We sent Blocland’s #1 metal correspondent and overall #6 writer to experience black gaze titans, Alcest. Here’s what happened.
As a sort of sociological experiment, I decided to bring a long a non metal friend to see what would happen. Of course, she had never heard of Alcest and can’t tell her ass from black gaze, but she’s up for anything and if you can’t get behind Alcest, don’t fuck with me. Well, that’s unfair. We all have our different tastes and opinions. It’s what makes us the unique little snowflakes we all are. Variety is the spice of life.
I walk into the house and she’s busy taping her eye lids or some shit. Clearly she was determined to push this make up scheme to it’s absolute brink. Strap in, folks. We’re gonna be here for a while.
So, I help myself to a falafel. What’s key here is this was left over falafel I was dealing with. The first step is to heat it up. Do this with a microwave. No need to get fancy or over the top. Apparently the outlet the microwave currently resides in is touchy. Heating up this falafel took a few more tries than I had anticipated. At one point I had to reset the display time, but microwave set that as the cook time. So, now I have a falafel sitting in the microwave for 7 and half minutes. A ridiculous time for heating anything. So the time is now 7:30 and the doors are opening. She’s still plugging away at that makeup. No big deal. There’s two openers and I don’t care about Creepers at all. We probably won’t miss anything. Right? Right?!?
My friend, makes the comment that my hair is looking a little dry and hands me a bottle of something or other that should do the trick. I take heed of her advice not to put too much in. I’m a man with fairly long hair. When you enter that lifestyle you have to make sure it is properly kept. Much like you would with facial hair or other bodily features. I don’t go all out, but I’ll be damned if my shampoo doesn’t have some vitamin E. You don’t want to end up looking like you’re in the ninth grade and count Jim Morrison as a personal hero. Besides, I can’t let Neige see me looking like a ragamuffin.
Time – 7:58
The makeup is done, my hair is properly moisturized, and I had all the falafel I could want. Let’s go. Nope, not yet. Her boyfriend just walked in. Now it’s time for a smoke break.
Christ on his throne…
OK. We’re finally at the venue and Creepers are just setting up. They played some particularly sleepy shoe gaze mixed with the sounds dolphins and humpback whales make. They were alright. The real treat was the revelation that the rhythm guitarist and drummer from Deafheaven are in the band. It clicked immediately after the announcement. Shiv Mehra definitely brings some particularly Deafheaven-y guitar lines to the fold. Daniel Tracey didn’t play any blast beats, but you can recognize his playing style a mile away. The whole time I was thinking, “Damn, imagine this drummer in a better band”. You should see these two when they’re playing in Deafheaven. But I don’t want to trash on Creepers. They seemed very nice. And the music wasn’t bad. It made me feel like I was in a washing machine.
After the Creepers set it was time for another smoke break. I don’t smoke, but heading outside is better than sitting around by myself inside hearing people make incorrect claims about how much better Pure Holocaust is than Sons of Northern Darkness or some shit.
Next up was The Body. The only light in the room came from the exit sign and the projector behind them playing old horror clips and what looked like surgical footage. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect from them. I’m only kind of familiar with their stuff. I’ve heard No One Deserves Happiness and Christ Redeemers, but I didn’t recognize any of the songs they played. Truth be told, I’m not even sure if they actually played “songs”. I’m pretty sure they were just twiddling some knobs. I don’t really know where to place The Body in the metal universe. This seemed like an all out noise set. Despite my confusion, I am fucking here for The Body now! I don’t really need to see them again, but it was quite the experience. My friend was less enthusiastic and I promptly apologized.
*Stray observation – One of the guys in The Body was wearing a Weeknd long sleeve and I laughed.
Oh yeah, and Alcest was there too. Neige was wearing a glow-in-the-dark Dinosaur Jr. shirt, because of course he was. Something that always tickles me is how hard metal fans try to make it look like they like metal at these shows. There’s always battle jackets covered in patches and at least one spiked leather jacket. But it’s important to note that I debated on whether I wanted to wear my Inter Arma shirt or Deafheaven shirt. I went with Inter Arma, but I regret it because I’m sure Creepers would’ve appreciated the later. Or maybe they hate Deafheaven because they probably won’t reach their level of acclaim and toil in obscurity until they break up in a year from now. Hmmm…
Alcest is responsible for releasing what I would consider three of my favorite albums of the current decade. The debut album, Souvenirs d’un autre monde is one of my all-time favorite albums. So expectations were. I’m happy to report that they exceeded. It was fucking great. It’s just stupidly beautiful. I teared up during “Oiseaux de proie” and again during “La ou naissent les couleurs nouvellas”. Watching a band full of French guys playing this gorgeous music while flipping their waist length hair around only furthered my hypothesis that they aren’t human. One of the main reasons for my metal obsession, particularly black metal, is I find it incredibly cathartic. There isn’t a band that feels better to me than Alcest. If I could reach out and give the music a big old hug, I would. I’m sure it would hug me back.
From a purely compositional perspective, this is some next level stuff. No offense to The Body or Creepers, but they got blown away. It’s difficult to place an emphasis on emotion and technical chops at the same time, but Alcest pull it off. The moment where the drums and guitars lock in on “Oiseaux” is a thing of beauty you should all experience live with a big dumb teary eyed grin on your face like me.
I have to talk about Neige’s stage presence too. There’s no one in metal more endearing than Neige. He spent the whole show with a little smile on his face. It’s customary to thank the crowd, but Neige seemed genuinely appreciative and surprised by the response. The crowd was going fucking nuts, by the way. He had a lot more to say than I thought he would. Choice quotes (read in thick french accent): “This song is about the sea” and “The Body are fucking amazing”. He would announce what song they were about to play, but all of the titles are in french. Of course, this didn’t stop some jackasse from letting out a “woo” every time. To which I thought “You don’t know what the fuck he just said”.
My favorite non musical moment was after “Sur l’ocean couleur de fer”. Someone in the crowd said “That was beautiful”. Neige smiled, looked down at his feet, shrugged, and replied with a slight chuckle and “thank you”. My friend leaned over and said “I love him”. And that people, is the essence of Alcest.
I give it a: definitely go see Alcest.
What I drank: a miller lite, a tall boy of PBR, a “or something” which I’m pretty sure was a Sprite, and a lot of water because a man has to be responsible.