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Alcest - Shelter (2014) - Review

Band: Alcest
Album title: Shelter
Release date: 17 January 2014
Label: Prophecy Productions

01. Wings
02. Opale
03. La Nuit Marche Avec Moi
04. Voix Sereines
05. L'Eveil Des Muses
06. Shelter
07. Away
08. Délivrance

When searching for beauty and aesthetics in extreme music there is a band that can't be missed and its name is Alcest. Active since 2000 and already with four albums Alcest became a synonym and after all are the founders of genre often called post black metal, shoegaze black metal, blackgaze or even metalgaze. They were followed by a horde of bands trying to imitate them but Alcest remained unique and with unreacheable greatness in this field. Bands mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Neige and his fellow on drums since 2009 Winterhalter are back with an album that by all means opens a new era for the two French artists. Their metal past is now completely left behind, even though that was expected after the beautiful previous effort, Les Voyages De L'âme, released in 2012 (winner of Terra Relicta Dark Music Awards 2012).

In one word Shelter is pure sonic beauty! Once again new musical territories have beign discovered, vast atmospheres that simply sucks you into their world. And like the album title suggest, Shelter is giving you a safe, comfortable, yet warm place to escape from everydays rutines. Neige's safe place is the sea and each track up here is dedicated to its secrets and beauty. Even if you don't understand French language (like I don't), because most of the lyrics are written in it just as on every album from the band before, you can feel it, like a warm breeze when sitting at the seashore the words and melodies penetrate your mind and paint amazing pictures. It's a fantasy word that must be indulged and explored.

Shelter embraces with its shoegaze textures and dreamy soundscapes. It has a lot of so called dream-pop like components, that can be associated with pioneers of the genre Cocteau Twins, or even dreamy new wave elements similar to for example This Mortal Coil, yet it is by all matters and in a strange way a typical Alcest product. A lot of acoustic guitar passages that so perfectly give air to a bit heavier, still often melodic, post-rock guitar riffs, simply mesmerizing synths and unique ethereal vocals, just to form an outstanding experience. There are moments where slowly evolving song compositions breathe in a similar way like latest most atmospheric songs from Anathema, and the track "Away", with guest vocalist Neil Halstead from English legendary dream-pop band Slowdive, recalls in mind the tracks of Dead Can Dance where Brendan Perry takes the role of lead singer. And not to mention the beautiful and shivers rendering guest string section by Sweden's Promise And The Monster’s Billie Lindahl and Amiina.

Such a deep and emotional music is hard to be found and I don't expect to hear it anytime soon. Even if at the first glance it sounds so simple it's by paying just more attentintion tremendously dense and rich. Songs often smoothly build on the ambiance and almost bring tears in the eyes. There are so many light, catchy, soundtrack-like, almost at the border of becoming too sweet, melodies, and with mastered, almost progressive song structures its a winner. Just listen how everything blossoms on "Voix Sereines", how interesting is a distant playful piano sound in the title track  and how heartfelt is epic, ten minutes long adventure called "Délivrance". And to mention that the production was done by Sigur Rós's producer Birgir Jón Birgisson who masterfully gave to Shelter kind of ethereal bonus and how to say,... depth, another dimension, astonishing rich sound. Masterpiece!

Review written by: T.V.
Rating: 9,5/10