Alcest – Le Secret

This is a beautiful album; hardly the sort of description you would typically find in a review of a black metal album. Yet, in the slowly increasing sub-genre of “black metal (but really isn’t)”, Alcest’s EP “Le Secret” is a shining example of what listeners will find in the genre once they learn to accept elements beyond the stereotyped staples of the music form. While driving and cyclical black metal comprises of the majority of the song structure, there are many elements to the production which elevate it from your typical black metal release.

One of the main aspects of this album which make it enjoyable is that, far from being a “depressive” and/or “suicidal” sounding composition, the tone of the album seems to be one of at least optimism (judging from the music alone, since the vocals are in French). Also, while the “traditional” growled metal voice is present, there is also various types of fragile clear singing (particuarly on the first track, “Le Secret”, in which the vocalist sounds almost fragile in his delivery, in which you almost have to strain to make out his singing against the mix) as well as various whispered segments throughout the two songs.

The second song, “Elevation”, opens in a similar manner as the first, with a similar insturmental intro (in this case being a heavenly sounding synth bed as opposed to the first song’s acoustic guitar intro). Also, the song introduces the “metal” vocals. While not as compelling as the clear variety, they are still quite good and effective for the song.

One of the main pitfalls of any black metal release is succumbing to it’s own repetitive nature. There are few things worse than having to sit through an extended black metal song with absolutely no song progression. Thankfully, Alcest manages to circumvent this common mistake by crafting various “melancholic” melodies that manage to be instantly memorable (there were a lot of M’s in that sentence), occasionaly inserting various insturmental breaks which add to the overall tone of the song without feeling arbitrarily inserted into the piece.

Of course, this release is not perfect (although I selfishly wish it was). My main negative with the album is that the vocals are slightly buried in the mix, when bringing them closer to the front would (in my opinion) have made a much greater impact on the average listener. However, aside from this minor quibble, there are precious few things to find wrong with this EP.

Currently, Alcest seems to have signed a lengthy record deal and is poised to release their debut CD sometime during this summer. Judging from the promo songs posted on their website, they appear to have shifted from a black metal basis to a more melodic post-rock genre (while retaining all of the elements which made “Le Secret” good). While their website posits the claim that their new album “…brings to mind memories of the innocence and bliss of a childhood long past as well as impressions of a fantastic realm of perfect harmony…” (which sounds rather childish and lame on the surface), upon listening to their debut EP, it instead becomes a rather inviting prospect to listen to.

Highly reccomended if you are fortunate enough to acquire it.

Alcest (Official website)
Myspace page
Prophecy Productions Records
Drakkar Productions Records (Where the original, limited edition of “Le Secret” was sold. Unfortunatly, it is now a little bit harder to find without a decent amount of searching).

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~ by John Lithium on May 4, 2007.

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