Alcest have used the label shift to Nuclear Blast is justification for a heightened sense of heaviness, foreboding and grimness in line with their early black metal days.
With ‘Protection’, the albums’ lead single, some fans were surprised by the increased intensity of dark grooves, immense rhythmic passages and sections of blackened-but-beautiful blast beats and riffs. While returning to their metal roots after 2014’s mellow shoegaze album Shelter and not content to coast on the back of Kodama’s popular blackgaze, Alcest have now presented their fans with the challenge of accessibility.
Quite unrelenting in its primeval force and sonic might, Spiritual Instinct sees Neige deliver intense clean vocals and rough screaming amongst some epic choral lines of multi-layered ethereal vocals. Third track ‘Sapphire’ is a prime example of this, although the piece eventually shifts back to a harsh post-black metal sound before calmly winding to a close. As is the case with certain modern metal bands, the concept of musical effectiveness through simplicity allows certain guitar parts and vocal hooks to remain easily memorable. Adapting to the rhythmic intensity of the album, drummer Jean ‘Winterhalter’ Deflandre fulfils his role as a ‘song-drummer’ by serving the style of the pieces and offering the appropriate amount of syncopated complexity.
Through being championed as a pioneering group for the recent black-metal-meets-shoegaze, or ‘blackgaze’ sound, Alcest creatively maintain this reputation while journeying to a new field of progression through re-introducing some classic black metal elements. Along with ‘Sapphire’, fourth track ‘L’Île Des Morts’ (‘Island Of The Dead’) stands out as a favourite, and is also Spiritual Instinct’s longest track. It’s often refreshing to hear a notably established group stay true to the belief of less being more, with uncluttered and gradual compositions and seismic walls of sound. If you’re aware of Neige’s rumoured childhood experiences with the mystical realm of ‘fairy land’, one can’t help but think that the song titles instil this air of fantasy, with an adaptation of the powerful mythological griffin creature being chosen as the album cover.
While familiar with the name, I hadn’t properly listened to Alcest before, but Spiritual Instinct has encouraged me to seek out more from this surprising and unique band. After getting back on the gig circuit with their two touring live members, guitarist Zero and bassist Indria Saray, these songs will be even heavier, and are sure to carry Alcest into some prime creative territory.
Les Jardins De Minuit (Gardens Of Midnight)
L’Île Des Morts (Island Of The Dead)
Le Miroir (The Mirror)