We all knew it was going to happen. Having hinted that the musical voyage of Alcest was likely to head into pastures new, 2014 sees Neige finally shed the last vestiges of metal, let-alone any lingering black metal leanings from the two-piece band he has led since as far back as 1999, allowing Alcest to emerge, blinking into the light like a newborn butterfly. It’s a beautiful transition and one that will be met by fans of the band with strong feelings of pride, akin to witnessing a loved one succeed against all odds. Because feelings of love and pride are unavoidable when listening to Shelter (Prophecy Productions), Alcest’s fourth full length release.
Despite claiming never to have been a fan of shoegaze, the much maligned genre of music that saw acts such as My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive briefly gain prominence in the early 90s before being castigated and abandoned due to their impenetrable wall-of-sound approach and standstill stage performances, here Alcest have crafted the finest album ever associated with the genre. This is a record of shimmering chords, leisurely ambience and otherworldly, soaring vocals.
From the opening beauty of ‘Away’ featuring the calm and assured vocals of Neil Halstead of the aforementioned Slowdive through the fuzzy, gradually building distortion of ‘Deliverance’ to the mournful yet optimistic guitar lines of ‘Voix Sereines’ , this is a record of indescribable elegance and grace, the kind of heavenly sounds that deserve to reach a much wider audience. Likely to leave some black metal purists scratching their greasy scalps in confusion if they’re allowed to like this, the truth is that everyone should embrace Shelter for what it is; a captivating and stunning piece of music poured straight from the heart.