Impressive and immortal French shoegazers deliver

January 30 at Beta 

Despite having a seriously dedicated family following, the heavy metal subculture has several hefty internal wars. Different axes in the acrimonious discussion of the ‘best’ in metal include the ultra-conservative fans who swear an allegiance only to the most unrefined, pure and stringent compositions within several subgenres. On the other hand, we have recently seen a rise in fans who eagerly anticipate evolution and thereby experimentation within the kaleidoscope of genres, which are presently uncountable in nature. 

Alcest is a French project anchored by the visionary Neige, who despite having previous musical endeavours firmly planted in black metal has successful morphed Alcest into an artistic movement that embraces post rock in the same vein as Sigur Ros but with a grittier and heavier edge. 

To my surprise, Beta was the venue that booked this very promising act that delivered a fantastic sold-out show last Thursday. Despite the somewhat boring ‘shoegaze’ nature of post-rock, Alcest completely absorbed the audience with an emotional journey of nostalgia, melancholia and determined hope. To those lifting an eyebrow, shoegaze refers to bands that remain relatively static on stage, primarily due to a focus on seamless instrumentation and use of effect pedals, hence ‘gazing at their shoes’.

An interesting and rather poppy performance by indie outfit The Fauns initiated the evening, followed by another commendable and very quirky psychedelic rock experience in the form of Finnish ensemble Hexxvessel. 

The opening numbers ‘Winds’ and ‘Opale’ introduced Alcest to the stage in the most invigorating and captivating manner. It is clear that Alcest are eagerly promoting their latest record Shelter, selections from which featured heavily throughout the evening. 

For fans of the older and much heavier Alcest, they band delivered with ‘Percées De Lumiére’, which maintained the characteristic black metal shrieks, a nice touch that shows that Neige is not forgetting his musical past. One of the prime highlights was the performance of the highly sentimental ‘Shelter’, a song echoing timbres of colours in one’s imagination. It was frankly beautiful and half the audience stood swaying with closed eyes. After ‘Souvenirs d’un autre monde’ sealed the initial set, the audience stood awaiting their return for the final masterpiece ‘Delivrance’, a song that closes the Shelter album fantastically and works even better in a live setting. 

Alcest clearly have a skill in creating emotionally jerking, yet extremely meditative music that envelopes the audience during their live performance. In addition to that, Beta provided a sound venue with near perfect sound conditions. I predict that Alcest can reach starry heights with this project, and I hope to see them again soon, but I reckon it’s the last time I’ll see them in such intimate settings, and for that reason I see this concert as a once in a lifetime experience, which merits full grades from this reviewer.