Hardcore/Punk band Higher Power have a very simple but beautiful mantra, that reads “For The Moshers By Moshers.” This message is beautifully encapsulated on the band’s debut album Soul Structure (Flatspot), which is clearly an angry album but one that tries to convey how to deal with these feelings in a positive way, something which is very relatable to a lot of people and which is a very welcome notion in today’s society. Continue reading
This Is Hardcore Festival has just announced the lineup for this year’s festival, and it’s unbelievably awesome. Continue reading
French Blackgaze leaders Alcest have forged a career out of merely being artists following their will, rather than the passions of what fans want them to be. By setting the artistic ideal almost too high from the first ghost-notes of The Secret in 2005, to the twist and turns ofSouvenirs d’un autre monde, through the evolution from Écailles de Lune, and more recently the brilliant Shelter in 2014, the band has charmed and confused equally. Continue reading
A respectably full venue is greeted by support act Lone Wolf, whose name is something of an oxymoron has he has another keyboard player and drummer with him. He might look for all the world like an IT manager who has come straight from a meeting but surely his sensitive balladry will win doubters over? In a word. No.
Ponderous keyboard ostinatos and bleating falsetto vocals do little to inspire anything above tepid half claps between songs. “Mr Wolf’s” polite and apologetic banter does little to excuse the fact that the majority of this set is turgid singer/songwriter dross wallowing in mediocrity.
The blue stage lights usher in a sense of dreamlike reverie asAlcest launch into ‘Opale’. Neige thanks the audience for their patience for the technical problems the French men initially face, but said gremlins are soon banished in favour of blissful hymns like ‘Summer’s Glory’ and older number ‘Souvenirs D’un Autre Monde’.
Transfixed, the audience stare longingly at the quartet as the beauty and of the songs seeks to penetrate their very souls. Despite the supposed narrow mindedness of metalheads Shelter era material is well received, but not with the same appreciation and devotion that heralds the older material. ‘Écalies De Lune Part 1’ is greeted like a long lost lover, but the most fervent reaction is reserved for the triumphant salvos of ‘Autre Temps’ and ‘Délivrance’ where a couple of audience members are so overwhelmed with emotion they actually shed tears.
Much like Anathema before them, new opus Shelter has seen Alcest shift their focus to more gentle atmospheric sounds while retaining much of their loyal fanbase. Not many gigs see punters in Hate Forest t-shirts cosying up to those in Mogwai tops but that’s a testament to the crossover appeal the band has garnered.
Seducing all in attendance with delicate, soaring cadences wielded to lush atmospherics, tonight’s performance is exceptional once the early technical hindrances have been banished. Another bewitching and mesmerising performance from a seminal act who continue their metamorphosis into a brighter, more ethereal act whose beauty transcends mere genre boundaries.
WORDS: ROSS BAKER
The countdown to the Official Ghost Cult Magazine Album of the Year for 2014 continues. Please consume and enjoy the results of our 2014 Writers’ Poll. We hope it will introduce you to some of the incredible works of art you may have missed that we have had the immense pleasure of listening to and writing about this year.
In our third installment we bring you albums 30 through to 21
“Casualties of Cool is an intriguing experiment from a man who excels in making left-field music. Go in expecting massive a prog-metal exercise will only lead to disappointment, but having an open mind will result in a rewarding experience” DAN SWINHOE 8/10 Full review here
29. ANATHEMA – Distant Satellites (KScope)
“One of our world’s most understated bands, despite the plaudits they get, Anathema have once again showcased their knack for penning both forward thinking and emotionally driven music which oozes real human character and sentimentality”. CHRIS TIPPELL 9/10 Full review here
“When we look back on this part of their career, we will likely understand that these are less like regular EPs that other bands release, and much more like a mini-opus, in pieces. Down clearly realizes their collective vision, no matter who is in the lineup, every time”. KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES 9.5/10 Full review here
“Sadistic and aggressive with endless moments of bleak reflection Splinters is a leviathan unleashed upon unsuspecting listeners and a release surely destined to grace many year end lists” ROSS BAKER 9/10 Full review here
Like a massive-antlered stag glimpsed amidst a wintry landscape, breathtaking, elusive and hard to pin down, The Serpent and the Sphere looks set to continue their elegant and ever-evolving legacy JAMES CONWAY 9/10 Full review here
25. THOU – Heathen (Gilead Media)
“A storm manifest as a piece of music, as devastating as it is awe-inspiring, Heathen is varied and compelling for the entire runtime”. TOM SAUNDERS 9/10 Full review here
“Sharp, buzzing riffs and symphonic keys, strength and brutality amongst moments of pomp and beauty, bloody entertaining and another show of form” PAUL QUINN 8.5/10 Full review here
23. PYRRHON – The Mother of Virtues (Relapse)
“The Mother Of Virtues doesn’t just challenge what is “extreme”, but calls into question whether some of what is produced is actually even music. Completely and utterly impenetrable, and exceptional with it”. STEVE TOVEY 9.5/10 Full review here
“Eyehategod continue to age like a good whiskey, seeming to improve as time goes by, but by no means losing their sting”. CHRIS TIPPELL 9/10 Full review here
21. ALCEST – Shelter (Prophecy)
“Shedding the last vestiges of metal, let-alone any lingering black metal leanings, a captivating and stunning piece of music poured straight from the heart”. JAMES CONWAY 9/10 Full review here
Ghost Cult Magazine Albums of the Year: 50-41
Ghost Cult Magazine Albums of the Year: 40-31
Like the visions of a mystical “fairyland” which visited him as a child, Stéphane Paut, a.k.a Neige, has always been a musician who let his imagination run riot. Driven by his own muse, Neige is not the type of musician who lets the expectations of his fan-base dictate the direction of his music. Catching up with Neige via Skype from his Paris home, the front man is a confident and driven, yet humble individual who embraces challenges and hopes that new record Shelter will be a watershed release for Alcest. “The concept of this album is very uplifting. It is about having a secret place to retreat to when we have difficulties in our lives. It is somewhere that can make us feel secure and stable. For me it was the sea. Now I live in Paris I see how stressed people are, always rushing around. It’s important to have that safe haven which reminds us of who we are.”
Neige may see Shelter as a comforting place where he is free to express himself creatively without restriction but just a cursory listen to the record will have many of the band’s fans being somewhat critical of the band’s new direction. Choosing to discard their metal influences is a bold and risky move but one Paut felt was necessary. “It was boring and very limiting for me.” Neige candidly admits. “I began writing metal when I was fourteen, half my life ago and I needed to explore other genres. Alcest will grow with me. It is the band of my life and it must continue to evolve as I do. Shelter has taken a shoegazing and dream pop influenced direction on this album but in the future things may again be very different. I hope our fans will remain open minded when it comes to our music. We have not decided to do mainstream music; it is just about keeping us satisfied. If that means changing the music style we play then so be it!”
Dreamy and ethereal though it may be, Shelter has been shaped by an uncompromising stance, which Neige remains intensely proud of. “We didn’t want to make a tribute record to the shoegazing scene. It still sounds like Alcest one hundred percent. The music I make is purely for myself. I do not make music to please the fans. When we play live I want people to enjoy the concert and we will play the old songs for them but going forward I don’t see metal shaping the future of this band.”
This unwillingness to be pigeon-holed, along with a ravenous desire to challenge his own abilities, has created an album full of light and wonder. Choosing to record Shelter with Sigur Ros producer Birgir Jon Birgirson in Iceland really shaped the way the album was conceived. “We wanted that dirty, grainy indie rock sound! Sigur Ros music has a lot of character and we wanted to switch from the cynical metal sound we had on the previous album. Iceland was magical, like being on the moon. It exceeded my expectations. A truly life changing experience. It fits perfectly with the concept of Shelter. We spent time in our own creative bubble undisturbed by outside influences.”
As he alluded to earlier, Shelter was greatly inspired by Neige’s love for the sea. Waxing lyrical upon his childhood visions and trips into a “fairyland” has been the chief inspiration for Alcest’s work. It appears that a fondness for nature is now what comforts the twenty-nine year old musician. “My parents used to bring me to the seaside until I was a teenager. My father and I would go sailing in his boat very often. I guess it left a pretty big mark on me as I missed it greatly. I make sure I go at least once a year to the beach with friends near where I grew up. It is these precious moments and the most simple but the most special times of our lives.”
Shorn of the harsh metallic aspects of their sound and adopting a direction favouring light and atmosphere, has clearly been a breath of fresh air. Shelter has also seen Neige realising another dream, that of working with one of his favourite musicians Neil Halstead of British shoegaze pioneers Slowdive. It was truly touching to hear Neige’s gushing appreciation of Halstead’s work. “We have tried to contact him for a long time. I was not sure it would happen because he never got back to us. Finally he replied to me on Facebook saying he loved the music and was interested in working with us! He is one of my favourite musicians and having him in the studio with us was a dream come true.”
“We had to have the lyrics in English for him to sing and I think his performance is fantastic. The lyrics are about dreaming and escaping reality. It allows you to forget yourself and become lost in music.”
The cinematic feel of Alcest’s music is certainly an aspect that sets the Frenchmen apart from their peers. Neige may now disown the “fathers of blackgaze” tag and has set his sights on new creative pastures, with scoring music for film being high near the top of that list. “This is a dream of mine to make a classic soundtrack. I have achieved my dreams of playing in a touring band and making records and this is something I desperately want to do. My music is very sensitive and I would love to score the next American Beauty or Let The Right One In. That film is a masterpiece! Music is all about visions and images for me. I always have mental pictures of my music when I record it so this would come very naturally to me!”
Alcest’s music videos have been vivid journeys into the front man’s consciousness. The latest for the debut single ‘Opale’ contains much colourful and romantic imagery integral to the mood of the song itself. “The coloured smoke was my idea. It is inspired by the Indian celebration ‘Holi’. It makes for very otherworldly scenery with people throwing coloured powders at each other. In the beginning, the characters are cold and distant to one another but in the end, they find love and happiness. It fits the song quite well I think.”
Fans may miss the darker aspects of Alcest’s music moving forward but no doubt, this explosion of colour and change of direction has been good for the soul. While careful not to dismiss the band’s back catalogue in the live arena, there is one aspect of their music Neige was keen to leave behind. “We compose music only for ourselves and never think how others will react but when we perform it is for the people. I really don’t miss performing the harsh vocals but I love to hear classics from my favourite bands, so I will still be performing these types of vocals for sometime unfortunately! I want people who see us live to enjoy it and feel great so I will perform the old songs because I know they are special to the fans.”
Boldly stepping onto new ground while being eager to give the fans what they want live may prove distinctly challenging yet Neige has never been afraid of such things. Looking to the future, how does Neige see Alcest’s music shaping up? “I want to use strings and perhaps samples but the core of this band has always been the melodies. It is important to experiment and try new things. I am thinking of using electronic elements and seeing what may come of that. I feel at my best surrounded by nature. Paris has a lot of concrete and can be very claustrophobic at times but I suppose the fact I miss nature inspires me also.”
Softly spoken and polite, despite refusing to comprise the nature of his artistic vision, Neige remains a dreamer looking to a future of light filled with hope. Come what may, Shelter is a bold step into uncharted territory for an act hungry for adventure.
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.