Alcest - Kodama album review

Fascinating mix of East and West positions the French duo Alcest at prog’s forefront.

Alcest - Kodama album cover

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There are times on Kodama when you get so lost in the musical miasma that it seems you’ve entered another universe, such is the compelling way in which Alcest have created sounds that envelop and beguile. On their fifth album, the French band pull in influences from Japanese quarters to augment European symphonic and black metal touches. In many respects, it’s easy to suggest that Alcest have encompassed everything they’ve done before, while expanding on the base.

That might indicate they’re content to throw anything and everything into the mix, but that’s not the case. What Kodama has is a refined focus, and it shows that the duo of Neige and Winterhalter – still the core of the band – are opening their horizons in an exciting yet gradual manner. When you listen to tracks such as Eclosion, Untouched and Oiseaux De Proie, what stands out is the way the musicians combine the intimacy of ambient flow with aggressive inferences and vast soundscapes, giving the compositions the atmosphere of a genuine cinematic experience. Alcest have long threatened to make an album that puts them right at the forefront of modern progressive music. This is the one.

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica (opens in new tab), published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009.