Ecailles de Lune (Prophecy, 2010)
For: Jesu, Wolves in the Throne Room, Pyramids
Byline: Gorgeous, sprawling tracks that move from shoegaze to black metal and then back again. Highly recommended.
Ecailles de Lune, by the french shoegaze/black metal duo Alcest, works so well because it offers so many points of access. Alcest pen huge, sprawling tracks that move from multi-layered, major chord nu-shoegaze of A Place to Bury Strangers and Jesu, to post-rock influenced hardcore breakdowns a la Envy and Rosetta, to the soul-cleansing blast-beats and tremelo picked heaviness reminiscent of Wolves in the Throne Room. The above name-dropping shows just how easy it is to plug your personal favorite bands/subgenres (I just thought of three more writing this sentence. Hmm..I Haven't used Cave-In as a reference for awhile) that dominate the growing trend working to bring metal into a broader musical lexicon by pairing it with more accessible and, quite frankly, more interesting sonic elements. Alcest succeed on this level by using moments of classic black metal dynamics to bring their long-playing tracks to an ultimate cathartic conclusion. Alcest go from Slowdive to Darkthrone in a matter of seconds.
While only comprised of two members with single-word monikers, Neige and Winterhalter, Alcest possess an unbelievably encompassing sound that never really moves away from saccharine sweet layers of processed guitar work through all its disparate moves. This gorgeous, layered guitar work accompanies Neige all the way from his gentelest croon to his cracken-unleashed banshee screech necessitated by black metal. This beautiful-ghastly dichotomy works wonders on "Percees de Lumiere", which relies heavily on mid-tempo (for a metal song) drum part and repeating guitar lines over Neige's most tortured vocal delivery. A gorgeous study in contrast. For most of the album, Neige's voice takes on an ethereal coo that floats in and out of center stage, leading tracks like "Sur l'ocean Couleur de Fer" and floating underneath the weight of songs like "Ecailled de Lune - Part 1". Ecailles de Lune is an album whose beauty and power come out of nowhere, I wish I could say, however, that the sheer "whoa" factor didn't wear off after the 5th listen. While enjoyable to pick apart and savor, nothing comes close to that rush that comes with the first few seconds blast-beat craziness. Music as heroin, we will always be chasing that dragon.