There are bands that have ridiculous standards they must meet with every release. Not sure that it’s fair, but for those artists who actually create sub-genres of metal, whether intended or not, everything they put out into the public gets scrutinized in ways many other artists don’t face.
That said, any new Alcest release is going to be heavily examined, put through the ringer of criticism, and compared against the band’s older work simply because of what they’ve meant to the world. The band basically created the shoegaze-glazed section of black metal, paving the way for groups such as Lantlôs, An Autumn for Crippled Children, and Deafheaven (another that gets shoved through the meat grinder every time they move) that would help swell this sound. But it all comes back to Alcest, and their new record “Kodama,” their fifth, is another that will have people poring over the details and discussing the music on end. So we’re only too happy to toss our voice into the mix. This album is tremendous stuff, both a return to form and an extension of where the band has been going the past few years. There is plenty of lovely, atmospheric stuff here, lush melodies, and cloudy transmissions, but the band also has turned back toward their black metal days, delivering crunch and harsh vocals back into the mix. It’s a record that works surprisingly well and should satisfy all Alcest disciples. Except the assholes.
As most know, Alcest is the brainchild of Neige, who not only powers this music but also has one of the most recognizable voices in all of modern metal. Along with him as always is drummer Winterhalter, and together they create another labyrinth of sound in which it’s incredibly easy to get lost. Those who liked what the band were onto with 2014’s “Shelter” (that record got knocked around, but I’ve always liked it) and 2012’s “Les Voyages de l’âme” should ease into this, as the ideals there certainly aren’t abandoned. But if you have partiality toward the earlier work including 2007’s “Souvenirs d’un autre monde” and 2010’s “Écailles de lune,” you should like the increased heaviness. Actually, fuck all that. If you like good music that sweeps you away and infiltrates your imagination and emotions, you’ll like this record because it’s a tremendous piece of work.
The title track opens the record with guitars charging and heading for the air, with melody ripping and Neige’s unmistakable singing leading the way. Fog rises as the ambiance gets moodier, with the track getting grim and sliding into a noise glaze. Hearty “oh-oh-ohhhh” calls bring the spirit up, and then the song begins to subside and fade away. “Eclosion” has a heavily emotional start, with a post-rock breeze chilling the surroundings before everything ignites. The harsh cries we noted finally make their presence known, chewing away at the sinew, and later melodies erupt anew, surging your bloodstream, and clean singing collides with cataclysmic shrieks before the track trickles off into an icy stream. “Je Suis D’Ailleurs” has clean wordless wails at the front end before the song buzzes away and strong singing melds with the song’s progression. A rush of colors flood in, while spacey keys spread their wonder, the track begins to fly, and everything comes to a bruising, scraping finish.
“Untouched” has clean playing and singing at the start, with a serene tone being set before it ultimately powers up. The verses hang back a bit, letting the music sting, while the singing begins to pound away. The track goes cold, taking you under the water, before it ignites again and ends on a thunderous note. “Oiseaux de Proie” lets noise hover over the scene before it gets washed away and powerful melodies arrive. Guitars start to spiral, making the sky spin as you gaze into it, and the singing continues to lift you up. The song is a total rush of energy, and pulverizing shrieks enter to poke at your scars before cosmic energy enraptures, and heartfelt sound sprawls infect your dreams. Closer “Onyx” slithers as dark waves boil, while delicate mists coat your face, the sounds wash over you, and the track fades away into the distance, allowing you time to reflect and figure out how this incredible trip affected you.
Alcest remain one of the driving forces of modern metal, and “Kodama” only should solidify the stronghold over which they have a death grip. Their music of beauty and brutality sounds as vibrant and relevant as ever, and this record shows a band that’s still pushing through on their journey. Alcest’s stellar reputation is well earned, and this album can sit comfortably alongside anything they’ve done.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.alcest-music.com/
To buy the album (U.S.), go here: http://us.prophecy.de/oxid-oxid-5/
Or here (internationally): http://en.prophecy.de/pre-order-bundles/
For more on the label, go here: http://en.prophecy.de/