Upon first listen this, the third full-length from the Stephane "Neige" Paut fronted project, appeared to me as soft and weak. Boring even. But then I read an article about the album which included a discussion with Neige himself. After that, I decided I owed the album another shot. This time, with open ears and an open mind. That openness is the key. The key to unlocking the experience of Les Voyages De L'Ame. This works reciprocally as well. Experiencing the album will open your mind. If you allow it, the expansiveness will permeate your senses take you to a state of relaxation. Much like the way Wolves In The Throne Room conjure images of thick, moss-drenched red wood forests, or the icy, wind-swept peaks envisioned by any number of Nordic Black Metal bands, Alcest feels like an auditory representation of meadows, rolling hills and sunny willow trees swaying in the wind. A far cry from Paut's frosty moniker. The connection to the band's Black Metal roots are subtle. Some screamed vocals and more thunderous drums make appearances in some songs such as "La Ou Naissent Les Colours Nouvelles" and "Faiseurs De Mondes". Those moments may dissuade listeners not as familiar with music's more extreme factions, but in the overall scheme, they balance out against the more delicate ones. Intricate guitar lines and a general wash of atmosphere warm the listener as Neige croons. (About what, I don't know. It's mostly in French) While the soothing vocals and tinkly guitar (like sunlight sparkling on a softly flowing stream) dominate the album, the "black"-er moments serve as a reminder that life isn't all butterflies and rainbows. There is still pain in the world. But you can't hold on to that. You need to embrace the beautiful things in life and channel them. Create something beautiful. The soaring melodies, lush soundscape and soul-baring vocals may not endear themselves to hardcore tough guys or die-hard death-heads but all you need to do is open your mind and let Alcest take your soul on a journey.
Les Voyages De L'Ame is available now from Prophecy Productions.
N.B. I cannot stress enough the importance of listening to this with quality equipment. Lackluster gear will do the album absolutely no justice.