Friday, January 24, 2014

Alcest - Shelter (2014)
I'm just gonna come right out and say it: I'm a total Alcest fanboy. Therefore, my expectations for this album were sky high before it came out so fortunately it's every bit the gorgeous masterpiece I expected it to be. If you didn't know, Alcest started out as pure, raw black metal on their demo. Then they started with the whole blackgaze thing on their EP "Le Secret" and took a break from harsh vocals on their debut album "Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde." The next two albums reintroduced harsh vocals, but here they're gone once again along with the metal itself. What we end up with is a slice of pure shoegaze/post-rock bliss. I see it as a completely natural and logical extension of their metal sound, yet I understand the sentiment of those who are disappointed with "Shelter" and wished Alcest had stuck with their metal roots. And I admit it did take a couple more listens than normal to really "get" this album, but now I'm at the point where I feel it's fully clicked. Each song feels very unique and portrays a distinct emotion. The emotions range from the pure joy and exuberance of "Opale" to the dark melancholy of "L'Eveil des Muses" to somewhere in the middle of those two extremes with the glorious closing track "Delivrance." Alcest further mix things up by throwing in some fantastic guest vocals from Neil Halstead of Slowdive fame on the track "Away" (which has my favorite melody on the album.) Overall, though I wouldn't rank it as highly as the three albums that preceded it, I am still deeply impressed with "Shelter" and fully expect it to feature on my best of 2014 list. Simply put, this record stands heads and shoulders with the shoegaze classics of the '90's and is an absolutely incredible achievement.

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