Alcest: Shelter

The French duo’s baleful, beautiful fourth album.

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Listening to Shelter it’s almost impossible to believe that France’s Alcest were originally lumped in with the black metal genre. The duo is led by mainman Neige, who writes and arranges the music and plays everything except drums (the responsibility of the mysteriously-monikered Winterhalter).

Shelter is their fourth full-length album, and while Neige’s black metal roots have been detectable in previous releases there’s not the slightest trace of them here. The eight- track offering might be full of gauzy, shoegazey guitar textures it somehow manages to be at once dreamy and nightmarish.

Conceptually, the title says it all: the recurring themes are of self-abandonment and isolation, nowhere more evident than on Away (unusually for Alcest, sung in English instead of French).

The spectral chant ‘To the gleaming shelters/Hidden somewhere in the sun/Far away from this world/Far away’ will have you battening down the hatches and sitting in by yourself in a gloomy coalbunker until July at the earliest. And then along comes closer Délivrance to extend that deadline ’til Christmas.

It’s a deeply affecting album, a work of mournful, baleful beauty.

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.