French heavy metal troupe Alcest explores the furthest reaches of influence

Monday 23rd, January 2017 / 11:05
By James Olson

Photo: Andy Julia

VANCOUVER — France’s Alcest have arisen as one of the more unique acts within the broad and ever expanding world of heavy rock/metal music. Blending elements of black metal, shoegaze, folk, and dream pop, the music of Alcest is described by the band’s songwriter and vocalist/guitarist, Neige as otherworldly, spiritual, and introspective. Over the course of five albums, the band has developed a sound and style that is encompassing in the singularity of its exploratory vision. Each record is a journey for listeners.

Their latest release Kodama shows the band simultaneously exploring new territory and returning to a more aggressive songwriting style. Shelter, their previous release, was distinguished for having a much more clean and melodic sound rooted almost exclusively in dream pop and shoegaze. “[We] needed to go for something more personal, more contrasted, louder drums, that was darker too [on Kodama]. In a way, each Alcest album is composed in reaction to the one before, and that’s not something that we actually plan,” Neige explains. “Kodama comes back to some of the older aspects of our sound, like the screaming vocals and the length of the songs for example, but I would say that it also has a lot of new elements that could be considered as a heritage of Shelter.”

There is a strong influence drawn from Japanese culture throughout Kodama. The album’s title itself is a reference to the classic Hayao Miyazaki film Princess Mononoke and the cover was heavily inspired by the works of Takato Yamamoto. Neige explains that this influence runs even deeper in this new release as Asian scales were used to write guitar melodies for certain songs on the record. “We wanted to integrate these influences in a way that feels appropriate to the context of Alcest. The goal wasn’t to go full-on Japanese, it wouldn’t have sounded right. I would say that it just gave an overall feel to the record, an identity,” Neige says. “The reason why I always was attracted to Japan is because it’s so different from Europe, on every level. It’s almost like another world for occidental people.”

With Kodama topping many best of the year lists for a variety of major music publications and a world tour under way, Alcest have set themselves apart as one of the most creatively invigorating acts within rock and metal.

Alcest play The Rickshaw Theatre with Creepers and The Body on February 4th.

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