Alcest - Le Secret
Drakkar
Ambient Black Metal
2 songs (27'20")
Release year: 2005
Alcest, Drakkar
Reviewed by Alex

French Alcest has generated so much of the underground buzz that I had to check for myself what this fuzz is all about. Having ordered the CD from some obscure distro, I had to pay quite a few bucks and had to wait a few weeks until the 2-track digipack arrived in the package which must have been filled in the dirtiest warehouse full of cheap cigarette smoke. So, was Le Secret worth the wait and dollars I paid for it? More importantly, is the buzz justified? Please allow me to contribute my possibly less-than-qualified opinion.

Alcest is the creation of Neige, a figure well known and respected in the underground French BM movement, also with participation in Peste Noire, Mortifera and Celestia. Neige does everything with Alcest, including playing all of the instruments, doing most of the recording and even taking the pictures of nature for the booklet. One man projects are common in black metal, as no one understands the artist better than the artist himself. Sometimes these projects fail, but not Alcest with Le Secret.

Music on this mini-CD is a day & night mixture of quiet acoustics and soft synth melodies with enormously fuzzed out guitar driven ambiance. Both songs have similarities in their structure. The title cut starts with a crystal clear intro, guitar notes dropping down like rain droplets, and perfectly recorded cymbals shaking like leaves in the wind. The atmosphere is quiet and serene … only to be abruptly barged upon with a wall of sound non-stop churning fast tremolo riffs. Everything is drowned in this guitar sound: what sounds like intricate drumwork and resemblance of clean vocals. If acoustics of Le Secret are immediate, extreme parts take a few spins to completely grasp, but afterwards you can pick out beautiful melodies (like the one at around 10 min mark of the title cut). Strangely, I do not feel melancholy with Alcest’s ambiance. Instead, its extreme parts feel more like an orgy of forest beasts, satyrs, engaged in the bacchanalia on the forest grass covered in morning dew. The acoustics return, but the grass has been trampled.

Elevation intro is more angelic and heavenly, rather than acoustic and nature inspired. Synth melodies sound like what it would feel if your soul was crossing over to the other side. The transition between the parts is drastic again, and before you know it, the tremolo guitars will envelope you once again. There is more of a vocal part in Elevation, with the banshee cry contouring the music. Towards the end of the song one can hear a very pronounced delicate guitar solo. Elevation melodies are more obvious, but I have to say no less triumphant than Le Secret. Alcest music just does not feel sad in nature to me. Instead, it reminds me of Beethoven’s Sonata Appassionato, where melodies represent the triumph of the human spirit. I guess everybody is allowed its own interpretation. Also, Elevation uses the lyrics of the famous 19th century French Symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire.

Continuing with the classical music analogy, I understand and appreciate Neige’s music, which is a testament to his enormous creativity. But, just like it is with me and classical music, understanding and appreciation does not make me a head-over-heels fan. I am sure, however, that many others will pronounce Le Secret an album of the year. I say it was worth the wait for me, and a good foray into the genre I don’t venture into very often.

Alcest re-recorded their debut EP Le Secret from 2005 entirely, and on May 17th 2011 in North America these re-recordings will be released together with the original versions via Prophecy Productions.

Killing Songs :
I liked them both
Alex quoted 82 / 100
Other albums by Alcest that we have reviewed:
Alcest - Kodama reviewed by Andy and quoted 86 / 100
Alcest - Shelter reviewed by Neill and quoted 95 / 100
Alcest - Les Voyages De LAme reviewed by Alex and quoted 80 / 100
Alcest - Écailles De Lune reviewed by Goat and quoted 88 / 100
Alcest - Souvenirs dun Autre Monde reviewed by Alex and quoted 85 / 100
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