Alcest album review – Kodama

Pensive pioneers Alcest weave an immersive spell with new album

Alcest album cover 'Kodama'

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Pioneers for the ever-growing ‘blackgaze’ movement, Alcest’s approach to heavy music is an evolving one. Previous album Shelter dipped its toe into a dreamier, more fragile realm but here the French duo have created something deeper and darker.

Opening on the nine-minute title track, Kodama isn’t an album to toss on casually; you need to commit both your time and your mind to fully explore the vast soundscape on offer.

In typical shoegaze style, the album is a mishmash of frantic guitars and snare bashing, but intertwined with haunting, ghostly vocals. It’s 11 minutes before any harsh vocals come in, but no one element dominates the intense noise. Everything works in tandem to create a vast collage of bliss and despair – from the ethereal, almost joyous aura of Eclosion to the bleakness of Je Suis D’Ailleurs. Never rushing, but always growing, Kodama is an intricate tapestry. While the likes of Deafheaven and Ghost Bath are more metallic in their approach, Alcest are less overtly aggressive, focusing on the arcs rather than the attack. Every nuance is honed and every note is purposeful in its delivery, constructing such an emotive goliath of sound that you need a moment’s silence once the final track has played out.Breathtaking.

Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.