Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Prophecy Productions

Arriving safely by mail, with Matt Boroff's "Sweet Hand Of Fate" serving as it's companion during the course of said journey, "Shelter", which (even if it is actually the fourth studio release from this creative French outfit) was my first exposure to this unique act, had already peaked my interest before I even had a chance to unwrap the CD. Based-solely upon what I had read, whether within the confines of the e-mail asking me if I would be willing to give "Shelter" a listen (with the answer being a resounding "Yes!") or online in anticipation the CD's arrival, this two-man project from Bagnols-sur-Cèze, France could either be shoegaze act descended from a post-black metal band, a dream-pop act descended from an ambient black metal band or a little of both. Either way the band, which was founded in 2000 and is still lead by multi-instumentalist Neige (Stéphane Paut), began life under the black metal banner before evolving into the beautiful creature that stared back at me as I surveyed "Shelter". Taking the form of a concept album, with the title track accurately describing the direction in which this experimental album chooses to head, the album can best be described as a comfortable hiding place far away from life's noisy distractions. With the aid of Sigur Rós producer Birgir Jón Birgisson, guest's like Slowdrive's Neil Halsted ("Away", which is one of the tracks here that is sung in English, finds Neil Halsted's voice roaming the accent hallways of indie rock, a school where the sounds of authentic strings carelessly floated about in the background while it's students created dream-like alternative music) and singer-songwriter Billie Lindahl (Promise And The Monster) and with ex-Peste Noire drummer Winterhalter serving as the second part of the two-man equation, Neige has managed to re-write the book on how to properly nurture your (humble) black metal roots so that they can be deconstructed and then carefully reassembled into a (dream-like) soundtrack where melancholy is more the norm the anything else. And yet, as offered by the album's opener "Wings" and this releases' first single, "Opale" (fittingly track one and track two), "Shelter" isn't entirely bleak to the point of absolute despair. In actuality these two numbers, which (for better or worse) end up falling somewhere between dreamy pop, classic rock and shoeglaze, were seemingly made/hand-crafted with love to serve as the perfect backdrop for all of the imposing snow that my part of the East coast has been buried under. Or at least that is how I perceived such an offering. On a day in which the temperature hardly rose above the teens, and with more mountains of snow being threatened for the days ahead (or is that weeks ahead?), such numbers as "Wings" and "Opale" cut (more then) a welcoming pathway in the roadway ahead. It's one (the surgical cut of these two numbers) that is filled with light and welcoming warmth even when faced with the cold and bitter darkness that is Ohio in January. Could it be that this melodic album, despite the recurring appearance of post-black metal ghosts, is remarkably "alive" and, as such, could be viewed as if it's attempting to pass itself off as the ultimate wolf in sheep's clothing? Is this a death-rock album pretending that it is some sort of pop-oriented rock and roll creature? Dolled up and rolled out as if to lull the audience into not looking past it's fake makeup? For whatever reason I was reminded of the line in "Carry On My Wayward Son" where it goes "Masquerading as a man with a reason. My charade is the event of the season". Neige has changed in his appearance, but the charade can only go on for so long right?  Or maybe it can. For even as "L'Eveil Des Muse", which is undercut with the presence of darkness and despair (or at least in it's opening), manages to convey this feeling of helplessness and abandonment you still find yourself being drawn in closer and closer as if pulled by some mysterious force that you just can't see. Whether by way of it's evocative guitar playing, a highlight not only on this track but throughout all of "Shelter", or Neige's oddly calm voice one fact is routinely exposed. Even at it's darkest, when you know you are looking right into the very abyss that is nothingness, the latest release from Alcest is a dream paradise and it is the soundtrack of the any-man as he reaches forward in hopefulness, with out-stretched and longing hands, that he might just find a way to return to the warmth and security of his mother's womb. Does he find it? Can any of us really hope to find that again? The only answer I can give is to listen to "Shelter" for yourself and then decide. Is it a journey we can ever really hope to take or is it just the reality that some of us can only dare an escape while within the comfort of our nightly dreams...

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