"Alcest are blackgaze’s undisputed masters, no matter how far they sometimes run." Black metal pioneers Alcest return to their roots on Les Chants De L’Aurore

Alcest might have a complicated relationship with blackgaze, but they return to the style with stunning results on new album Les Chants De L'Aurore

Alcest 2024 press pic
(Image: © Andy Julia)

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Stéphane 'Neige' Paut's relationship with blackgaze is almost as volatile yet undying as Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne. The Alcest architect arguably invented the genre with the project’s 2005 EP Le Secret, but since then he’s thrice tried to escape its shadow: on the wholly post-rocking Souvenirs D’Un Autre Monde and Shelter albums, then most recently with 2019’s more metallic and cathartic Spiritual Instinct

Unsurprisingly, the singer/multi-instrumentalist – joined by drummer Jean ‘Winterhalter’ Deflandre since 2009 – has always immediately returned to blackgaze’s dynamics, and Les Chants De L’Aurore marks yet another reunion. The guitars, razor-sharp on Spiritual Instinct, are tempered this time out, opener Komorebi pairing them with rich, symphonic strings. Winterhalter also dials down the aggro and, even when he occasionally picks up speed, Neige’s angelic vocals dominate the mix, their beauty washing away much of the brutality. 

This is nothing that longtime fans of the French duo haven’t heard by now, especially on such beloved opuses as Écailles De Lune and Les Voyages De L’âme, yet Alcest prove that they can still wield the same cues to tearjerking effect. Midpoint Flamme Jumelle commences with blissful but bouncy guitar and then builds, with laidback percussion and sweet singing slotted on top. 

The one-two punch of Réminiscence and L’Enfant De La Lune swiftly follows and expresses the full breadth of the blackgaze sound, as the former’s piano-centric interlude is contrasted with a seven-minute dynamo, composed equally of emotion and blastbeats. 

It would be easy to chastise Alcest for choosing the safe option on album number seven, returning to well-trodden territory after Spiritual Instinct darted down some legitimately new avenues. But the fact remains: this band’s signature style still plucks heartstrings. Alcest are blackgaze’s undisputed masters, no matter how far they sometimes run, and here they have again proven why.

Les Chants De L’Aurore is out June 21 via Nuclear Blast. 

ALCEST - Flamme Jumelle (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) - YouTube ALCEST - Flamme Jumelle (OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO) - YouTube
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Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.