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Alcest – “Kodama”

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Few things please me more than watching the originators of a style slap the shit out of their imitators. After djent clogged the digital airwaves at the start of the decade, Meshuggah’s Koloss felt like a revelation. Not only because it reminded the world that they had invented, and perfected, the style that lesser bands were running into the ground, but because that album’s organic production and simplified songwriting felt like a direct response to the overly digitized sound of their progeny.

Alcest have found themselves in a similar predicament. Ever since abandoning metal for the greener pastures of dream pop on Shelter everyone from Ray-Ban sporting Californians to controversy courting Canadians have taken their blend of black metal and melancholic shoegaze and ran with it. The metal world is awash with reverb and twinkling major key melodies, all because Neige realized that mixing blast beats and Slowdive was a perfect way to capture wistful nostalgia and heart-rendering longing.

I doubt that Alcest are actually concerned with showing up the rest of the post-black metal scene, they seem way too nice and well-adjusted for that kind of Michael Jordan-esque pettiness. But whether teaching the upstarts a lesson was their intention or not, their upcoming album Kodama is definitely going to raise the bar for anyone trying to get some of that sweet, sweet, Sunbather money. Kodama is a much harder edged release than Shelter, or any of Alcest’s records this decade for that matter. They haven’t turned into Deathspell Omega or anything, but the harsh vocals and blast beats that had been slowly phased out are back, along with the sense that Alcest are playing within the metal idiom, rather than a shoegaze one.

The album’s title track, which you can listen to below, is a perfect example of Alcest’s renewed bite. The song is still plenty pretty, the fluttering melody at around the two minute mark is Alcest at their dreamiest, but the tone is less idyllic a good deal more urgent. Most modern Alcest songs luxuriate in their own ecstasy, this one tumbles towards Neige’s dream world head first.

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Kodama is out via Prophecy Records on September 30th. Follow the band on Facebook.

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