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Alcest - "Le Secret" (CD)

Alcest - "Le Secret" CD cover image

"Le Secret" track listing:

1. The Secret (2011)
2. Elevation (2011)
3. Le Secret (2005)
4. Elevation (2005)

Reviewed by on July 30, 2011

"Their first proper recording, the 2005 'Le Secret' EP, typifies the shoegaze sound with spacey guitar effects, vocals lingering in the background and moods and rhythms normally reserved for the alternative/indie rock scenes."

Whether they like it or not, Alcest has become the model for explaining the shoegaze/post-rock, black metal phenomenon. Their first proper recording, the 2005 “Le Secret" EP, typifies the shoegaze sound with spacey guitar effects, vocals lingering in the background and moods and rhythms normally reserved for the alternative/indie rock scenes. The atmosphere generated through albums such as this is one of the facets that hooked listeners on this type of music in the first place. So making available one of the figurehead albums seems a just move by Prophecy Productions.

This version of “Le Secret” contains the two, original tracks that comprised the EP, plus better-produced, re-recorded versions. The reworked versions sweep away many of the original impurities, thus volumizing each shimmering guitar note and heavenly keyboard passage. The original tracks are more in line with the raw sound of Alcest’s demo “Tristesse Hivernale.” I hesitate to call this raw production “necro” though, because that word brings to mind dark, morbid ideas that “Le Secret” simply doesn’t channel. Essentially, the album’s spry, upbeat tone is what makes it a special listen, whether that translates into a negative or positive experience for the listener.

The title track opens with serene, slumbering clean guitar notes that fans of Opeth and Agalloch should find moving. These soft notes continue until around the three-minute mark, when distorted guitar tones make their presence. Here, the rhythm conveys a triumphant, monumental feeling akin to the newer, progressive era of Enslaved. These tremolo-picked notes keep the rhythm frozen in motion until pounding drums come into the mix. Right up until the song’s ending, when the group returns to the lighter theme of the beginning, this song is very much black metal in technique, but the tone and vocals offer little in terms of the black metal ideal.

“Elevation” contains the shrieking vocals that the preceding track lacked; however, like the track’s title suggest, “Elevation” delivers uplifting music. The pace follows a similar course as the title track, moving between fast/pounding segments and slow/light passages. Choir keys usher the track in with an ethereal presence, while the fast parts instill feelings of yearning (check out In The Woods “Heart of the Ages” for comparison).

From the swirling guitars to the distant, seemingly disembodied vocals and fierce drumming, “Le Secret” deserves praise in many areas. Alcest sought to create an album of various emotions, an album that expresses happiness. In this regard, Alcest was successful. However, as the name suggests, black metal is meant to express dark, negative emotions. Even the bands that don’t hail the man below still keep their music on the dark side. Also, while metal is a form of music that has incorporated other genres, the alternative aspects Alcest brings to “Le Secret” should be left for alternative bands.

Highs: "Le Secret" contains rich ambiance.

Lows: Alcest instills qualities of alternative music that just don't work.

Bottom line: "Le Secret" is too fast and harsh for alternative/indie rock listeners and too upbeat for black metal fans. It's hard to say where this album belongs.

Rated 2.0 out of 5 skulls
2.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)