Alcest are one of those bands that somehow never disappoint me. Granted, it took me longer to get into their “Shelter” album (it was a bit of a change) but now it’s one of my favorites by them. What makes Alcest so damn good? Being the pioneer in the blackgaze subgenre does have something to do with it. They are able to combine two very different styles of music, black metal and shoegaze, into a completely unique sound. Now you have a ton of imitators out there.
But it takes more than just blazing a new path. Mainman Neige is a great songwriter and is multi-talented vocally and instrumentally. The secret weapon is drummer Winterhalter who pushes the songs in the direction they need to go. Alcest finally got signed to a larger label, Nuclear Blast, after spending years on one of my favorite labels, Prophecy Productions. “Spiritual Instinct” is the first Nuclear Blast album and it serves as a good introduction to the band, rather than pushing their sound in a new direction.
Alcest’s last two albums, “Shelter” and “Kodama” each explored different elements of the band’s sound. “Shelter” was essentially a straight up shoegaze/dream pop album that eschewed the band’s black metal side. “Kodama” brought back the black metal but added a Far Eastern vibe to the proceedings. “Spiritual Instinct” is what I would call a standard Alcest album. The opening track “Les Jardins De Minuit” leans heavily on Winterhalter’s blast beats which is fine but seems to avoid the band’s atmospheric side.
“Protection” and “Saffire” are the first two singles which makes sense since each have English titles. If you are going to make it to the next level, it does make sense. For me, the fact that Neige sings in French makes no difference since it’s hard to understand his harsh and clean vocals. I actually like that because it’s more about the SOUND of his voice and the melodies. “Protection” features a big sound and excellent riffing. It’s actually catchy!
“Saffire” is slower to start before finding it’s groove. It’s another user friendly song. Things get more complex with “L’Île Des Morts” and the title track. Each mix the ethereal with the aggressive, the dynamics that drew me to Alcest to begin with. So yes those are my two favorite songs so far. But as I have learned with Alcest, their music grows with time. So while I do really like “Spiritual Instinct,” I wouldn’t say it’s as good as the last two albums. But it’s still an incredible album that works as an introduction to the pure greatness of Alcest.
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 25 October 2019
Bandcamp: https://alcest.bandcamp.com › album › spiritual-instinct