Black metal is often attributed, and rightly so, to the darker side of life. Death, decay, Satan and all that good stuff is common ground for the genres bands and whilst this is all well and good, its criminal to assume that is all the black metal truly is. ALCEST started out taking the atmospheric and ethereal elements of black metal and making them utterly stunning to listen to. Creating beautiful and often times bleak imagery with their shoegaze sound, ALCEST opened up a whole new world of blackgaze music where bands like DEAFHEAVEN now thrive. Whilst last years Shelter was a trip into far more atmospheric territories but with Kodama, ALCEST are set to continue their well known and acclaimed sound with aplomb.
Opening with the title track immediately sounds far more alike their older material. The tremolo picked guitars set the stage before the lead guitar wails in and immediately the goosebumps begin to set in. ALCEST have a fantastic ability to make any song feel grand and their talent is on clear display here. As Neige brings his subtle and ghostly vocals in the classic and ground-breaking sound is on full display. The following track Eclosion is the first to feature the staple wretched vocals of black metal and they suit the track well and aren’t used too much. It’s a common feature across the album that the harsh vocals are still noticeably a feature the band doesn’t care as much for. They are still used to give a good balance to the sound and Eclosion finishes as an easy highlight for the entire record as the final melodies ring out with beautiful ease.
The wonderful thing about Kodama is how wonderfully balanced it is. The mix is so even that every instrument is able to clearly attribute to the whole sound. It aids in creating the incredibly emotive ambiances ALCEST are so good at creating with their carefully planned and paced chord progressions fuse together. Je suis d’ailleurs and Oiseuaux de proie were the first two singles released from the album and with good reason. Both tracks are perfectly crafted Blackgaze songs that are paced brilliantly.
Whilst this is all well and good and Kodama proves itself more than worthy, it’s important to consider the album that preceded it, Shelter. Yes, the style change was a little jarring to some fans, but most would argue that Shelter is a fantastic album in it’s own right. With this in mind, Kodama feels like a step back creatively, especially when considering that they did so well and it was so praised when they did decide to change the sound a little bit. Kodama is still a great album because it sounds like ALCEST’s other great albums, but following Shelter it feels somewhat lesser.
Ultimately, Kodama is worth your time. It’s another stunning album from a stunning band and it allows for the continuation of a genre that is just beginning to truly find its feet. It’s easy to forget that bands can sometimes be really good at other thing as well, and ALCEST displayed that with Shelter and their incredible ability to creative emotive atmospheres, so when Kodama steps back in line with the rest of their material, it stings somewhat. Still a fantastic album, but the question remains, what could have been?
Kodama is out now via Prophecy Productions.
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