Alcest - Kodama
Post-black metal
6 songs (42' 14")
Release year: 2016
Alcest, Prophecy
Reviewed by Andy

Ah, Alcest: One of the few black metal bands I can put on in the car that the whole family, including my pop-music-loving wife, will not only tolerate, but enjoy. Knowing some BM purists and their ways, the preceding sentence ought to be a kiss of death, but Alcest's sweet little melodies and airy vocals are surprisingly uncontroversial. A little of that might be because they're originals who pioneered many aspects of the blackgaze sound, or because it never sounds like they're gunning for mainstream popularity no matter how accessible their songs are -- but mostly, I think, it's because they are extremely good at what they do. Kodama, their latest LP, may be musically light as a souffle, but the quality of the album is solid as a rock.

Anyone hoping Neige's black metal vocals would come back is going to get a nice surprise. Of course it's used sparingly, but it supplies valuable heaviness to go with the unconventional strumming patterns, all airy things twittering up in the upper register. The clean vocals are just right, high without a hint of a whine, and often shyly disappearing behind the instrumentals and guitar layers. The bass is more heavily used in Kodama's title track, giving a sense of hypnotic motion to the song, and the heavier guitar breaks found on Écailles de lune underscore both blackened screams and ethereal choruses. Even songs that start in a calmer vein still get treated as if they are in motion -- Untouched, for example, would be a fairly slow song without Winterhalter's complex beats driving it along.

Speaking of those beats, the role of the drums has been expanded in Kodama. The production, already very nice, is exquisite enough to treat the hi-hat brushing on Oiseaux de proie on an equal level with the tremolo picking and blastbeats happening at the same time; if anything, this is probably the cleanest and most detailed sound job they've done on an album yet. Consequently, they milk it for all it is worth, playing in an echoing waterfall of sound. Melody-wise, the tunes they stick on every single track are pretty, dreamy, almost childlike -- and deeply French. The only real concession to greater darkness or harshness is on Onyx, a song layered so thickly that the lightness of the sound becomes darker and more somber.

Kodama, which is arranged as a concept album based on the Myazaki film "Princess Mononoke", was supposed to be inspired by Japanese culture, but there are only light touches of that that I can tell, other than the artwork, so I'm not entirely sure it succeeds in this regard. But it doesn't really matter. What the listener does get is not a new sound or concept, but possibly the most complete return to the form of Écailles de lune, which, let's face it, is what a large percentage of fans were hoping for. This is not only a nice album for the discerning metalhead to listen to, it is also a good introduction to modern post-black metal for friends and family who prefer a lighter touch.


Killing Songs :
Kodama, Oiseaux de proie
Andy quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Alcest that we have reviewed:
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
Alcest - Le Secret reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
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