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Alcest – Spiritual Instinct (Album Review)

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Its been just over three years since French blackened shoegaze act Alcest presented its fans with the stellar (and throw back) album “Kodama.” Though the days of the band’s raw black metal style still much farther in the distant past, the band has flirted with a “return” by adding more blackened elements into their melodic ethereal-sounding mixture of obscured vocals, guitar distortion and effects, feedback, and overwhelming volume stew. This continues on “Spiritual Instinct,” but its the melodic and prototypical droning black-haze that still highlights the talented band’s signature style.

Multi-musician and vocalist Neige has perfectly captured the tumultuous and personal emotions of his own personal “spiritual awakening” on this new record. The album’s themes include darkness, other-worldliness and dealing with the dreariness and despondency of losing touch with one’s one self and humanity. It sounds a bit depressing, but we all have dealt with the overwhelming hopelessness of trying to finding ourselves in various stages of life. Recorded in analog, “Spiritual Instinct” was carefully and meticulously created and the passion and personal experiences show through. The sound is much more organic and powerful than its predecessor. There is a prevailing darkness throughout the album that adds a layer of heaviness even in the most emotive melody.

“Les Jardins de Minuit” begins with a Neige‘s shrilling guitar and gorgeous clean vocal chant before erupting into blackened blast beats and eventually settling into a melodic black-gaze rhythm. With clean vocals trading off with blackened growls, there is a feeling of struggle…an out of body experience. The dark riff sets the tone as the clean choirs seem to steer the blast beats and melody as they cut through the tepid haze. Who knew shoegaze could be this enjoyable?

“Spiritual Instinct” Album Artwork

“Protection” continues that melodic atmosphere while exploring the theme of stripping down the outer layer of ourselves to reveal the raw, and unprotected, humanity. “Sapphire” has a very fetching riff accented by a primal drum sound steeped in melody – a wonderful catchy tune that leads into album favorite “L’île Des Morts” – a nine minute breathtaking masterpiece.

“Spiritual Instinct” is a metaphysical experience that dares the listener to truly open up his/her true self and expose every raw nerve and emotion. It captures all the emotions when we take a look in “Le miroir” and strip down each layer in order to discover who we are and explore the idea of humanity and what it means to each of us. “Spiritual” doesn’t necessarily mean “religious,” but a personal experience to rebuild, restructure and better ourselves. Alcest creates the perfect ambience for the journey, filled with enough melody and emotion and overlaying heaviness to see it though.

Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Released Date: October 25th, 2019
Genre: Atmospheric Post-Black Metal

Musicians:

  • Stéphane “Neige” Paut / Lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass
  • Jean “Winterhalter” Deflandre / Drums, percussion

“Spiritual Instinct” Track-listing:

1. Les Jardins De Minuit
2. Protection
3. Sapphire
4. L’Île Des Morts
5. Le Miroir
6. Spiritual Instinc

7.8 Great

An emotional metaphysical experience that goes well beyond your average shoegaze material. Drawing inspiration from his own spiritual experience, Neige has written an album from the heart and forces listeners to bare their own souls, strip down their humanity and build it back layer by layer. Steeped in melody and accented by a blackened shadow, the material is as rich as it is dark

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 7
  • Production 7.5
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