Review by Brian on February 1, 2014.
A lot of great bands make that album that will divide the fan base. An album that sees the band leave their comfort zone. An album written by the artist for the artist. An album that tests new waters. Ultimately an album that says the band doesn't want to write the same song over and over again for the next twenty years. That album is Shelter and that band is Alcest.
Like Opeth's Heritage or Mayhem's Grand Declaration of War, Shelter has Alcest choosing a new direction. Is it metal? No. Does that matter? No. Is it good? A resounding yes. Like those two albums mentioned Shelter will lose some old fans as well as pick up some new ones. Neige has composed his most beautiful songs to date. Shelter doesn't "rock out" like the previous two releases. It gains it's momentum through pure emotion. The songs never "kick in" with a heavy distorted guitar riff. However, this is not a bad thing, but just a different approach. Shelter is emotionally heavy and simply put some of the prettiest music that you will ever hear.
After a nice little intro titled "Wings", the first proper track on the album "Opale" immediately lets the listener know this is a different Alcest. A very catchy, poppy and happy sounding song and something that the band has never done before. This is new territory that they are exploring. However, aside from "Opale" the rest of the album is very much an Alcest album minus the metal. "L'Eveil des muses" is melancholic post-rock gem with it's reverb-laden guitars and Neige's long drawn out vocal approach that has become a staple of their sound. The title track follows and is on the happier sounding side of things. A very uplifting song that build and builds and Neige brings you into his childhood dream world. Again, these songs are all so beautiful. "Deliverance" closes things out. Another very uplifting song that is also melancholic at the same time. The female vocals, provided by Billie Lindahl, gives it that extra element of atmosphere.
The duo of Neige and Winterhalter have managed to create some of the most beautiful music ever. Shelter will leave some of their fans behind who need the black metal elements, but the true Alcest fans will love this album and realize that this is a natural progression. Remember their debut Souvenirs d'un autre monde was not a black metal album. With Shelter, Alcest go back to their roots, but this is a much more mature effort. If you are a fan of the metal side of Alcest then this album is not for you, but if you are a Alcest fan then you understand that this is where they were going and you will not be disappointed. Shelter is as beautiful and emotional of an album that I've ever heard.
Categorical Rating Breakdown
Rating: 8.6 out of 10