freely? Yet even with the aggressive black metal passages and lovely lead guitar teardrop tones, the spirit of the music still seems to be in chains. The album has a very commercial feel in parts, especially in the last track "Summer's Glory" which has a triumphal feel in parts that people might have heard many times before on other folks' albums (!) and which also feels enervated and washed out. It's not a good look.

Best tracks are "Là où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles" for tipping over in a more black metal direction and featuring a swathe or two of digital noise scrape and "Faiseurs de Monde", also a more BM-oriented song in parts. At the other extreme, listeners can skip over the repetitive instrumental track "Havens" which adds very little to the album that isn't already there.