Thursday, September 6, 2007

Album Review: Alcest - "Souvenirs d'un autre monde"

Alcest - Souvenirs d'un autre monde

Band: Alcest (France)
Album Title: Souvenirs d'un autre monde
Label: Profound Lore Records (U.S.) - Licensed from Prophecy Productions, Germany
Released: 2007 (August)

Well, this album was certainly surrounded with hype. It seems like ever since samples of two tracks from Souvenirs d'un autre monde showed up on Myspace, it landed on many metalheads' Most Anticipated 2007 lists. Ahem, my own included.

Now that it's been released, the response varies from those who are calling it a classic to people who feel it was over-hyped and not at all worth the fuss. I won't go as far as to say I fall into the former category, but I certainly don't fall in the latter, either. Although I feel it's a bit thin and shallow, I've found Souvenirs to be an extremely enjoyable listen.

Alcest is the one-man project of Neige, though early in its life it was a black metal band. Neige surprised everyone with Le Secret EP in early 2005. Le Secret consisted of two long songs, one of which featured the soft vocals heard on this album, while the other song had black metal-style vocals. It was a sign of good things to come, though we had to wait a while before a follow-up.

It's not likely to set the music world on fire, but Souvenirs is quite a lovely album. There's only really one mood throughout its 41 minutes, but Neige does a good job keeping things interesting. Upon my first listen, I felt as if I had found something impossibly beautiful (though that initial impression dulled a bit upon repeated listens). It's difficult to describe the album. I guess I would label it "metal," as it has most of the qualities of metal, yet it is lacking in any sort of sinister or even melancholic atmosphere. It's a sort of escapist art, I guess. Many reviewers have called it "shoegazer," but I'm not sure I would agree, because there are few guitar effects employed. For some reason, at times it reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream, due to the guitars and the somewhat dreamy atmosphere. Lyrics are in French, and the vocals are soft and melodic. Indeed, the vocals may be my favorite element of this album. They're perfect.

I can't think of much else to say about the album, except that it's extremely beautiful, in a sort of shallow way. I don't think Neige was aiming to create anything terribly deep here, which is fine, because albums like this can be very refreshing when you're in the mood for them. It won't top my Best of 2007 list, but I'm certain it's an album I will listen to and play for friends often. Also, it has very lovely packaging. You can get a good idea of the atmosphere of Souvenirs by looking at the cover.

Quite nice.

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