Alcest performing live at Party.San Metal Open Air in 2013. From left to right: Indria, Neige, Zero
Alcest is a French shoegazing band from Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France, founded and led by Neige (Stéphane Paut). It began in 2000 as a black metal solo project by Neige, soon a trio, but following the release of their first demo in 2001, band members Aegnor and Argoth left the band, leaving Neige as the sole member.
This marked a change in style, as Alcest's subsequent releases have more often been described as shoegazing mixing numerous rock and metal influences, including black metal and post-metal. In 2009 drummer Winterhalter from Les Discrets (and formerly Peste Noire) joined Alcest's studio line-up, after eight years with Neige as the sole full-time member. Since its creation, Alcest has released four studio albums.
Alcest was formed as a solo project by Neige in 2000. Soon after, the band became a three-piece black metal outfit, consisting of Neige on vocals, rhythm/acoustic guitar, and drums, Argoth on bass, and Aegnor (now known as La sale Famine de Valfunde. Famine used Neige as a drummer and rhythm guitarist in the early years of Peste Noire and Neige even wrote a song, "La Césarienne", for Peste Noire ) on lead guitar.
In 2001, the band released a 4-track demo tape entitled Tristesse Hivernale on Drakkar Productions in which Famine wrote the main riff of the song "La Forêt de Cristal". Not long after the demo was released, the band once again became a one-man entity, with Neige taking Alcest in a more personal direction. Neige, having originally formed Alcest as an outlet to create cold and raw black metal, moved away from the minimalist approach with the follow-up to Tristesse Hivernale, entitled Le Secret. This EP, released in May 2005, is an introduction of sorts to the new concept behind the reformed Alcest. After having signed to Prophecy Productions in March 2007, Alcest's debut album Souvenirs d'un autre monde was released in early August of the same year, and drew comparisons with the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Jesu. In August 2007, Tristesse Hivernale was released by Northern Silence Productions in August 2007 as a split with French black metal band Angmar.
Alcest's fourth effort entitled Shelter was released on January 17, 2014 via Prophecy Productions. It features Birgir Jón Birgisson as producer, Amiina for the string sections and a guest appearance by Neil Halstead. With this album Alcest for the first time removed all remaining ties to black metal – and metal in general – and fully embraced a shoegaze/post-rock sound.
As a child, Neige had experiences of being in contact with a "far off country", which he generically refers to as "Fairy Land". Alcest serves as the musical adaptation of the memories from this "otherworld". Neige intends for Alcest to be a journey for the listener to this world through his memories. This change in concept was first introduced on Le Secret. Souvenirs d'un autre monde will serve as a literal summation of the concept behind the band.
Some early reviews of Le Secret regarded it as a cold and melancholic black metal release, much to Neige's surprise and disappointment. In an interview conducted by Aeternitas Tenebrarum Music Foundation webzine, he responded to these interpretations, as well as the mention of his vocals creating a "sinister mood":
A sinister mood???.... That really bothers me that you should say that because that proves that I did not succeed in communicating what I had inside me... I just wanted to create a maternal chant, hypnotic and unreal, similar as to what I have heard in the fairy land; certainly not a "dark" chant. My melodies are strange but not stressful, at least I hope not! The lousy production and strangled chant can maybe explain things. If you could have understood my texts, I don't think you would have said that because they are not texts on sadness or anxiety, I keep that for Mortifera. I plan to re-record "Le secret" soon and include two tracks in one album, I hope that this time there will be no compromise as you are not the first person to feel my music as dark music. – Neige
Another misconception is the inclusion of female vocals on Le Secret; all vocals on this EP were performed by Neige. Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde, however, included guest female vocals by Audrey Sylvain from Amesoeurs on the track Sur l'autre rive je t'attendrai.
- Studio albums
- Souvenirs d'un autre monde (2007)
- Écailles de Lune (2010)
- Les Voyages de l'Âme (2012)
- Shelter (2014)
- Split albums
- Aux Funérailles du Monde.../Tristesse Hivernale with Angmar (2007)
- Alcest / Les Discrets with Les Discrets (2009)
- Live album
- BBC Live Session (2012)
- Autre Temps (2012)
- Tristesse Hivernale (2001)
Notes and references
- Jurek, Thom. "The Secret review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
- Grow, Kory. "Alcest". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- True, Chris "Alcest Biography", Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2014
- Ratliff, Ben (2012) "Spooky Cathedrals and Twilight Moods", New York Times, 13 January 2012, retrieved 2012-02-13
- Neige explained: "At the beginning, I created Alcest because I really loved Black Metal and I wanted to play some. With the help of Famine (Peste Noire), I wrote four tracks with a theme based on winter and the sad feelings this season conveys.""Klemi, From dream kingdoms to metro tunnels: ALCEST / AMESOEURS, Kaleidoscope mag, Issue number 4, 2007".
- Aegnor (aka La sale Famine) explained: "I played in ALCEST. In the beginning. I composed the best riff in ‘Tristesse Hivernale’, the searing riff of ‘La Forêt du Cristal’. But at the behest of Neige, ALCEST became an Eden of elegant and overly nice fairies, the pastoral dream of a tender hobbit’s brain. To put it bluntly, ALCEST became a fairytale country. So I had to carve out my own path…I took a shit in those cute flowery groves, sodomised the fairies, and put those elves to bed with a dose of rat poison to allow the song of the toads to flourish. Yes, I made PESTE NOIRE…because PESTE NOIRE was born only to fuck shit up.(Diary of PN)""KPN-V interview, April 1st, 2013".
- Neige declared: "I was only a guest in [Peste Noire] as I played drums for him [Famine], but I did/do not share his views at all. Don’t even ask me about the concept behind [Peste Noire], it is very complex." "Mystery Flame, Interview with Neige of Alcest, Avant-Garde Metal Webzine, January 17, 2011".
- Neige also said:"In Peste Noire I didn't write anything." "An Interview with Neige, at Infernal Damnation Festival VIII, Me(n)tal-Meltdown Webzine, April 23rd, 2011".
- Neige explained that all the bands he took part in helped him express different sides of his personality:"Indeed, there are “several” sides to Neige. Alcest’s Neige is like the basis of my personality, its essence: a joyful and quiet man who is a reflection of the music. Amesoeurs' Neige is more of an urban man who is completely lost, sad and anxious, not knowing his goals anymore nor his desires. He doesn't know himself any longer since he has accumulated a great deal of frustration and unspoken vices. Last but not least, Peste Noire’s Neige is a kind of old, evil and stupid witch whose unbearable stench is equalled only by his ugliness. My urge of animal and primitive regression is embodied by this mix between a cave woman and a fiend.""Klemi, From dream kingdoms to metro tunnels: ALCEST / AMESOEURS, Kaleidoscope mag, Issue number 4, 2007".
- Alcest signing announcement on Prophecy Productions homepage. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- Souvenirs d'un autre monde on Prophecy Productions homepage. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- Way, Brian "Alcest – Souvenirs d'Un Autre Monde" (review), Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation
- Kelly, Jennifer (2007) "Alcest – Souvenirs d'Un Autre Monde" (review), Popmatters
- "ALCEST : Transcending Human Boundaries. (Interview with Neige)".
- "Interview with Neige for ATMF Webzine". Retrieved 2007-07-06.
- "Interview with Neige for Todestrieb Records". Retrieved 2007-07-06.