February 20, 2017
Alcest played Irving Plaza
Alcest's fifth album, Kodama, was one of my favorite records of 2016. On Sunday night, the band wrapped up their latest American tour in promotion for the album at Irving Plaza.
Starting with 2007's Souvenirs d'un autre monde, Alcest have been billed as a black metal band overdosing on their shoegaze intake. Propelled by unsettling blast beats, the band surges through epic ebbs and flows of sound. Cascading tides rush over their listeners with such power and focus that the waves of sound crash with ultimate fury. Years before Deafheaven began to bridge the gap between melodic post-rock and steady metal rhythms turned up to My Bloody Valentine style proportions, Alcest blurred the line to create euphoric storms of blissed out guitars. Track after track, the band conjured up mighty swells of sound that ultimately blossomed into massive sonic eruptions. Neige has long been the running member and driving force behind the band, but the gang he's assembled to tour sound like they've been doing this for years. Their coalesced sound is like a rush of blood that feels empowering and chaotic all at once. When Neige goes in for the scream, it doesn't feel like a form of aggression, but rather like a release of mounting tension. In the way Explosions in the Sky can make the mundane feel mythical with their use of sound, Alcest follow suit. Soaring guitars build up some dream inducing feelings just before double-bass breakdowns spiral into commotion. The crowd remained transfixed throughout the evening, chanting when the twinkle of older tracks found their way into the set, but otherwise relatively calm. This was not the make-up of bludgeoning satanic crowd, but rather one that was easily immersed in the beauty of the band's sound. For so long, Alcest have battled against the grain of what defines black metal and have never once compromised their sound to fit into a box. Their ability to infuse so many different style into their music has made them a true force and now a source of inspiration to those looking to break into metal's overwhelming scene.