French duo Alcest describe their sound as ‘music from another world, a world that is real, that exists beyond ours and cannot be grasped by our senses.’ As the final step of their gradual transformation from artistic black metallers to sophisticated shoegazers, their fourth opus Shelter plunges directly into this ‘other world,’ peacefully retreating from the humdrum mundanity of modern living, in the context of a blissfully immersive experience.
Exclusively tackling the delicate facets of the band, the album consists of everything that someone who introspectively appreciates music could possibly dream of. During a concise eight tracks filled with transcendent guitar leads and ethereal layered melodies, the laid-back atmospheres are strong enough to cloud any memories of the harsh blastbeats and tortured screams of the past. It feels like Neige – the mastermind of the band – has shed his metallic skin and the tranquility which previously bubbled underneath the surface, is now at the forefront.
As a result, depending on preference, Shelter could either be considered a resounding triumph or a bit of a failure, just as any stylistic change would. A windmilling metalhead might attempt to whip their hair back and forth to the album, but after a while they’d soon realise that the restrained tempos are better suited to a contemplative stroke of the chin. At the same time, music nerds may enjoy the bands production tricks, textures and spiritual lyricism when it’s flowing through a set of expensive speakers, but these qualities won’t reveal themselves to people who become giddy about christening their new earphones from Poundland.
Shelter is an album that requires time, effort and respect. Only then does it become a rewarding experience with enough moments of melancholy and optimism to conjure up the ‘new world’ that Alcest intends. But once immersed in this world, anyone who welcomes the dreamlike atmospheres and pulsating soundscapes it offers, won’t want to leave.