Based in Paris, Alcest are currently on their tour through North America and with Kodama they're showcasing one of the most popular ambient metal records of the past years. Right before their show in Montréal, Alex of Nous Étions sat down and wrote a review about Kodama, which is - according to him - his favorite album of last year.
Alcest has been running their game for quite a long time now - eighteen years or so. They have released five full-length albums and a couple of splits here and there and with Kodama they just released their latest work. This band has always been quite a hit or miss for most people I know, including myself. You either love them or hate them, but I surely can’t hate Kodama, which probably is their most consistent album they put out so far. But, don’t expect a black metal album, because it’s not. This album is basically how I wish Shelter would have been when it came out, not that it’s a bad record or anything, but for me it feels like Alcest's bastard child.
During the six tracks of the record - seven if you purchase the deluxe version of the album - Winterhalter delivers the proof that he can do no wrong on drums. The record is full of tasty fills and patterns that will stick right upon the first listen. The production is stellar and worth a mention since it’s been a while I’ve heard drums that sound as good as those on Kodama. I have had my fair share of bands that excessively use blast beats on each part of their songs and I’m glad it’s not the case on this record. Winterhalter really helps to shape the songs with his drumming and compliments Neige’s melodies, just the way they should - Eclosion, I’m looking at you. The bass work on this record is also a big improvement from their previous work, as it’s not just somewhere in the mix, backing up the guitar lines. Quite the opposite, there are several memorable bass lines, that easily get stuck in your head. The true showcasing here for me is the guitar display and the vocals, Neige’s guitar work on Kodama is very dreamy and catchy, it pretty much picks up where Écailles De Lune left us a couple of years ago and you can tell he’s been having a post-rock binge lately. The vocals are for the most part clean vocals, but when Neige’s black metal shrieks kick in on Eclosion, you can feel that he hasn’t lost it at all. The only weak moment on this album can be found during the closing track, Onyx, which is basically a part of another song - just played backward.
If you’re (already) tired of the new-wave of pseudo-post-black metal bands (whatever the kids call it these days) and looking for a decent heartfelt metal record, give Kodama a spin. This record deserves its place among other giants like Explosions In The Sky, Ulver or Agalloch (sorry, no Deafheaven). It is a demonstration that Alcest is back at it again after a weaker album (hey, Shelter) and still kicking it after all those years. Worth a listen, you’ll be left wanting more. 9/10
Favorite tracks: Eclosion, Kodama.
"Pierce the thick skin that weighs upon my shoulders. Tear it off of me. Limb by limb. Piece by piece. So I may show you who I am beyond my body, beyond my flesh. So you may catch a glimpse of my non-human shards of light."
links: Alceset + Nous Étions