Artist – Alcest
Album – “Shelter”
Genre – Shoegaze/post-metal
Label – Prophecy Productions
Rating – 9/10
Alcest are a French two-man shoegaze project that originally began as a black metal band in 2000. Most of the band’s music comes from the mind and execution of Neige, the only remaining founding member of the band who uses Alcest as a means to let listeners explore a whole new world.
Alcest are best known for their intriguing amalgamation of elements of black metal with shoe-gaze, often creating a dreary, spacey yet cold and abrasive sound, though this is far from the case with the immersive experience that is ‘Shelter’. Shelter is a very straight up shoegaze record that will really get inside of your head as it whisks you away into what feels like another dimension, one which you can get lost in as you’re transcending through it, all without losing the main core and focus of what the album truly is. That is one of Shelter’s strongest points as it cuts all ties with the metal influence and goes for a strict shoegaze/dream pop vibe and atmosphere. That isn’t to say that there is no variation in this album, because there are indeed many things to explore and grasp whilst letting yourself become a part of the journey itself.
The production on Shelter is one of its strongest points, as it usually allows the brighter, clean guitars to take a lot of the spotlight which makes a lot of the melodies feel much more personal and intimate, which is a feat considering tracks on here such as ‘Voix Sereines’ have very passionate, high moments that the listener will want to feel engaged in. The bass, drums, and lightly distorted guitars are usually found behind the much more prominent clean guitars and vocals, which adds a lot to the atmosphere and acts as another cushion to the sound itself. Tracks such as ‘Opale’ and ‘Shelter’ will draw the listener’s attention towards some great bass segments that can be heard very clearly in the mix, and the drums not only provide some hypnotic patterns that become an essential part of the atmosphere, but they also add to the overall effect of the buildups in tracks such as the aforementioned ‘Voix Sereines’ and others such as ‘La Nuit Marche Avec Moi’.
Shelter is a very evocative LP that provides moments that could leave any listener, who is fully involved, breathless and in awe. Lush melodies and fantastic buildups are just one side of multi-faceted musical journey, as they are often followed or accompanied by light symphonic elements that don’t in any way detract from the mood and the atmosphere of the music. Also, Shelter is blessed by fantastic song-writing. Compositionally, this album glows as it provides many passages that feel completely unique in comparison to what came before it, and what came after, all while flowing effortlessly. This album has more than enough beautiful moments that keep the album interesting, and completely avoid making the album go stale.
The only negative point of Shelter is the second half, or more specifically, the last three tracks, ‘Shelter’, ‘Away’, and ‘Delivrance’. These tracks are great, although they feel underwhelming in comparison to their predecessors ‘Voix Sereines’ and ‘La Nuit Marche Avec Moi’, which are two epics reaching almost eight minutes each. All three lack the same epic structure, despite the final track ‘Delivrance’ being just over ten minutes in length. The reason for that is that the track becomes a bit repetitive, lacking the variation provided in those tracks and instead introducing several crescendos that all sound relatively the same.
Shelter is a very fresh entry in Alcest’s discography, being the first of its kind to be released by the band. Though the elements show up in previous releases, this album strictly consists of those elements, and should not be overlooked because of it. There is a lot to be found in Shelter’s many grandiose and elegant moments that should surely be welcome as they are much of what makes this such a fantastic album. This is a nearly flawless record that will ensnare and create an emotional bond with any listener willing to invest themselves in it.
Review by Arden Collier.