When it comes to classifying what exactly Alcest is, it’s easier in some ways to just say that they are their own band. Previous releases might have slotted them into the shoe-gaze or the atmospheric black metal scenes respectively, but the band always has something up their sleeve to defy all labels that people try and put on them. And it is this defiance and the creative genius of frontman Neige which has propelled the band to become an act loved by many in the metal scene.
Singing entirely in French, the music serves as the perfect vessel for whisking the listener away to Neige’s “fairy land” from childhood, albeit with many twists and turns along the way. Opening track “Les Jardins De Minuit” serves as a testament to that with the calming sounds of Shelter and harsher sections of Kodama being blended perfectly to create a song that expertly opens the album. It’s following track and first single “Protection”, however, that really gets the mix just perfect and showcases just how diverse and creative the band is. Dreamy clean vocals, harsh vocals, distorted guitars, clean guitars and superb drumming from Winterhalter combine to make what might be the best song the band has ever written.
Following track “Sapphire” brings about slower proceedings akin to those experienced on Les voyages de l’âme but with the more modern elements added in for good measure. The track further showcases the drumming abilities of Winterhalter in a way that he’s not overplaying. Every pattern he plays works perfectly and meshes perfectly with what all the other instruments are doing. “L’Île Des Morts” continues the proceedings with a similarly stripped back beginning to what was experienced on the previous track before coming together to create a series of similarly epic sections to the ones found on “Protection”. Being the longest song on the album it of course, like all Alcest tracks, goes through many changes and could possibly give Opeth a run for their money on having so many killer riffs in one song.
Opening with a sense of impending chaos before slowing to a calm, dreamy state “Le Miroir” continues this state throughout most of the track. Whilst it is one of the shorter tracks here, the song more than makes up for this by having some of the best layered riffs and atmospheres on the whole album. It is the sort of track that would pair beautifully with a video about the night sky or similarly themed nature video. Album closer and title track “Spiritual Instinct” then follows and serves as the perfect mix of everything that has gone on before. The layered harmonies on both the vocals and guitars on this track, particularly the closing 2 minutes are simply to die for and might even rival the chorus of “Autre Temps”.
As with any good album, on every listen something more is discovered each time until you know the music inside out. With Spiritual Instinct, however, even after listening to it many many times, new things still keep popping out and the impact from the first listen is still there. Which leads very nicely to this point and something which many fans of the band might agree with. An Alcest album is not merely listened to. An Alcest album is experienced.
Spiritual Instinct is available now via Nuclear Blast Records