To get started, let me state for the record that I have always been a fan of ‘shoe-gaze’ and ‘post’ styles of black metal, some of my recent favourite black metal has been of this variety. I am also a massive fan of the sounds of bands such as Agalloch and I can hear hints of their style on Alcest’s Spiritual Instinct. That being said, I find the music on this release extremely underwhelming. I know Alcest are not known for being a very heavy band but the metal elements they did incorporate on previous records were enough to draw me into the music. This new album just feels like it goes nowhere and leaves me thoroughly wanting.
This release reminds me of a record for people who don’t really like black metal but want to still feel part of the scene. That may seem a little harsh, who am I to say who Alcest are marketing to but as someone who enjoyed their previous releases this lighter sound just leaves me unsatisfied. The music has no significant highs and much of the writing feels like an extended filler track. To make it clear that I am not being antagonistic for the sake of it, I listened to this record many times. The first time I felt like it hadn’t grabbed me but I was willing to let it. After my fifth or sixth listen I found myself profoundly bored. To make matters worse, occasionally a track would come on that peaked my interest. I would then discover that Spotify had finished playing the new album and skipped onto some of their older tracks. This happened more than once before I realised that nothing on this release was going to entice me. As hard as I tried to give it a chance, it just never clicked.
So as not to be unfair I should state that the performance by the band is more than competent, all the musicians hold their own but the writing is where it all falls flat. If I am to praise this release on any other front it would have to be the production. No one can deny this album sounds professional. The quality of the recording is inviting and rich and does not disappoint from an engineer’s point of view. However, that is where my praise ends. I feel this compliment is also bittersweet because money can buy you good gear, engineers and technicians but it can’t write inspired music for you.
Alcest has never been a band I love or hate. I can without a doubt say I have greatly appreciated some of their earlier music but they are a band that I have never followed closely. This disclaimer hopefully makes it clear that I have no beef with the band and also never loved them enough to care if they make good or bad music but if I’m being honest to myself this album just does nothing for me. I have no ill will towards the band I wish them the best of success. I would not say this album is objectively bad and that no one should listen to it but it just isn’t my cup of tea. So before I rattle any more cages I am going to end this review here. Please feel free to drop me hate mail, I crave the recognition.
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You can acquire a digital copy of Spiritual Instinct via Alcest’s Bandcamp page. Also, be sure to follow Alcest on Facebook to stay up-to-date on new output from the outfit.
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