Alcest is a French post-metal band from Bagnols-sur-Cèze, 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. In 2009 drummer Winterhalter from Les Discrets (and formerly Peste Noire) joined Alcest's line-up, after eight years with Neige as the sole full-time member. Since its creation, Alcest has released five studio albums and a number of EPs and split releases. Their fourth album, 2014's Shelter, marked a dramatic shift towards a distinctly shoegaze sound, however their latest album Kodama marks a return to their earlier blackgaze sound. The band are widely credited with pioneering the blackgaze/post-black metal genre, particularly through their EP Le Secret released in 2005.
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. According to Pitchfork's Brandon Stosuy, the album "isn't black metal at all", and compared it to "a lighter take on Jesu shoegazing".
In August 2007, Tristesse Hivernale was released by Northern Silence Productions as a split with French black metal band Angmar. The band also released a split EP with the French band Les Discrets on November 30, 2009.
Alcest's second album, Écailles de Lune (Scales of the Moon), was released March 29, 2010. It was a highly anticipated album, and was received with very warm reviews from music critics, with AllMusic's Ned Raggett writing that the album "makes the most of its compelling fusion of black metal's theatricality and the after-echoes of shoegaze's propensity for utterly enveloping a listener, even if bandleader Neige approached that sound unconsciously at first."
The band's third album, Les Voyages de l'Âme, was released on January 6, 2012. The album also received positive reviews from music critics, with The New York Times describing it as "the best example yet of what it [the band] can do."
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. Stylistically the album is a radical departure for the band, dropping all traces of metal from their sound and fully committing to the shoegaze side of their sound. Neige later said in an interview that "We are proud of it, but I think it was maybe a bit too influenced by other things. I really was obsessed with Slowdive at that time. Shelter still sounds very ‘Alcest’, but maybe not as much as the other records.”
On January 15, 2016, Neige published "New album. Recording started." on the band's Facebook page. He also commented the album would be "definitively darker." On May 16, he stated that the album was in the mastering process. On July 26, the title was revealed to be Kodama, and the release date to be September 30. Neige has said the album is heavily inspired by Japanese art and culture, as well as Hayao Miyazaki's film Princess Mononoke. Musically the album is a return to the band's more traditional blackgaze sound.
Musical style and concept
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 serves as a literal summation of the concept behind the band.
Musically the band's sound has changed over time. While their demo Tristesse hivernale displays a very raw black metal sound, their following EP is considered by many to be the first blackgaze record, and the band are widely credited with pioneering the genre. The band's sound is defined by a very atmospheric and uplifting tone. From Le Secret to Shelter the band drew on both black metal bands like Burzum and Ulver as well as shoegaze bands like Slowdive to create a huge wall of sound effect, using abrasive, screamed vocals, blastbeat sections, as well as fast tremolo-picked guitar passages. Their 2014 album Shelter was a significant departure from this sound, a purely shoegaze album entirely eliminating any trace of metal influence. However their following album Kodama was a partial return to their earlier blackgaze sound.
- Neige – lead vocals, guitars, keyboards (2000–present), drums (2000–2009), bass (2001–present)
- Winterhalter – drums, percussion (2009–present)
- Current live musicians
- Zero – guitar, backing vocals (2010–present)
- Indria Saray – bass (2010–present)
- Aegnor – lead guitar (2000–2001)
- Argoth – bass (2000–2001)
- Former live musicians
- Fursy Teyssier – bass (2010)
- Studio albums
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions|
|2007||Souvenirs d'un autre monde||—||—||—||—||—|
|2010||Écailles de Lune||—||—||—||—||—|
|2012||Les Voyages de l'Âme||—||—||—||—||—|
- Split albums
- Aux Funérailles du Monde.../Tristesse Hivernale with Angmar (2007)
- Alcest / Les Discrets with Les Discrets (2009)
- Autre Temps (2011)
- Opale (2013)
- Tristesse Hivernale (2001)
- Music videos
- "Autre Temps" (2011)
- "Les Voyages de l'Âme" (2012)
- "Opale" (2013)
Notes and references
- Grow, Kory. "Alcest". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 April 2015.
- Jurek, Thom. "Shelter – Alcest : Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards : AllMusic". Allmusic. Retrieved January 30, 2014.
- "Check Out Alcest's New Shoegaze-y Track "Délivrance"". Noisey. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- Brown, Dean (January 15, 2014). "Alcest: Shelter". Popmatters. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
- "Alcest: Kodama review". exclaim!. September 28, 2016. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- True, Chris "Alcest Biography", Allmusic, Macrovision Corporation. Retrieved 2 August 2014
- Jurek, Thom. "The Secret review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
- Colin Kauffman (November 10, 2016). "Promises Kept: How Oathbreaker Have Raised The Bar for Post-Black Metal". Retrieved November 25, 2017.
- Ratliff, Ben (2012) "Spooky Cathedrals and Twilight Moods", The 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". Archived from the original on 2014-01-17.
- "Alcest: Shelter Album Review | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- "How terror attacks and spiritualism inspired the new Alcest album". 2016-08-22. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- "Deconstructing: Alcest's Shelter And Metal In A Post-Deafheaven World". 2014-01-03. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- "The Translator Blackgaze". Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- 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
- "Show No Mercy | Pitchfork". pitchfork.com. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- "Écailles de Lune - Alcest | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- Ratliff, Ben (2012-01-13). "New CDs From Jade Alston, Jeremy Pelt and Alcest". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- Johnson, Laura. "Alcest To Release New Album 'Kodama' In September - Stereoboard". Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- "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.
- "Shelter - Alcest | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 2016-09-02.
- "Ultratop / Eluveitie" (in Dutch).
- "Swiss Charts".
- "Billboard / Alcest". Billboard. Retrieved 2016-10-12.