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As a debut album, albeit one preceded by an EP and a demo not to mention its maker's past experience in other bands, "Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde" is a bold statement of intent. Alcest began as Neige's personal project to describe, explore and share with others the dream experiences he had as a child of being in a fantasy world through the medium of music. The musical combination of black metal and melodic shoegazer indie pop is very striking and the two styles complement each other: the black metal gives the music energy and a fresh, sharp quality, and the shoegazer elements add a soft, dreamy ambience. On its own, the fusion is very good; it's what Neige adds to it that can be problematic. I sometimes wonder whether he's trying to take the music to a much wider audience, one that prefers its black metal to be very tame and commercially oriented, because the music adheres to strong song-based structures and formats, and there are aspects of Alcest's style that are very bland.
The music generally expresses a lot of hope and optimism though there are moments of melancholy and longing in the raindrop guitar tones, the showers of BM guitar noise and riffing, and the steady drumming and pacing. The singing is usually soft and sweet, covered up in echo and set well back in the mix. Neige's vocals have a limited range of expression and emotion though and the pure tones quickly become bland and monotonous on the ear. There is no attempt to vary the vocal style with the odd scream or two, or by running two sets of vocals, one pure and the other grim BM-influenced which could have added some emotion and interest by way of contrast and complementarity. The music's pacing is usually fixed for the entire track and that also limits a song's capacity to express feeling. Sometimes there are moments of acoustic guitar without accompaniment which help to vary a song's range of expression but I sometimes get the feeling that such moments are not necessarily organic developments of the song or its lyrics. The album as a whole seems to play very much as a commercial black metal / shoegazer fusion recording: there's a "ballad" in there ("Ciel Errant"), a folk-oriented song with a nice Celtic-sounding beat ("Tir Nan Og") and a pretty song with a female vocal ("Sur l'autre rive je t'attendrai" which in English would translate more or less as "On the other shore, I'm waiting for you" - a romantic-sounding piece of a banal sort if ever there was one).
When all is said and done, what we have here is a recording that doesn't seem really genuine and heartfelt. There's a sentimental quality here that might or might not have come with the shoegazer influence, it's hard to say. As the album progresses, the BM energy present on the first two or three tracks and one of the later ones disappears and what is left is a lot of generic melodic pop. The lack of real musical muscle and inspiration is compensated for by delving into New Age folk, balladry and mustering an array of pretty effects and keyboard and other melodies but after the last song ends, listeners might find themselves wondering whether Neige really wants to be a big pop star and have his black metal / shoegazer pop cake with lashings of cream and sugar on top and eat it all too.
The best tracks are the first two, "Printemps emeraude" ("Emerald Spring") and the title track, which privilege the black metal elements over other aspects of the songs and have a liveliness that unfortunately doesn't last long over the album.
Whoa. Rarely have I seen an album divide the crowd to the extent of this album. Beside a few stragglers, almost all the reviews on this site either elevate this album to the skies or grind it into the dirt. One half is completely ecstatic about it and can't see the flaws, the other doesn't get it's apeal and call it stupid and pretentious.
This is understandable, I quess, as the style of it is quite uncommon in the metal scene - hell, it's hardly a metal album by the classic definition of the term. First of all, it's soft and shameless about it. There is no macho pretense at all and no desire to be hard to listen to. On the other hand, there is made no effort to be easy-listening either: the tracks drone on without much in the way of build-up or catch. No rock power here.
Therefore, I understand that it's an easy album to be angry at. However, there is a certain charm about it, that you either sense or don't. If you do, suddenly the album turns into an amazing, trancy experience, that affect your subconsious as much as your musical ear. It is incredibly mood-altering, often for the better.
However, if it doesn't manage to grab hold of you that way, then it falls short - which is why I give 90% to an album that I consider, according to what it's trying to do, almost flawless: looking at it from a sceptics view, I do see why it's being called bland and boring - if it doesn't manage to get under your skin, it goes from trance-inducing to flat and repetitive.
I think alot of the polarization comes from the fact that this album apparantly was very hyped. This, of course, makes the people out there, myself included, put on the music-expert-hat and go to work dissecting the album in question, and that is entirely the wrong way to approach an album like this. Not caring much for zines or metal websites (beside this one, obviously) I hadn't heard anything about this album before I randomly stumbled upon it several years after it' release - and I was spellbound. Walking blindly into this album with no preoccupation is the bet way to discover it, I find. Oops, sorry, spoiled that for ya.
I feel sorry for the people who don't get this album, be it because of metal-pretense, reactionism or simply not getting it.
When I'm in the mood for devastating disappointment, I find it's hard to do much better than to check out whatever it is that's getting hyped in the black metal scene. Or as transcending black metal's limitations, or whatever it is that this is supposed to be.
A number of different celestial bodies had to be brought into alignment for this wretched thing to enter our world and wreak havoc. The prophets foretold that that Weakling's connections to the indie scene were Bad Omen, and indeed there has been much hipster black metal to rain misery upon us, and then we also have The End Records warping the minds of the youth with post-whatever boredom rock like Agalloch and Woods of Ypres and other such Ulver-spawn. The final piece of the puzzle is the shoegaze connection, which seems to be the newest biggest thing in metal, with bands like Jesu and the late and perhaps not-quite-metal The Angelic Process commanding quite a lot of attention.
And so it came to pass that Alcest came into being, born of black metal, or so I'm told, but soon turning into this hazy tremolo rock effeminate mush. One might make the point that this hasn't got a whole lot â€“ or anything â€“ to do with black metal, but I don't know that Agalloch or Woods of Ypres have much to do with black metal, either.
It could certainly be worse. There are some spots in all that atmospheric guitar fuzz when one suspects that Alcest might be onto something here, a fine merger of atmospheric rock and downbeat metal like Katatonia in their better days, but then there are the cloyingly sentimental overtones to come along and ruin it. That last song puts me on the floor wincing like Captain Kirk after being hit by some kind of Klingon pain ray. Who has the stomach for all these melancholic forests and wistful nostalgia and nostalgic melancholy or whatever, especially in French? You can tell it's deep stuff because there are acoustic guitars. It wants so badly to be taken so deadly seriously; I can't do it. The problem for me with these sorts of specimens is that they never have the artistic guns to back up their pretensions.
The sensitive-guy singing also makes me want to punch Neige in the face... it's like fingernails on a chalkboard. That's a relevant enough note to end on.
Alcest is the creation of one Neige who started it in 1999 as a solo project. Now as a child, this Neige fellow used to dream about an alternate reality which he calls Fairy Land and the songs on this album are generally about this place. It seems this used to be a raw and grim black metal project but obviously not anymore.
Alcest has been getting a lot of press recently with the release of this, the first full length. They've been called the saviours of black metal, it's been said that Neige is taking the genre in new and exciting directions and basically this album's been getting a lot of hype. The one word that's been thrown around a lot right from when this album came out is Shoegazer. Now, I have to admit that this is a genre I'm not too familiar with. I've heard all of 5 songs from a band that plays this kind of music and it was pretty fucking boring. Also, I think this is a really wimpy direction for black metal to go in.
I'm just rambling here so I'll get to the album itself. Basically, take all of your typical grim black metal bands that play the same damn riff for hours on end and remove all of the things that made them grim, black and metal. Then add some really wimpy clean vocals and a whole lot of equally spineless melodies. That's Alcest. So where's the black metal, you ask ? Well, there isn't any. In fact, there's hardly anything here than can be called metal. The songs are dull and offer absolutely nothing. The concept of shoegazer black metal doesn't work. It's only on the last song when Neige leaves all pretension to black metal aside that things take a turn for the better. Tir Nan Og is an almost straight ahead pop song with some touches of folk and this is the one song on the album that actually works. The rest of the album is great if you have difficulty sleeping as the monotony on offer is akin to counting sheep.
To listen to “Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde” (which translates into Memories Of Another World) is to experience a world free of pain, darkness, and despair, and to enter a world of beauty and harmony. The scenario that such an album paints is one where pure joy and happiness triumph through the overbearing cascading light, where innocence prevails, and where the longing for nostalgia reigns supreme. The best way to describe ‘Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde' is simply overwhelming.
The preceding quote was taken from the press package included with the promo copy of this album. Now, its standard practice to embellish a band's strengths in this manner. The label releasing the album or the band themselves will usually write these notes in the hopes that the description will make such an impression on the reviewer it is sent to, he will forego all other promo albums sitting atop his desk and immediately place THIS album in his music listening device and immediately write lauds after praise after exaltations about the glorious music now entering his orifice.
What I don't think the intent of these press notes is for, is making the prospective reviewer to roll their eyes while muttering Sweet Jesus… under their breath, but fair is fair. If they're going to take the time to send the promo out, I'm going to at least do them the courtesy of reviewing the album with as little bias as possible. So without further ado…
Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde is not a very good album. Not at all. It is what could almost be considered merde, in the parlance. Alcest has created an album in the genre of “folk-metal” - a term I loathe to use, as it's a complete dichotomy in its verbiage, but nonetheless also completely apt in its description. I have no idea where the term was first coined, but I'm willing to bet it had something to do with Jethro Tull winning the Grammy for best metal album back in the early 90's.
When it comes to music, I consider myself to be an open minded-bordering-on-enlightened individual. There is not a whole lot of music that is completely pointless. I sense that Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde has a point - I'm just struggling to find out what it is aside from inducing fleeting thoughts of unicorns inside the listener's head.
When you listen to tracks like “Sur Lautre Rive Je Tattendrai”, you are given a hint - a shimmering hope, a faint glimpse that all is not lost - a heavy-ish guitar and a drone that sounds promising, but then sole-member Stéphane Paut, aka Neige starts singing like Jon Anderson with a reverb pedal, it all goes to france-in-a-handcart. There's a distinct hippie-ish taint that covers this album like a patchouli béarnaise, leaving quite a bitter aftertaste.
Neige and his then-band Peste Noire was quite well regarded a few years back for helping to kick-start the French black metal movement that we see perfected in the likes of Deathspell Omega but there's just none less black to be found on this album. The fact that he's just joined up with Norwegian black metal band Forgotten Woods as their new vocalist is all the more confusing. Nothing wrong with a well-rounded singer I suppose, but if he turns this good but hardly great band into a mandolin-lute fest, I'm going to be pissed.
Mandolin can be nice, sure. There's also pretty acoustic guitar and non-obtrusive effeminate vocals, but when put together with the quiet-loud-quiet-loud-fade formula of heavier bands, you're stuck with an album that has no idea what it wants to be when it grows up.
Anyone who has seen my review of Alcest’s previous release, 2005’s ‘Le Secret’ will know that I’m not quite the conventional listener. If you don’t want to read, basically I thought it was toss. However the sample song I had heard from their new full length, ‘Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde’ was far from that. I was very impressed and I couldn’t wait to buy my copy of the new album (I avoided downloading the internet leak). So I had it in my hands, my expectations were high and I just wanted it to be what it was hyped up to be. The six tracks of ‘Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde’ are between six and eight minutes long, much shorter than the 10+ minute drones of ‘Le Secret’. I was glad because the repetition and dire arrangement of ‘Le Secret’ annoyed me no end. I was hoping that this album marked the end of that compositional wasteland for Neige.
It seems that my hopes were well founded.
The music is pretty similar to ‘Le Secret’ in a strictly melodic sense. There’s the same ethereal vibe going on, with the tremolo picked guitar parts along with clean vocals. This time, however, the songs are concise and every note matters. I really didn’t get that feeling with Alcest before. The transitions between distorted and acoustic parts are still nothing more than a fadeout which kind of breaks the flow of the song; especially as most of the time the acoustic part is only there to introduce a new melodic thread. It’s not a big problem but when music like this is meant to be about the build-up, having it interrupted by another ‘profound’ acoustic break sort of spoils it.
Still though, the quality of the music is very high, especially when it involves Neige’s clean guitar over an acoustic (see ‘Ciel Errant’ and the title track). I think the lack of black metal is part of it. I have no problem with black metal in Neige’s music (in fact I was disappointed when I found out that his other project, Amesoeurs, would contain no black metal after their debut EP) but the apparent need to include some BM elements in ‘Le Secret’ made it seem kind of forced (or quite the opposite, something which encompassed too much to make it coherent). Aside from a couple of half-time blastbeats, there’s nothing metal about ‘Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde’, and really ‘Le Secret’ wasn’t metal either. The only reason that most of Alcest’s fanbase is from the metal community, and the only reason I’m writing this for the metal forum is because of Neige’s involvement in his longer-running raw BM band Peste Noire. This is shoegaze music. I think the only reason people find this music ‘overwhelmingly beautiful’ or whatever is because it’s put in a different context, and people link it to black metal, which this music is very, very different to.
The vocals on the album confuse me after I read that all vocals were done by Neige, aside from a guest appearance on ‘Sur L'autre Rive Je T'attendrai’ by Amesoeurs bandmate Audrey Sylvain, because on every track there is an audible female voice. I’ve also been told that the title track of ‘Le Secret’ was also sung by Neige. I just find it impossible because it just sounds like a woman, plain and simple. It’s not like Neige has to chance his voice to hit any pitches because he sings in a similar range in his ‘regular’ voice too. In any case, if it is Neige, his vocals on the entire album are amazing. There’s no screaming this time (and if there were they would be terrible inappropriate), it’s all clean and it just works with the music better. It creates far more atmosphere and gives the music the true dream-like feel that previous releases were trying to attain. There’s only a few times where I feel his vocals slip up, most notably on ‘Tir Nan Og’, where his vocal melody (and the light effects that are put on it) and the mood of the song just don’t mesh. The song instrumentally is very interesting, with very textural percussion and piano in relation to the acoustic guitar. However that C# he hits just doesn’t work, but I digress.
The lyrics are all in French, but strangely enough, only four of the six song’s lyrics are printed in the booklet. I’ve researched a little and found some translations into English (only for the four printed songs) which, knowing what I know about Alcest from interviews, make some sense, so I trust that they’re correct. The concept behind Alcest (from ‘Le Secret’ onwards, anyway) is based upon daydreams that Neige has (and had frequently as a child) of an ambient otherworld of eternal happiness and peace. The lyrics definitely portray that, and combine with the music perfectly. Some of the songs describe this ‘dream world’, while others talk about Neige’s longing to be there and not on this earth. Neige’s lyrics for all his projects have always been of a high standard and this album continues it. The lyrics in fact mirror a part of the song, with any negativity in the lyrics (which is rare in Alcest) coming at a more negative sounding musical section. The lyrics really heighten my enjoyment of the album, particularly the lesser songs.
Most of the melodies compliment each other and the bass in particular adds interesting takes on the rest of the music which differ from conventional harmonic paths. I still think the one thing which doesn’t really impress me about Alcest is the guitar tone. It’s just too fuzzy for this music. I find the best songs are the ones where it is least prevalent (‘Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde’, ‘Ciel Errant’ and ‘Tir Nan Og’), and they start with acoustic guitars more often. Don’t get me wrong though, I think this album is a huge improvement on ‘Le Secret’ and it’s very enjoyable for the most part. The atmosphere is great and the bass and vocals in particular are outstanding but still the huge acclaim this band gets is not yet deserved, I feel. One can only hope that his music continues to improve at this rate.
Originally written for www.ultimate-guitar.com
Let me begin by stating that this album is fraudulent. Do not be fooled. However, if you have already heard the album and have been fooled, but are reading this review anyway, then I doubt you will be affected by these words.
I would best describe this album, besides fraudulent, as nothing more than "comfortable"...NOT beautiful! There is no "profound meaningfulness" here. No "intangible ecstasy". I however understand that people will be fooled into believing that this is an emotional, sensitive and expressive piece of work. They will be fooled by its aesthetics, their expectations and their ignorance. The aesthetics, themes and music which constitute this album are geared towards baiting the kind of people who mistake happiness for joy. I consider myself more receptive than most to truly euphoric, elating music. This review is not coming from someone who was expecting black metal, nor someone who is at all averse to music which is not "dark" or heavy. My main qualm is with this album's guile, which I will come to.
The market for this type of shit is ripe at the moment, with more and more pretension coming into the black metal scene. Neige is considered by many to have transcended his black metal background through this release, together with his new project Amesoeurs, however there is no innovation here, merely novelty. Once I learned of his intentions to remove himself from the black metal scene, together with the "tender" themes and imagery of this record (innocence, childhood, etc...), I became a little suspicious and downloaded it, instead of purchasing it as I otherwise may have.
It would be inaccurate to describe the music here as "bad". Neige is clearly a capable musician, and the album, which is coherent, does have a defined "sense" about it. The album has an undeniably "nostalgic" tone. But wait... I'll educate you; nostalgia is an artificial, superficial emotion which clouds the judgement, and the music reflects this, necessarily. Neige's romantic preoccupation with the melancholy and alienation of urban life, (a safe and paltry melancholy and alienation), is a theme which he pursues with Amesoeurs. I believe this to be indicative of the synthetic "beauty" on offer here, where the listener is led to perceive something as beautiful by way of a myriad of (self) deceptions. It will doubtless seem of profound beauty to those who are unaccustomed to beauty, or are unable to experience it. True musical beauty often has has little to do with "sublime" chords, "delicate" harmonies or "heavenly" vocals.
The chord sequences, occasionally fragmented into arpeggios, are all almost exclusively major key. They sound tired, trite and sickly-sweet. And they sound almost resigned in some way. The riffs are exclusively "pleasant", that is to say, they make the listener feel content. The fact that most people desire nothing more than mere contentedness presumably reflects this albums appeal. The astonishing predictability of the music helps create the effect of contentedness; the listener is never taken by surprise. This strange appeal can be likened to the way some people with an underdeveloped sense of humour prefer hearing jokes they have heard before. They laugh, but not hard, and not from the heart.
The production is dense. The "ethereal" singing, drenched in chorus, sounds, quite simply, pathetic, merely wafting around in the embarrassing semblance of rapturous sonority. The vocals are in fact quickly reminiscent of Enya, and here we find similar pseudo-transcendental nonsense. Neige has regrettably even included a couple of blastbeats, which sound utterly ridiculous given the total lack of dynamism the music has. The music is totally static, (possibly some listeners experience a "floaty" sensation). Guitar leads frequently enter the mix aimlessly dancing around the bland, anticipated chords, failing to emote at all, simply adding to the substantial production which is obviously intended to "envelope" the listener.
To these ears and to this mind, the whole album has a certain dishonesty about it. It reminds me of a group of people I witnessed being moved to tears "by the holy spirit", where they were in fact moved by the highly calculated strumming of a nearby guitar. I find the album to be heavily manipulative in the same way; a self-conscious and concerted attempt move the listener, undermining the very premise of innocence.
I doubt many will take heed of how I have described this album, as many will somehow try to fool themselves into liking it, perhaps because, as with nostalgia and romanticism, what appeals to them is a mere idea, something vacant and insubstantial. However, if you understand the kind of insincerity I'm getting at, do not buy this. If you must, just download it to have the suspicion confirmed...
I give it a one, since I cannot negate it's existence.
Prepare to let your dreams take you by the hand and sweep you away on the crest of a wave as Alcest FINALLY release a debut album entitled 'Souvenirs d'un autre monde'. Its been several years since the release of the bands first demo, way back in 2001 and us fans have been urging Alcest to put all the ideas together and create the masterpiece the metal world has been craving to hear. Its about time that we have the pleasure of being able to stick this record on at any stage we desire during the day.
Souvenirs d'un autre monde is bound to receive mixed reviews. I try not to let my emotions take over me when I read negatives about Alcest because with so much hype before its release, people were bound to be disappointed with the outcome. That's life. Not everything can live up to expectations. The trick is, even if it is incredibly difficult, not to enter into something with expectations. Disappointment can only be achieved if you do. Given the direction 'Le Secret' was heading I suppose its no great surprise that Souvenirs d'un autre monde is completely different to anything Alcest have released prior to this full-length. Shoegaze, a relatively new genre to me, is in the foreground for this record.
Neige has opted for a far more dream like and naturally stunning soundscapes, as oppose to going back to his vicious and raw black metal roots, which many still enjoy to this day. Alcest combines acoustic sections, clean vocals and softer passages to near perfection. Neige's vocals are the most impressive improvement. Back in 2001 they were raspy, fairly ordinary and largely substandard. Neige's clean vocals are beautiful and compliment the music superbly. They stand side by side with one another. If Alcest were a picture, they would be the most beautiful picture you had ever seen. Alcest are beyond boundaries. Never afraid to set new achievements and explore unknown musical realms.
As aforementioned, soundscapes is important to this piece. Its the images and emotions this full-length conjures that makes it so special. Images of beautiful and tranquil landscapes. Emotions of a quiet sorrow ebbing through your veins and taking control of your heart. The celestial atmospheric nature doesn't detract from what is going on. Despite the fact that Souvenirs d'un autre monde has the ability to take control of you and transport you into other world's, the music is always present. You never lose sight of what Alcest is doing. Everything is in its rightful place and nothing is overbearing. its quite common for a listener to get caught up in the music and become unable to fully grasp what's going on and how everything does its job, but not in this instance.
There are several areas people may find with this record, however. Song lengths. Perhaps the fact that there are brief intermissions in songs may be off putting. It detracts from the song overall. It doesn't help the listener get into the right mood when a song cuts out in the middle for no real reason. The vocals may also be a down point. Given Neige's past record with vocals, people may be disappointed by the clean vocals, claiming that they are not true to what Alcest first laid down. Progression is sometimes hard to take. Musically this progression may be too much for some. Alcest are not now what they once were, the initial shock could and probably has caused some outrage. The soothing and relaxed nature is not to everyone's liking. Souvenirs d'un autre monde certainly cannot be drawn into question over its innovation and creativity. Neige is well known for that. As far as notable highlights go, I simply suggest listening to the whole thing in its entirety.
Two years after releasing the highly acclaimed EP, "Le Secret", Neige follows it up with the bands first full-length, "Souvenirs d'un autre monde". Days after this was leaked the fans ate it up and praised it as something truly amazing, I admit I heard a one minute sample off of this album and thought it could potentially be interesting. After reading all the rave reviews and seeing praise for this album wherever I went, I decided to obtain it. The black metal elements of the first demo are now completely gone and what we are left with is some sort of strange combination of shoegaze and metal with some other elements thrown in. Needless to say this album is quite an embarrassment to metal.
Alcest is Neige's musical outlet for the visions and memories of something he calls "Fairy Land". To sum up this music in a few words you could say that this album sounds like what you would get if you took the soundtrack from Disney's "the Lion King" and added some distorted guitars. This album is truly an embarrassment to metal. This is an album full of pretentious, overindulgent easy listening garbage. Surprisingly sitting through 40 minutes of this children's music was not a difficult task, it is what you could call elevator music, stuff to fill the void of silence, nothing more and nothing less. Although I would prefer silence over this tripe. The music here is certainly nothing special, it is full of distorted melancholic guitar work and a bunch of acoustic breaks. That is pretty much it, repeat those two things over and over and you have this album. There is no build up or release on this album, just the same monotonous drivel. The vocals are all clean and sung in a manner that is supposed to sound heavenly and beautiful I guess. This music is very happy and peaceful sounding, it makes even the most extreme dragon and unicorn power metal bands sound like Blasphemy or Conqueror in comparison. There is none of the primal aggression or intensity of metal in this release, just dreamy and graceful pop melodies. The children's theme is quite prevalent in this work, the artwork consists of a little girl in a field and I noticed some samples of little children playing. Maybe Neige has this imaginary "Fairy Land" confused with some Disney movie? That could very well be the case. I would not be surprised if this "Fairy Land" he envisions is the result of watching too much Peter Pan. Perhaps it was his intention to create children's music? The vocals on this sound like a lullaby a mother would sing to her crying child and the music would be sure to put the child right to sleep. This album is intended to be nostalgic and it definitely achieves that, listening to this I was brought back to the distant times when I was just a wee child, sitting in front of the TV watching Peter Pan, the Lion King and other Disney classics. It is hard to believe the kind of stuff that is getting passed off as metal these days.
Metal or not, this album is a bore from the first to last minute, he could have just made this album one 5 minute song and it would have given the same impression as the whole 40 minute album. If Disney themed children's music is your thing, go ahead and get this, like many others i'm sure you will enjoy it. If you are a fan of metal this album is only good for a laugh or two. Nothing special at all, lets all hope Neige grows up and leaves his childhood Disney fantasies behind him, that way we won't have to endure another album of this shit.
Do you remember shoegazing music? All those languid, dreamy early 90s indie bands like My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel, Chapterhouse, Ride, Lush and Slowdive? Well, Neige, the Avignon-based French multi-instrumentalist behind Alcest evidently does, because despite various reviewers’ attempts to label this album ‘depressive black metal’ and the like, nobody old enough and/or English enough to remember these bands will have any difficulty in identifying Souvenirs D‘un Autre Monde (‘Memories Of Another World’) as a total shoegaze, pure and simple.
Souvenirs… is the first album from Alcest, following the widely-acclaimed 2004 EP Le Secret. Neige plays all instruments and sings too, though there is a guest appearance from female vocalist Audrey Sylvain of Amesoeurs on one track. Six sprawling and lengthy tracks extend themselves luxuriously over 41 minutes of playing time, as Neige conjures nostalgic reveries of a childhood realm of lost content and innocent joy at the wonder of existence (you can actually hear sound of children at play in the background of the first track).
After the soaring, bombastic intro of ‘Printemps Emeraude’, the album settles into a steady groove, with lush washes of reverb-heavy tremolo and acoustic guitar and high clean melodic vocals. All lyrics are in French, though you don’t need to be able to understand the words to pick up on the emotions being expressed. The production has superb detail and clarity, with plenty of space for the separate instruments to breathe. It’s a sunshine-and-showers, bittersweet listen, with regressive longings for infantile joy shot through with poignant feelings of loss. The downside is that it’s all pretty repetitious, and one song blurs into the next without much of a variation in mood or tempo.
The album’s highlight is probably ‘Les Iris’, which has a lovely acoustic guitar middle section. ‘Sur L'autre Rive Je T'attendrai’ features Audrey Sylvain’s sweet, pure vocals, and the album’s closing track ‘Tir Nan Og’ (‘Land of the Young’, the Celtic name for the happy hunting grounds of the faerie otherworld) is driven by a delicate, rippling piano line.
Although Alcest was originally formed as a black metal project, and Neige is still active in other black metal bands such as Peste Noire and Forgotten Woods, this album has very little indeed that’s identifiably ‘black metal’ about it, other than its prevailing mood of melancholy and loss – as I said at the beginning of this review, it’s really much more of a shoegazing experience. If you want some more metallic names to compare it to, think of the emotionally-charged, ethereal music of such bands as Anathema, Alcest’s Prophecy labelmates Antimatter and Autumnblaze, Agalloch (why do all these bands have names beginning with A?), Katatonia, Nest and Tenhi (well, apart from these ones!).
Whether this kind of thing grabs you or not, it’s undeniable that there has been a considerable pre-release buzz about this album, and Alcest have recently signed a five-album contract with Prophecy Productions, so you can expect to be hearing plenty more from them in due course. Souvenirs… is clearly going to be huge, possibly Prophecy’s most popular release ever, and people will either love it or hate it. The former contingent will be in the majority, as this is a very high-quality release, it’s easy to like, light-hearted, accessible, joyful, soothing, and girls will enjoy listening to it, but I predict an anti-Alcest backlash from the more uncompromisingly ‘tr00 kvlt’ end of the black metal spectrum and those who prefer trolls to pixies.
This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine:
In my time as a reviewer/user on the archives, I don't think ever seen something as praised to the skies as this album. It's not even actually out yet and there's already an abundance of 100% reviews for this album. Well, while I'm not going to slam this record - it's not that original and/or amazing, but it is enjoyable - I really fail to see why people love this album so damn much.
A quick description of this record: 33.3% Shoegaze, 33.3% Folk, 33.3% Easy Listening, 0.1% Black Metal. Is it that simple? Pretty much. There's not really any black metal at all in this release. Yeah, some guitars are tremelo picked.. But there's tremelo picking in death metal, in post-rock, in Dick Dale's old surf guitar music. The shoegaze is evident in the hazy blur of distorted guitars and ethereal vocals, the clean guitars are somewhat folky, and the pianos and general soothingness make it a very easy listen indeed.
So chances are that from that brief description of the sound, there's no raw black metallers left reading this review and just a few random people looking for something a bit different. So lets look a bit deeper into this album. First off, it's problems.
The most obvious flaw is that the songs sound too similar. Yeah yeah, I know there's some different tempos and some heavier/mellower songs on this album, but they sound similar regardless. Every song is in exactly the same key, using the same few chords. Every song has exactly the same feel. "Ohh, it's autumn/winter, it's raining, I'm feeling so thoughtful and peaceful and full of yearning.." There's nothing wrong with that, of course, (and it being winter here, it's quite appropriate) but this album has nothing but that, so it gets pretty annoying and one dimensional fast.
The other simple flaw is that most songs are too long. Tir Nan Og would be amazing if it wasn't for a pointless break in the middle. Printemps Emeraude has a long, boring intro, which annoyed me intensely because there's a great clean guitar line after the intro. Why make us wait? Bring it in straight away! Sur l'autre rive je t'attendrai is just a pointless song in general, going nowhere but going nowhere really slowly.
Of course, despite the various (and somewhat big) flaws in this albums, there's some really nice parts here. Leige (Neige?) may only be able to capture one mood on his recordings, but he does it really well. Tir Nan Og makes you feel like you're floating on a cloud. The piano line in it is really quite gorgeous, and the arrangement is lush and totally soothing. You could say that this is a great album for when you're a bit burnt out on thrash or black metal and want something that's soothing. If you can make it past the intro you'll find that Printemps Emeraude has some incredible clean guitar parts, and the title track is perhaps the only song in here that sounds a bit different. Its clean guitar lines and the occasional bit of distortion create a quite despairing and generally depressing mood. It's a powerful song, fo sho.
I guess the best thing about this record is that it's just a nice album to listen to. It's soothing and somewhat ethereal, and the vocals are really melodic and if I knew french I'd probably sing along. I think most of us get too caught up in the brutality of our favourite bands- we forget one thing that's also great- melody. This album has heaps of melody and it's quite catchy. If you made the songs a bit shorter then a few might even be somewhat radio friendly!
It's funny, I spent almost as much words bagging this album as I did praising it, but I'm still giving it a somewhat high mark. It definitely isn't as good as some people will tell you. It isn't "Only fully appreciated by the knowledgeable"- in fact I'd say it's praised more by people who don't know a lot of shoegaze and post-rock, as there's much better out there- but I can't deny that when I'm in the right mood this album sounds pretty good, with a few tracks being quite gorgeous.
No matter the ratting this album gets and its views, this album is absolutely a drawing sensation to the ears of anyone, no matter who you are. The artwork the album gives you is amazing and unforgettable.
Neige has done a masterpiece by showing his melancholic side then rather his raw depression in black metal. Only being himself with just the elicit simple rock instruments, he has shown that he is well capable of bringing you a joy in the notes and sounds he produces, and not only with the talent he shows with these instruments, but his great melodic echoed voice that will sooth any listener. His vocals in the album are the most soothing that I have heard and I do not clearly see why he is categorized under black metal. This album is not black metal at all, I would call it a melodic dark atmospheric metal/acoustic. It is rich in sound, and pleasurable with each track in the album. The production fits the music perfectly, and shouldn’t be ridiculed for it because it matches it flawlessly. Everything is so clean even when there is distorted guitars, it seems to blend in to the atmosphere very well.
In this first full length release Neige shows how well he can perform the guitar with such feeling that it would bring person to unforgettable cherished memories. All the riffs he brings in the album are breath taking and creative in the sense that it touches you, and it is nothing to complicated too. It is almost like nothing you have ever heard on this planet.
The drums sound pretty raw and are good sounding this way. The drums get slow and fast in times but go with the rhythm well. The production cause on this instrument is meant to sound like this for a more abounding sound.
The background is held well with keyboard and keeps the music flowing so soothingly. He does also add some piano and other instruments at times like the last song, Tir Nan Og.
With such a great album like this one, it is really exciting to know that Neige is capable of such a sound, even knowing that he is a well rounded guitarist in a black metal bands. His standards have been set high after this album and I clearly doubt the future will be disappointing. The album can be clearly seen as unique art work and there is nothing like it. It may be heard as something new.
Overall the album won't get tiresome, and will capture you into that trance that you always try to reach in the music you listen to. It is very easy listening and will just soak right in. The album is flawless and each song is great in every way.
Let me start of by saying I'm not here to praise elitism and abhor the normal metal fan, as could be implied by the review title. It's actually the other way around: elitist usually are close-minded people, and us normal fans are open for anything, which is needed. It's just that you've got to have some knowledge about the music to fully appreciate Alcest and their short, but amazing discography. I've come to experience this especially with their new release, Souvenirs d'un autre monde. With remarks as: “the album lacks variety” and “all songs sound alike”, it just stuns me: Did these people really listen to the same album as I did?
Now also don’t forget, there are two options here:
1. Please do forget the label "black metal", because this album is far from it. Just like Venom’s black metal really isn't black metal either.
Or more preferably:
2. You can say, nay, both Venom and Alcest are, and the latter just are starting a new black metal revolution, as the former began the genre.
Take your pick; just stop pretending this ever was expected to be your raw black metal album.
Souvenirs begins as a real metal album, the first 2 minutes of Printemps Emeraude are as relaxing as electric guitar sound can get. It slowly fades away and we get to hear some children play in the background, it sets the tone of the song, maybe even implying it’s a lullaby. The song combines both acoustic and electric guitars wonderfully, with soothing vocals by Neige himself, of course.
Both the first and second song were leaked long before this album was released, albeit both in a shortened version. I'm sure any Alcest fan listened to them tons of times already, so I’ll talk no further about either.
Let’s pick up at Les Iris, the third song on the album. It really shows Neige's range in vocal styles. At first listen, I didn't even notice it was him. The song is build up into three different parts, all about equally long, and with a variation of riffs and melodies, everything but the vocals change in those sections. It’s a but to varied for its own good, although I do love the fact that Neige doesn’t need lyrics to show how great his vocals are, he can just hum and it sounds wonderful.
Sur L'autre Rive Je T'attendrai is my favourite song on the album and here’s why: remember Audrey from Amesoeurs (a side project of Neige)? She is the main vocalist on this song, and definitely not without its perks. She puts so much emotion into a song, but knows how to divide it, balance it. We can't understand the lyrics, but we can feel what she’s trying to bring across. Unlike the former song, Sur L'autre chances main melodies only twice, both connected by a short break of solo guitar playing. It ends on a instrumental note.
The albums finale, Tir Nan Og (Eternal Youth) is a very soothing ending. As relaxing as the beginning, with the electric guitars being replaced by the piano and a kind of fantasy like sound and vocals, and yet again, no lyrics (were needed), it seemed out of place at first to me, but with the interpretation of the first song being a lullaby, this seems very fitting.
This was one of the most hyped albums in the metal community, but it was worthy of the hype, Again, don’t expect this to be true black metal as you know it, you won’t find any screech or growl here, if you can get past that, this is a mandatory listen, an eye-opener, maybe even the foundation for a revolution in a dying genre? Let us hope.
This album is heavily overrated in my opinion. It didn't amazed me even a bit, didn't excited me or created any atmosphere while I listened to it. And the main reason in my opinion is that the riffs and ideas repeat themselves a lot. Each
song sounds more or less the same, they all have the same melancholic mood and they flows the same without too many changes or sudden breaks, there are also too much medicore riffs which saved by the amazing production of this
The vocals sounds pretty pleasant and soft, they don't have any tiny connection with black metal. This whole album doesn't have any similarity with black metal indeed, and that's pretty surprising for someone who first heard this band with
their 'Tristesse Hivernale' demo, which was total raw black metal.
There are pretty much melodies which could fit perfectly some soft pop piano ballads, you just decrease the distortion and you got a pop song, really. Not any brutal, heavy, fast, piercing or intensive riffs which remindes metal, not any wise changes, tempo breaks or different structures for the songs which makes them sound imaginative for a while. It's all sounds like an easy uncomplicated ballads with distortion.
After a while this album just extremely bored me. Each song just sound exactly
the same as the former one, each one goes exactly to where the former song went, each one begins and ends at the same point. It's an easily predictable album, after the first couple of songs you'll know exactly what you'll feel for the
rest of the album.
In conclusion: it's a pretty boring and one dimensional effort. It stays continuous
for it's whole time and doesn't bring anything interesting with it. I don't hate nor like
this album, it didn't made me feel any attraction or despise. It's just starts...and finishes, without leaving a clear sign of what it is...but it isn't metal as far as I know.
When I knew about this album for the first time I thought it was just something about a crying story with no background concept and with superficial pseudo melancholic sounds like some doom metal bands, but as I've been into a kind of depressive music these last months I decided to give a try, and what I found was a extremely delightful, sweet and nostalgic music capable of taking a mind into a relaxing and reflexive trance, surprising coming from a man who plays in a black metal band. Besides, the concept is quite innocent, no explicit death or depression are found here, it's as if a man were remembering someone he really misses.
The music is absolutely amazing, even though is qualified as black metal on the site it has nothing to do with it, it is not harsh music but sweet melodies and gentle sounds accompained by calm and sutile voices which are clearly trying to reflect and transmit the feeling this album is about, pure nostalgia and longing.
The sound is pretty clean with background keyboards and supported by acoustic guitars, and I congratulate Neige for using a nylon strings guitar instead of using steel strings giving a much purer sound to the songs, the drums keep the carachtheristiacal sound of a black metal percussion set adding a tranquil and at the same time energetic sensation, the bass guitar has also his place even though is on the first song where it can be heard during the intro playing a single note following the main guitar riff, very melancholic, it creates a deeper feeling as introducing itself to the story.
As the musical trip it is I think it must be listened once at all, not track by track (as it happens with Burzum or Nargaroth most of the times) separatedly to distinguish the real sensation it causes thorugh the songs from the very beginning "Printemps Emeraude" emerging with cymbals and starting with a powerful riff to develop itself in a kind of melodic sequence with children's laughter as if they were from far away, perhaps trying to expose the idea of someone who is not right here but somwhere else beyond our eyes.
After that, we have the song which gives the name to the album called "Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde" and from my point of view featuring the sweetest and most beautiful voices among all the songs, and it falls onto the mightiest piece called "Les Iris" with stronger guitars although without losing the special touch it has where Neige decided to include faster drums that remind us he plays in Peste Noire, taking some ideas from the demos regarding the drums when the songs where tougher, and then the lightest song to balance or maybe to contrast and show the feeling of resignation the singer or whomsoever has in "Ciel Errant" being to me the best created lyrics since it differs from the original idea and makes think a little more about life, ideals and dreams, as an intermezzo in the story leaving apart for a while the longing is still presentto finish suddenly, and the very climax called "Sur l'autre Rive Je T'attendrai" with beauty of lyrics in the second place to me, biding farewell this dead kid and expressing the hope that someday they will meet again being the alive one who shall await the absent one, and in a certain way asking him/her not to be sad or anxious for the promise of awating on the next bank of the river is settled.
Tir Nan Og closes and it is a kind of outro with a happy or at least more calm feeling with congas and clean pianos, highlighting the calmness stated on the song before, with a sudden fading out making us wake up suddenly after a long and complex-minded trip.
This is a masterpiece, from the beginning to the very end, recommendable for everyone who needs to break the schames and listen to something quite innovating and a little different from the melancholic bands we are used to hearing about, this one man project is one of the most beautiful things I've ever found out since it has a very personal connotation, and I do believe this kind of music is better depeloped by one person since the feelings are stroger and the ideas don't have to be shared and adapted to someone else's perceptions.
This is pure beauty, nostalgia and sweetnes, as I said a masterpiece on which we can see Neige is not only a black metal guitarrist but a great musician and creator.
Ever since listening to Le Secret, I have been waiting for this, not to mention the full length Amesoeurs. Souvenirs d'un autre monde is one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever made. Neige's creative genius never fails to amaze me. His talent shines through in every single band he is in.
Souvenirs d'un autre monde retains many of the same elements of what Le Secret was, adds a few new ones to the mix and also removes some things. This is so far from the Tristesse Hivernale demo, so be prepared for something vastly different.
The CD starts out with Printemps Emeraude, and immediately you're hit with an ambient guitar sound wall, with a reverb track playing over it giving of a very ethereal feel which is constant for the entire CD. The riffs are very minimalist, giving off a very atmospheric and ambient feeling which to me is the signature Alcest sound. The distorted backing sound wall cuts in and out and from the silence emerges beautiful acoustic passages. Neige’s vocals are soothing have a very angelic feel, they blend perfectly into the sound wall. The drums are put together very well. They are there only to emphasize the feelings and moods of each section on every song. They are not your typical blast beat driven black metal, but this is not a typical metal CD.
Song two, Souvenirs d'un autre monde, starts out with another acoustic melody. The guitars are vibrant, not too bright and not too dark, somewhere in the middle. As with the every track, the flowing lightly distorted sound wall drives the harmony. Tremolo picked melodies pierce through the wall and acoustic guitars. Neige is present with his clean vocals, reverberating and echoing towards you as if coming from a vast open plane, totally encompassing you within them.
Les Iris, a true masterpiece, is my favorite song of the entire CD. I could listen to this song over and over forever. Starting out with a depressive distorted guitar riff, you' are drawn down into a depressive, melancholic, brooding atmosphere; totally different than the first two songs. Neige’s vocals add so much to this song, they are like a light at the end of a tunnel totally cutting through the darkness. The song is initially very depressive but uplifting and triumphant all at the same time. I don't understand French but I do not think anything is lost here, the mood is conveyed amazingly well. To describe the riffs, they are composed as if each portion of the song is a different mood, a new feeling, joy and sadness all mixed together. At around the 4:30 minute mark is the calm before the storm as another beautiful acoustic passage closes in. You can just feel what it is leading up to and the anticipation is brutal. Neige accompanies the guitars and it all comes to a head at 5:49 when the sound wall, multilayered clean vocals, orchestral synths all combine, echoing off of each other; drowning you in one of the most soothing uplifting soundscapes I have ever heard. The song tapers off from here leading on into…
Ciel Errant gives me the distinct feeling of a cool, breezy spring day. The bass is more dominant within this song than the others. The guitars are bright, flawlessly melding in with the distorted sound wall. Not too much more to say about this one, the same melodies go in and out throughout the song with slight variation. Simple but very memorable.
Sur l'autre rive je t'attendrai reminds me a lot of Peste Noire's last full length, the guitar riffing is quite similar as are the bass lines. This song features a female vocalist which is a nice switch, though I prefer Neige’s much more. The initial acoustic passage gives off a very disconcerting mood. At about 5:00 minutes the initial song fades out to the sounds of the ocean. An acoustic passage is played that sounds a lot like one of the melodies from the Le Secret EP is played, I'm almost certain this was done purposely.
The final song, Tir Nan Og, is my other favorite off this CD. The initial echoing piano melody is so powerful and unforgettable. Overlapping it is an acoustic guitar harmony that takes nothing away from it. There are also what sound like tambourines and bongos being played alongside it. Like every song Neige's vocals fit perfectly, cavernous reverb and echo give off the ethereal mood that every song on this CD has. The first half of the song fades out into a short acoustic interlude and then the bongos and other percussive instruments come in strong. Keyboard synths join in playing a variation of the initial piano melody. The guitars, vocals, and percussion instruments all join together with the returning piano intro into a quiet fade out that seems it could lead off into infinity. This is a true work of art which utilizing many non traditional metal instruments.
I can go on and on about this CD, to me it is perfect in everyway. Don't expect it to be another Le Secret, take it and appreciate it for what it is. The French black metal shrieks and screams that are commonly used by Neige and Noktu are not present here. I thought I would be horribly disappointed when I heard "Neige had gone soft" but no way, this is perfection. I really don't think this CD is or should be classified as black metal; it is way more than that, totally transcending the genre. It contains black metal elements but the atmospheric mood is a lot like the band Explosions In the Sky to be exact. The sound quality is much like Amesoeurs: clean, polished and crisp; what differentiates the two, are the distorted sound walls that Neige uses to accompany the acoustic guitars. Neige has really matured and developed the sound of Alcest a great deal since the days of Tristesse Hivernale into something totally different and amazing. As others have said the songs do sound alike, but everything is in the details, the subtle changes within the melody gives each song its own mood and feeling. Some will hate this CD for being such a drastic change from what Alcest used to be. It really is not your typical black metal, but it does not matter to me; Mortifera, Peste Noire, and Celestia are still going strong with the traditional sound. Neige is a true genius amazes me more and more with every release. I hope this guy gets way more attention in the future. Can't wait to hear what he will do on the full length Amesoeurs CD.
Before I begin to describe the mystery and wonder and beauty contained on this disc, I am going to explain the scenario in which it was experienced:
I got ahold of this album [obviously leaked, though I do fully intend on purchasing it promptly upon release] when I came home from work today. Everyone I had talked to had already listened to it, and informed me of it's greatness. I, however, decided that since I had not heard it yet, I would make the first impression a memorable one. A road trip was at hand. Flash to 1 A.M. On the road with a good friend. I first introduce him to Le Secret, it being his first exposure to Alcest at all. We take a nice scenic route. A dark road, but some lovely landscapes. We're driving south. More south than either of us had ever been. Le Secret ends and we're both very excited to hear the new word from Neige.
I turn around and begin to head home and start the album.
That epic, beautiful tone fills the air. It sooths out. The sound of children having the time of their lives. Of youthful memories filled with wonder and excitement. This sets the tone for the rest of the trip. The vocals are filled with this same wonder and excitement, blending in so perfectly with the music. This music has this wonderful uplifting sense throughout. I find it incredibly unique, blending distorted guitars with beautiful melodies and his sombre voice. Before I continue on, let's make one thing clear. Alcest is supposedly described as black metal. While occasionally holding down a riff that is reminiscent of this style, this is in no way black metal. If anything, this tends to have the complete opposite of ideals. Instead of raging on about opposition, hatred and the occult, this has a feeling of rebirth, life and mystery. Though, it is just as majestic as any black metal I've ever heard.
The album continues on, and so does our journey. Neither of us saying a word throughout it's entirety. Captivated by it's exquisiteness. By the time we reach the middle of the album, Les Iris, the beauty contained within in undeniable. This has got to be some of the most uplifting metal ever written. I find this, in no way, a bad thing. It's incredibly beautiful.
As the final track, Tir Nan Og, starts up, and I pull onto my home street, I can't help but cherish this sense that a true journey had been had. The song, the album releases you into a feeling of well being. Like everything is going to be alright. This is what I mean by uplifting.
For those who look for their metal with more meaning, more thought, more heart.
Look no further than Alcest.
Standout tracks include: Les Iris, Ciel Errant
I think everyone can agree with me here: Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde was easily one of the most hyped albums in underground metal in quite some time. 2005's Le Secret opened a new door for black metal fans, combining the distant, atmospheric sounds of black metal with the melodic sensibility of shoegaze rock, and the 20 minute EP became one of the most buzzed-about EPs in underground black metal. With this album, Neige took the work he began on Le Secret to a whole new level, making something equally beautiful and powerful.
The very first thing I noticed about this album is the production. It completely fits the music. The instruments contain a lot of reverb and other slight effects to create a sound fitting for a shoegaze album. The clean guitars sound rich and full, sweeping you up into a nice, relaxed journey through the throes of spring. Neige managed to add a few new instruments, like keyboards and different percussion instruments. You can hear bongos throughout the final track, Tir Nan Og, and alongside a mellow keyboard melody and soft sounding clean guitars, the song is like pure bliss, and this isn't including Neige's vocals, which sound incredibly soothing. You can almost feel the different thoughts and emotions put into each song as Neige croons in his almost-signature style. Each of the 6 tracks transition easily to the next, making it an easy 40 minute listening experience. You'll be wondering how the album ended so quickly, yet the album is not a short one.
I've heard many negatives about this already. The main complaint is that it sounds "too same-y". This is a funny statement, considering that many of these people listen to black metal bands that make their livelihoods off of same-y albums. Alcest isn't trying to re-invent the wheel with this album. They aren't making a new trend. Neige made Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde into a shoegaze record. Nothing more, nothing less. If you aren't familiar with shoegaze, you should listen to My Bloody Valentine, Catherine Wheel, Chapterhouse, etc., and you'll realize that this album is just honoring the tradition those bands began. And even then, Neige managed to put his own spin on the genre by eschewing the normal noise-rock sections that most shoegaze bands use, and instead installing acoustic passages that fall right in line with the train of thought of each song. The other common complaint about this album is the length. Some say it's too short, and while I do feel like I could listen to this all day, a one hour full-length of this material would most likely bore people after awhile. The 41 minute running time is a perfect balance, giving you enough to satisfy but not enough to overindulge you. If you somehow feel this album is too long, you have a small attention span.
So in conclusion, you need to get this album. Don't expect some black metal orgy here, this is honest music. This is the sounds of a man expressing himself in whatever way he pleases. There's no scene to fit in here, Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde contains 6 tracks of pure audio nirvana: calm, relaxing, uplifting music, somehow sorrowful yet full of hope. I sincerely hope this album pushes Neige up the musical ladder, he deserves recognition for his artistic talent. GET THIS!