ALCEST’s debut full length “Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde” was a polarizing release in the Metal community. Some hailed the Shoegaze-infused Black Metal sound as innovative, the next logical step forward for the genre. Others called it out as poppy atmospheric mush, completely lacking the Black Metal sound that it claimed to be advancing.
Well, “Ecailles de lune” brings back all the dreamy soundscapes, breezy clean guitar, and soothing vocals that led the debut album to be met with both strong acclaim and powerful animosity. The difference is that the much-matured ALCEST does everything better now—that, and they actually resemble a Black Metal band this time around. Granted, it may be the most romantic, elegant Black Metal release you’ve heard, but it’s Black Metal nonetheless.
Where “Souvenirs”’ failed, “Ecailles” succeeds. The former couldn’t achieve a balance between the joyful, poppy, intimate Shoegaze sound, and the dark, lonesome harshness of Black Metal. The latter finds ALCEST returning to their grim roots, with both of the competing sounds present in full force, and used at just the right times to maximize their effectiveness. The shining example of this success, and one that encapsulates the achievement of the entire album, is the second track, “Ecailles de lune-Part 2," which opens with a lullaby-like guitar melody over the sound of waves lapping up on a calm beach shore. But before the listener can get too comfortable, ALCEST turn the tables - incorporating the same melody into a Black Metal onslaught, complete with the blast beats, tremolo picking, and anguished shrieks that were so blatantly missing on “Souvenirs."
The song then proceeds to transform many more times, incorporating Folk-like acoustics and catchy guitar leads, all while maintaining the dreamy Shoegaze atmosphere that ALCEST execute so well. The track ends on the same calming beach where it began, putting to rest any doubt that this band can seamlessly incorporate many differing, seemingly incompatible styles into a cohesive sound.
For those that were turned off by “Souvenirs," it’s time to give ALCEST another shot. This isn’t the same pansy, immature band that rubbed so many the wrong way the first time around. With this release, ALCEST can no longer be perceived as pretentious hipster-fodder, a bastardization of Black Metal. Instead, ALCEST live up to the hype that surrounded them in years past, and deliver on claims that they are advancing and redefining what it means to be Black Metal.
(Online June 12, 2011)