Alcest was one of my favorite discoveries of 2013 and also one of my favorite shows. My wife and I went to see them open for Anathema along with Mamiffer at the El Rey here in Los Angeles last October. Mamiffer was terrible, Alcest was just unbelievably amazing and we didn’t stay for Anathema. Anathema isn’t really our jam and we were only there for Alcest who, like I just said, were unbelievably amazing live. But this is not a review of a concert that happened many months ago, this is a review of Alcest’s new album Shelter… which they did play 2 songs from at that show.
I want to start with what I don’t like about this album so I can end on the high note of what I do like about it. Shelter has almost none of the menacing beauty found in Les Voyages de L’Âme, which is what made me fall in love with the band and forced me to buy tickets just to see them as an opening act.
Let’s put it this way. If Les Voyages de L’Âme was a movie about a beautiful old Victorian house haunted by vengeful specters Shelter is the closing credits after the exorcism. Without one single shred of doubt the worst song on the album is “Away”. It’s so jarringly out of place that I thought the album had ended and I was on to the next band. Nope. This painfully out-of-place song is part of Shelter album and I really wish it weren’t.
Though all is not lost, there are two pretty good songs on this album. The first one is track three, “La Nuit Marche Avec Moi (The Night Walks With Me)”, which has just a hint of the stunning tragedy found in their previous albums that I love so much. The second is “Delivrance”, which is the last song on the album and is more like what I was hoping the majority of Shelter would sound like. It’s melodic, beautiful, tragic, haunting, uplifting, and foreboding all at once. It holds the kind of complexity and soul that I’ve come to associate with this truly talented band. It’s also the song they ended with at the previously mentioned El Rey show and it served as a phenomenal way to wrap up a set.
So here’s the deal. Compared to their last albums this was a huge let down. Compared to all the shit that passes as music on the radio today, this is miles above. Every song except for “Away” is intricately composed and filled with an ethereal quality that on it’s own is exquisite. I know I always harp on bands for not evolving and growing, but here it feels like they’ve gone a bit too far and lost part of what made them so special in the first place.
If you’ve never heard of Alcest before then this would actually be a great place to start and I highly recommend you listen through their entire catalog because, my criticisms aside, this is a phenomenally talented band and I can’t state that fact enough. Nor can I state enough that despite my disappointment with this album and I plan on seeing them again the next time they come through. Even if I do have to sit through Mamiffer.
By day I work in marketing, by night I write about whiskey and by way-too-late at night I write about music.