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No secret anymore - 83%

nilgoun, May 12th, 2011

The EP consists of two songs, each in respectively two versions. There is the rerecorded version and the original one, so that the listener can compare the versions directly. While the original versions were black metal in many ways, the rerecorded ones sound matured and so you can track their progression. The first point where this maturation shines through is found at the production, which is really clear now. This is not the only change that can be found, so read on.

The intro of Le Secret was abondoned for the rerecorded version, so that you will not hear any real introduction before the song starts. This shortens the track by a whole minute, but that should not really bother you, since it is still long … too long? What remains positive is the production, as it enhances the created atmosphere a lot. Finally a band that understands that a clear production creates more atmosphere than a swarm of raging bees.

The playing time of the song is still quite huge, like I mentioned before. The problem is, that, although there are good ideas, the length of over ten minutes is too long, since the song is quite eventless. As there is a lack of variation, the song still creates a lot of atmosphere and invites you to daydream a little. The track only uses the clean vocals that Neige is known for. This could take some time to get used to.

As Le Secret was deprived of one minute, the Elevation received additional 40 seconds. The song still starts with a synthie intro and proceeds harsher than its predecessor. Neige abandons clean vocals and sticks with growls/screams to spread the lyrics. Sadly, this song is a bit long-drawn-out too, although it is a bit more thrilling, as there are acoustic passages and some passages where the distorted guitar alone creates the atmosphere. The strange passages where they made mistakes/they played the wrong notes are gone and the icing on the cake is the guitar solo.

Conclusion:

If you compare the original versions with the rerecord ones you soon will realise that they are playing more virtuose than ever and the vocals have matured as well. The compositions did not change very much and so the rating will orientate itself by the original versions and only regard the changes. The original version would have get ~73 points but as the improvements are huge I will add 10 additional ones. Fans of Alcest really should get the rerecorded version of the EP, as you can track the progression they went through and it is a really good profile of the band with the thrilling modern sound.
________________________________
nilgoun / http://threnodies.com

A midsummer night's yawn - 50%

autothrall, April 28th, 2011

With all the hype surrounding Alcest and its creator Neige (no fault of his own), you'd think the man was on to some sort of messianic formula to invigorate the whole of underground music internationally. In truth, this is very far from the case, and I suspect that at least some fraction of his audience is simply mind blown by a lack of exposure to Alcest's primary influence: the dreamy, ponderous sensitivity of shoegaze. You see, the 90s were pregnant to burst with bands like Lush, Catherine Wheel, Cocteau Twins, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain, not to mention a whole host of college 'alternative' rock (The Cure, etc), many of which have threads to what this Frenchmen is writing. Bands like Denmark's Mew continue to broadcast wonders of this style in new directions like prog rock, but Alcest channels it towards his own personal past within the black metal genre. He is not alone in doing so, but clearly he's the most popular.

Le Secret was the first official release from the project, and Neige has recently re-recorded the material for release through Prophecy Productions. It makes sense, since many of the drooling come-lately fans are likely not to own the original. Thankfully, this re-issue includes both versions, so one can simply compare and contrast between them. The differences are more than just tonal upgrades, though, there have been ever so slight tweaks in the structure of the songs, but not so much that devotees of the older recordings should flip their wigs in anxiety. A few seconds snipped or added here, a riff altered there, and presto. Personally, if forced to choose, I would probably run with the prototypes, since they carry a more desolate nature to them that seems marginally more authentic. However, the re-recordings certainly bring them flush with the Alcest sophomore album Écailles de Lune released last year, and the updated cover art is appreciable.

As for the actual quality of the tracks themselves, I fear I am in opposition to the blessed whole. Pressing aside the absurd concept of a young boy's adventures in Fairyland, which is the actual inspiration behind Neige's lyrics for this project, the two tracks seem to drone on endlessly via their sugary ministrations. Granted, there are a number of moments peppered throughout in which the mix of clean, cloud touched vocals really comes together with the streaming melody of the guitars, but they breed ennui more often than revelation, and when deconstructed, they have little, individually, to offer. Aside from it's shining, repetitious escalation, "Le Secret" itself has painfully few riffs that hold up to scrutiny when disembarked from their environs, and thus I feel like the 13+ minutes are just an endless ebb and flow of half-baked post-black majesty that are quickly squeezed into the corner of my imagination and then forgotten; a pretentious if passionate miasma void of twists and turns, surprises or subtle delights. The shimmering of a rock candy, sweet to the tongue, that I would never wish to finish, and the cyclic intro/outro of reverbed clean guitars does nothing to strengthen it.

"Elevation" fares slightly better, though it also suffers from the needless excess as its precursor. I fancied the angelic intro sequence, and was satisfied that Neige through in some snarling as the lifestream of crashing chords arrived. I also found the bass lines intricate and amusing, but after about 5 minutes of this, all attention was lost. There is simply nothing compelling harbored in its depths, and it sputters along like the diminishing returns of an oil tank with a major leak. Yes, I realize the popular pastime is to lie strewn about some grassy knoll absorbed in the melancholy of missing childhoods and puffy clouds, and I've done this numerous times to the recent M83 record, but I have never felt availed by any of the purported, hypnotic effluvia of Alcest. For a work of pure ambiance or narrative grandeur, I'd be more than willing to accept such swollen excursions, but this is neither. Oh, I 'get it', I get it just fine, and I'm the last person that would accuse Neige of lacking creative compulsion in his efforts. Nonetheless, I find Le Secret to be about as mundane as music can get without become actively dopey or offensive.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Ridiculously overrated. - 38%

duncang, July 31st, 2007

'Le Secret'. Well, now that Neige is becoming something of a cult hero in the metal community, this EP isn’t much of a secret anymore. Left, right and centre I see people singing his praises, mostly because of ‘Le Secret’ and his leaked full length ‘Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde’ (which I, unlike most, will be waiting to buy). I honestly can’t see what all the fuss is about. The melodies are nice, sure, but not at all (to quote other some other reviews) “otherworldly” or “beautiful”. There are a fair few times on this album when the guitars are actually out of tune, which is fine (to a degree) for a regular black metal blastfest, but no, Alcest clearly ‘surpasses the boundaries of black metal and music as a whole to make something that even God was be envious of’. It’s really, really not true.

The only thing that makes ‘Le Secret’ remotely black metal is the drums, which plod along at a half-time blastbeat that gets old after about 4 bars. There are a few nice touches here and there but mostly Neige is going with standard fare atmospheric BM drumming, which only seems remotely original because of the music that accompanies it (though there are sections of ‘Le Secret’ where he thinks he’s drumming for an indie band). The guitar tone is awful, and the music they play is unbelievably cliché. The songs are littered with ‘deep and meaningful’ acoustic passages which sound quite good. The problem is that they make absolutely no sense structurally. The songs have absolutely no flow because each distorted (or, at a stretch, ‘black metal’) passage begins and ends with portions of silence, ambient drivel and some clean guitar. The entire EP is just switching between major 3rds, 4ths and 5ths, with (when he’s feeling adventurous) a minor 7th every now and again. It’s crazy because these kinds of melodies are seen in pop music all the time, yet, just because they’re played with terrible distortion and tremolo picking; it means that ‘Le Secret’ is revolutionary.

Don’t think that I’m just dumping on this album here, because it does have some good qualities. The vocals are top notch on both tracks. The first track, ‘Le Secret’ is sung using female clean vocals, something which is again considered unique and original by all of the Neige fanclub, however the idea has been explored many times before. Her delivery is the one aspect that really gives off the atmosphere that Neige was going for. The second, ‘Elevation’ is screamed by Neige, and, as always, his vocals are great. Full of anguish and passion, he really seems to mean what he’s singing about (though the lyrics for ‘Elevation’ were not even written by him). The bass is also handled well, despite the fact that all that is played is root notes. This only works because the guitar is always playing the root along with alternating notes over it, so the bass kind of levels out the music and gives it a nice balance.

I think the one thing that really disappoints me about Alcest (especially considering the magnificence of his other similar project, Amesoeurs) is the lack of direction. Both the songs contain around 3 musical ideas, but they’re both stretched out to lengths of over 10 minutes. Perhaps I’m meant to be relaxed by the ambience, but when I’m being told that this is a black metal album, it really doesn’t work. The production has very little low-end, which is absolutely vital for any kind of atmosphere. I mean, listen to the (incredibly drawn out) 3 minute intro to ‘Elevation’. It’s basically Neige trying to be Brian Eno, but it does nothing for me. The only way it really works in my opinion is when the main portion of the song returns to this melody.

Overall, the album is dull, pretentious and generally average. There are a couple of promising parts but the arrangement of ‘Le Secret’ is pathetic. I cannot understand why so many people adore this release, its atmosphere would be wonderful if it was pulled off correctly, but it isn’t. Knowing the brilliance of Amesoeurs, this EP just pales immensely in comparison. The samples I have heard from the Alcest full-length however are incredible and I hope to see that Neige will indeed compress his ideas into coherent and flowing pieces of music. He has not done so on ‘Le Secret’.

Originally written for www.heavymetalsociety.org

Dark and beautiful, ethereal and spiritual - 80%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 3rd, 2007

It may not be the best short black metal record I’ve come across but it’s sure the most gorgeous and melodious even with the full-on barrage of buzzing steely black metal guitar on the two tracks. The first piece, “Le Secret”, begins with field recordings of chirping birds and a soft flowing acoustic guitar melody which are soon swept aside by the harsh vibrato guitar storms. The transition is not as abrupt as suggested here as the music is soon leavened with clean and subdued female vocals that are calm, unemotional and soothing. The lyrics paint a picture of a charming rustic garden scene which holds a secret that may not be as reassuring as the music suggests. Usually I’m wary of combinations of clean vocals with harsh minimal black metal fuzz as the contrast between the two can be so great that neither benefits much (I used to have a CD by the Danish band Make A Change … Kill Yourself that featured sweet female vocals with doomy harsh black metal which didn’t quite match) but Alcest succeeds here as the actual black metal is melodic, the singing is not very up-front and is soft, and the ambience of the recording is dreamy and not very clear.

“Elevation”, the second track, uses more anguished screaming black metal vocals yet there is very little hostility, aggression or other negative emotions usually found in black metal in this song. The drumming and the riffs tend to suggest a triump or celebration of some sort, maybe release from a lower, more dreary existence into a higher, freer world. The music has the feel of late seventies / early eighties new wave music. Towards the end the guitars and the technical drumming become loftier and the singing is more high-pitched as though the musicians are being carried away by a force unleashed by the music. The lyrics turn out to be a poem by Charles Baudelaire, the famous nineteenth century French poet who knew a thing or two about being an outsider and the wretchedness of existence, and in this black metal context the poem celebrates escape into a better world through death.

It’s interesting that the French Romantic outsider sub-culture of the 1800s has found a new resonance through black metal and Alcest has brought out a dark beauty and a strangely ethereal, even spiritual quality from this potent combination. A beautiful and flowing dark music portraying the release of the soul and the ecstasy of such release is this CD’s hallmark. The minimalist black metal style prevents sentimentality from tainting the nature-themed lyrics and ideas, and introduces a celebratory, positive aspect which is quite unusual for this kind of music. The Romantic elements temper the harsher aspects of the music and open it up to new ideas and emotions. Even the death-bed singing in “Elevation” seems to express a kind of joy. The level of musicianship is high and consistent with spot-on drumming and a remarkable wobbling yet disciplined guitar solo on “Elevation”.

The sleeve photos of trees, water and children (representing innocence), all with misty outlines, evoke a nostalgia for a time when people lived in harmony with Nature and life was simpler and less stressful and miserable than it is today, and agree with the themes of the music.

Le Secret. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, March 13th, 2006

When I first heard Alcest’s ‘Le Secret’ EP, it was ground breaking. Since then, many bands, metal or otherwise, have attempted to either imitate or add to the legacy of shoegazing black metal, or whatever you wish to call it. As I listen to this EP several years on from when I first wrote my review for it, I still find myself drawn to its overwhelming beauty and innovative techniques, which includes taking genres like post-rock and shoegaze and intertwining them with black metal. Upon first hearing this charismatic EP, I never really understood what shoegaze was but, since then, I have had ample opportunities and tonnes of time to devote myself to exploring the genre, beginning with bands like Slowdive, whom many consider the epitome of shoegaze. There is definitely some shoegazing going on here with the use of heavy distortion and calm, clean vocals. In hindsight, there are problems with this EP. A few years ago I would have sworn down that it is flawless, but it most certainly isn’t. However, despite a few niggles, Neige (alongside acts like Caïna) have revolutionised the way we think about the future of black metal.

First, Le Secret. This song opens with beautiful melody and gradually builds up into something quite astonishing. The use of samples is something I often overlook but, here, they seem so fitting. A quietly flowing stream in the middle of a beautiful and natural landscape. Birds singing, the sun shining and life seemingly so sweet. The song, as stated, gradually builds with a sweet sounding melody through the use of clean guitars. To my surprise, there is a lot of cleaner instrumentation, as well as the use of clean vocals, somewhat akin to how they’re used in the shoegaze genre as they’re filtered through the distortion which soon follows. The clean vocals were never Neige’s strong point. In a live setting he appears a little overwhelmed by everything, though he still manages to give a fine performance. On record, he sounds very timid, which I suppose suit’s the cleaner side of ‘Le Secret’, but when those astonishing melodies come through the distortion of the guitars, his vocals feel as if they need to stand tall with them, as opposed to cowering behind them, which is how it feels on occasions.

As soon as I heard the opening to this song I could instantly tell I’d come to adore it. There is a slightly romantic feel to the music and the vocals, which I find to be very French. It definitely has a cool, suave and sophisticated feel to it, despite the fact that the production is a little thin. The production is probably the main hindrance behind the entire EP, despite the fact that it has significantly improved since the first demo, which was as lo-fi as they come and very, very primitive. There is still a primitive edge to this EP, with the repetitive drums and buzzing distortion providing that feeling, but much of the material is tailored towards what would become of Alcest, as opposed to what they previously were, which was a rather raw black metal band. The bass can be drowned out as a result of the production and the double bass blasts aren’t always that clear but, the main highlights of each song, which includes the tremendous melodies and vocal stylings, are able to withstand the production drawbacks.

Second comes ‘Elévation’. Again, this opens with more use of samples and a tranquil setting. Both songs tend to make me feel conflicting emotions. The opening samples inspire a feeling of relaxation through the mood setting. Then comes the melancholy of the riffs, whilst the overall atmospheric tendencies are quite uplifting, in my eyes. The idea of uplifting black metal is still a relatively new idea. Thinking back over the course of black metals lifespan, I cannot recall too many uplifting pieces of work. The vocals tend to focus more on rasps and harsher techniques than on the song previous to it but, again, they fit the track accordingly. The vocals aren't overbearing on this release. I find that vocals can usually be a huge let down and dominate the music, but not in this case. The most important aspect of ‘Le Secret’ has always been the melodies and always will be. The main riff and solo towards the middle and end of ‘Elévation’ is a perfect representation of this EP. Sweet sounding, inspiring and uplifting. The song writing is key to Alcest’s success down the years. This EP makes me feel very nostalgic and is still fine representation of the so-called “metalgaze” genre.

Amazing - 99%

Nocturnal_Art, February 7th, 2006

We're in the woods, with a crystal clear stream passing through, the birds singing their songs, songs of happiness. The song "Le Secret" now begins, what sweet melodies are these, very relaxing, dramatic. When did Novembers Doom move to France? The rhythm goes on for 3 minutes, the drums are hit very precisely, the cymbals making small noise. You begin to daydream, you see a future, your passing the small stream as you look around at your surroundings. The tall pines, the sun barely passes through, but it's to be felt. Now, the guitar lets it's full force out, your spinning around, your sorrow melting away, the sun hits your face, a sigh is release. The guitar player really did an amazing job catching emotions like no other, but not dark like your used to hearing, but with a sense of relieve. Sounding so perfect, like if he only picked up the guitar when he felt it was the right mood to finish the song, very thought out. The guitar sounds extorted, but clear enough for you to absorb it's strength. The drummer now is releasing more energy into his playing, as if he was hitting his pain away. Sometimes his playing just goes to being wild, but then returning back on track. Same can be said for someone's life. It all sounds as if hope has return, a smile has come back to you, the world meaning nothing. Now, we have the vocals come into place, they are clean, no raspy, everyday black metal vocals, but very surprising. He begins to sing, if you may call it that. His voice is strong, but also weak, like singing for a death. It all sounds so romantic as displayed in literature as in love. French is one of the most romantic languages in the world, fitting this style so well. It all fades to how the song once started, the same rhythm for another few minutes, awesome way to end the song. This time you have whispers ending the song. Just an amazing track overall.

The ambient in "Elévation" is like nothing you heard before. How do these guys do it? This is what I call morning ambient, where you sit on the patio early in the morning to watch the sky change colors as it goes up. Forget about what is going to come during the day, nothing matters, just take what it is now, beautiful. It makes you sad, but also cheerful. A very strong peace of ambient. Now, time to wake up. The metal comes pouring in, guitars still strong and pulling in the emotions. You can tell the band really worked on these tracks. "Elévation" still brings to you that same vibe that "Le Secret" did. It doesn't lose you like other albums have by bringing in totally different songs together. The vocals in this track have a whole different apprach, screams. Yet, not changing that feeling of the first track, it fits this song very much. The first song was supposed to be more on the soft side and this one on the more aggressive, pissed off end. A very pleasant release, can't wait for a full-length.

The Best of '05? Just maybe.. - 99%

WolfStar, May 17th, 2005

Wow...

That was the first words out of my mouth when Elevation rumbled to a close.. Rarely ever would I rate a release so high or praise it as I could do with this one. Alcest have created something otherworldly in Le Secret. Another reviewer compared them to Drudkh with their melancholy yet fast riffs and rather lengthy songs. I agree with this except for one thing: Alcest do it a hell of a lot better on Le Secret than Drudkh on any of their releases. Don't get me wrong though, Drudkh are an amazing band, yet the amount of emotion packed into this (far too) short EP is unmatched in any release I've had the pleasure to hear.

The first song, Le Secret, features a clean guitar intro which really sets the tone for what I found the biggest suprise on this release: clean vocals. Yes, the first song features only clean singing, and a perfect fit it is. The second and final track, Elevation, features harsh vocals and yet another suprise (for me anyway): towards the end of the song the guitars fade out a bit and seconds later your hit with one of the best guitar solos ever played in a black metal song, an absolutely outstanding finish to the song and the EP. Of course this isn't the end of the song, but it sets up the end in a way that nothing else imaginable could.

I can't really describe this release much more than that.. All I can say though is get yourself a copy of this EP any way you can. It's well worth the trouble finding it. A brilliant piece of art that deserves all the praise it can get. It will be hard to find a better release this year...In my opinion of course.

Once again, a French band has proven they have mastered the art of black metal in a way no other country or band possible could. Bravo.

A Step Forward, While Keeping their Roots... - 86%

KayTeeBee, April 27th, 2005

After a big 4 years of absence, Alcest returns with a new 2 song EP which lasts 27 minutes in total. Their previous demo was an extremely raw and cold minimalist black metal demo. While this one still pays "homage" to their roots, the sound has evolved. This is still very raw, but they've managed to fit even more melancholic riffs a la Drudkh. After listening many times the closest band this EP comes too is probably Drudkh, minus the accoustics. The first song starts with 3 minutes of pure clean guitar to set the tone for the song, and after about 3 minutes the riffs start. Very fast riffs full of sadness and depression. The songs are very long, yet they never get repetitive at all, because having very repetitive riffs is part of giving the feelings to the listener (like Drudkh). The second song, Elevation, starts off with some very relaxing keys, and the song kicks off at about 3 minutes. Same type of song here, except the riffs are more varied and it features more technical drumming. More of a "nature" song, this one, with clean breaks throughout the song. Overall this is an excellent return EP, and I can't to hear more Alcest stuff.

Best ever, no secret - 99%

Incision, April 17th, 2005

This MCD is beautiful, my opinion says its easily the best MCD ever released. For those who love the romantic style of French Blackmetal such as Celestia and Mortifera, you will have romance with this MCD for sure..

The Production is crystal clear unlike their demo, which was fairly low production (pretty much the way BM should be In my opinion) And the Vocals are superb, they match the production well, the first song has sort of atmospheric choir vocals, but very melancholic.

The Drumming is fast and clean, and has very lovable beat patterns, Neige is a great Drummer i must say, this MCD has the best drumming of any other French BM release.

Guitar Riffs are pretty much everything in Blackmetal, and this release has some of the most BEAUTIFUL riffs ive ever heard, its the guitar riffs and smooth Bass patterns that make this MCD the best ever. This is a great MCD i advise you to g et your hands on it in anyway you can!