Alcest - Spiritual Instinct review




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Band: Alcest
Album: Spiritual Instinct
Release date: October 2019


01. Les Jardins De Minuit
02. Protection
03. Sapphire
04. L'Île Des Morts
05. Le Miroir
06. Spiritual Instinct


If I could make a painting of Alcest's music, it would be rays of light finding their way through the branches of dark green cypress trees (you know, the ones that like cemeteries). The amount of light shining through and the thickness of the trees' branches both vary from album to album and if you were afraid that the band's signing to a big label would make the light too bright and blinding for you, fear not; Spiritual Instinct is not Shelter, even though it wouldn't be bad at all if it actually was.

The sixth full-length release of the French duo is more of a continuation to Kodama and another release inside the borders of the band's trademark sound that has always been an amalgam of bittersweet melancholy and aggressive fuzziness, with some blastbeats and shrieks thrown in for good measure. This time, and to spice things up a little, Neige has dived into post-metal as well and has gone for a more progressive style of songwriting, with Winterhalter treating the drum kit as a canvas on which he has the freedom to create his battering art.

The first two songs that were revealed before the album's release demonstrated that slight shift in Alcest's sound. The result was very rewarding as both of these songs are among the band's finest in their career, with "Protection" enjoying a constant change in tempo and rhythm, and even featuring parts that had they been performed with violin they'd have fallen under the folk category, and "Sapphire" being a two-faced animal with its beautiful melodies that go hand in hand with a filthy bass sound. With these two excellent samples preceding the release of Spiritual Instinct, excitement filled this reviewer's heart.

And when I first heard the opening track, this excitement reached sky-high limits. "Les Jardins De Minuit", with its intro of pounding drums and screeching guitars that build up to furious blastbeats before breaking into astonishing riffs taken straight from Mgła's book of wonders, boasts the best opening three minutes the band has ever come up with. The song continues bearing all sorts of gifts for your earholes until it reaches the six-minute mark, when you can hear Alcest at their most headbangable ever.

With such an impressive first half, it would have been almost impossible to continue at this level. The truth is that the second part of Spiritual Instinct does not live up to the expectations arisen by what came before it. "L'Île Des Morts" would have worked if it hadn't been too long for its own good and the last two tracks, albeit very different from each other, both feel like they are climbing up a mountain without ever reaching the peak or, in other words, they are building up to something that never comes. And although for the Shelter-esque "Le Miroir" this does not strike as a major issue, the title track is a bit of a letdown choice to close the album.

Spiritual Instinct is an introspective affair based on Neige's soul searching more than anything else, and wrapped in a very interesting and well-illustrated cover art that represents the primal and spiritual side of human nature in the form of the mythological Sphinx. It has excellent production, three of the most compelling songs Neige has ever written, and with a few tweaks it could have been one of the duo's finest offerings to date. As it is, it exudes spirituality, and balances sunbathed optimism and inner disarray by once again blending in Alcest's unique way the contrasting themes that make their metalgaze so attractive, both lyrically as well as sonically.

"Dans les jardins de minuit
Où s'est arrété le temps"


 



Written on 05.12.2019 by Only way to feel the noise is when it's good and loud!


Comments

Comments: 4   Visited by: 127 users
05.12.2019 - 15:47
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
I gotta agree, those first three tracks are some of the best in Alcest's catalog, kind of a shame that the other three aren't that up to the standard, so in that way I loved Kodama more. But I'm really glad the band survived its NB transition pretty much unscathed.
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- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




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05.12.2019 - 16:23
nikarg
Mod
Written by RaduP on 05.12.2019 at 15:47

I gotta agree, those first three tracks are some of the best in Alcest's catalog, kind of a shame that the other three aren't that up to the standard, so in that way I loved Kodama more.

Kodama remains my favourite of theirs.


Written by RaduP on 05.12.2019 at 15:47

But I'm really glad the band survived its NB transition pretty much unscathed.

Yeah, it makes me feel a little more optimistic for the next Oranssi Pazuzu.
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06.12.2019 - 01:10
Dream Taster
The Enemy Within
Spot on review, and very enjoyable album overall.
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09.12.2019 - 00:19
EricAxel36
Totally agreed.
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