For a band originally rooted deep in black metal, French two-piece Alcest have come a long way. Their fourth studio album, Shelter, is a post-rock album awash with dreamy guitar tones and liquid vocals and is about as far from the raw tones of their forefathers as it’s possible to get.
The influence of Icelandic producer Birgir Jón Birgisson (Sigur Rós) is clear, with strong layering of multiple guitar and synth tracks creating what multi-instrumentalist Neige describes as “a concept… about shelter as a safe place that allows everyone to escape reality for a moment.” However, the resultant atmos- phere is not necessarily one of safety and shelter. Neige’s soundscapes are fluid and ethereal – indeed, “my own escape was to the sea” he says.
Standout track ‘Voix Sereines’ epitomises this drifting tendency (and, perhaps, the al- bum as a whole) – a dreamy slow burner which never quite develops at the climactic points. Perhaps this rejection of climax is symptomatic of Alcest’s movement away from metal- lic influences, but other ambient projects such as Helios and Deaf Center show that guitars are not required to create a sense of delirious grandeur.
Alcest’s fourth effort isn’t bad, but doesn’t ever feel in danger of exploring new territory – essentially, this album is the Coldplay of the ambient/post-rock world.