Blackgaze pioneers Alcest dive back into metal territories without losing any of their ethereal powers. "Spiritual Instinct" might be their most balanced full-length to date, and sees the band reach for breathtaking new heights in a genre they started defining nearly 20 years ago.
On their sixth album and first for Nuclear Blast, both metal and shoegaze parts of Alcest’s DNA seem to coexist as harmoniously as ever, allowing them to go further in both directions.
The influence of the second wave of Scandinavian black metal rarely appeared so undiluted in their music. And the amount of astonishing riffs and cascades of blast beats here never overshadows an impeccable songwriting that has all the brilliance of the early days of Ride and radiates with the same mysterious halo that can be heard on the Cocteau Twins’ work.
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For principal songwriter and frontman Neige, Alcest has always been a gateway to the otherworldly, a means of exploring his spirituality. An elemental two-piece, completed by long-serving drummer and creative confidante Winterhalter, their sixth album Spiritual Instinct finds Neige at his most personal. “This time I had something urgent to put on the table,” he explains. “It is a very cathartic record- something needed to get out of me. It’s darker than usual, and heavier.”
Written in bursts both during and after a prolonged period of touring in support of 2016’s hugely successful Kodama, the sense of urgency Neige speaks of manifests in a record full of spontaneity, of immediate impact- be that in the breath-taking pace of Les Jardin De Minuit’s tempo changes, or Sapphire’s sun-kissed harmonies over an impermeable back beat, one thing Spiritual Instinct has is riffs, an acknowledgement and celebration of the black metal foundations that anchor their uplifting post-metal.
The tension at the record’s vital core comes from Neige facing the darker aspects of his personality and fighting to reconnect with his spiritual essence, to conquer adversity and grow. The inner conflict and desire for self-betterment fuels the record’s penultimate track Le Miroir, by turns gnashing and baleful, but as ever with Alcest, beautifully gilded and fueled by grace. Spiritual Instinct may well articulate Neige’s battle with existential anxiety, but he is keen to impress that at the core of his music is empowerment, of finding a path through darkness and towards the light.