If you’re in any way at all half interested in the Black Metal scene it will have been hard to avoid the whimsical French outfit ALCEST. From their debut opus “Souvenirs d’un Autre Monde” up to the recent release “Les Voyages de l'Âme” which they are currently touring, it’s hard to deny that Neige has been somewhat revolutionary in creating the reflective fusion of washed out shoegazing and abrasive black metal.
It was Glasgow’s turn this time to experience the sonic din of Neige and co. Supported by gloomy goths SOROR DOLOROSA, LES DISCRETS and Scottish debutants FALLOCH, anyone into the lighter side that metal currently has to offer was certainly in for a special night. Which brings us to FALLOCH. In the chance you’ve been living in a dustbin the past year or so, FALLOCH recently released their critically well received debut album on Candlelight last year, and being huge ALCEST fans themselves, what better way to showcase your music than in front of a room full of like minded people? This was the only date on the tour that got FALLOCH, so it was an extra special night for some, and their brand of post rock influenced Black Metal certainly won them more than a few fans. Ok the singer may appear as if he’s just walked out of a HATEBREED gig, but disregarding such trivial matters it’s quickly apparent that their material crosses over into the live environment extremely well. It’s a pity they only got a couple of songs, but being a support band with tracks which average around ten minutes will do that to you. It’s a pity as Andy and co. were fantastic, especially remarkable given the gigs they’ve played so far you could count on one hand.
And so the French took over with SOROR DOLOROSA. Some may know the rather enigmatic front man Andy Julia from his brief dabbling in the Black Metal scene but other than that most of the crowd were rather oblivious. With what’s best described as one part Rozz Williams, one part Robert Smith and one part lunatic as he clutches at the microphone with the desperation of a nicotine starved Andrew Eldritch he howls and wails his way through the band’s self titled album and debut EP with a determination and pomposity that can only be applauded. Ok so they’re a bunch of leather clad Goths stuck in the eighties, which was visibly not to everyone’s taste, but to someone like me who adores everything black and gloomy from that period they were flat out awesome to these ears. If you’re at all a fan any of the old school goth bands from the eighties you’ll love them, as they stay true to their roots with their brand of guitar driven desperation comparable to THE CURE. Someone needs to give Andy a pound or two for a new t-shirt though, as his nigh unrecognisable excuse for a FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM t-shirt apparently worn since day one of the tour made him look like a Cathouse regular who had just wondered up onstage off the street after a fight with a tiger.
The ever cool Fursey Teyssier is up next, looking as if he’d just walked straight out of 50’s New York, he and his crew of usually restrained shoegazers throw off their chains and crank up the distortion and volume to an intensity which could only leave me open mouthed. I was always a bit passive regarding LES DISCRETS, but after watching them blow the place apart with their hugely MBV-esque wall of noise, technical hitches included, my opinion has changed completely.
Which leads only to the main attraction, ALCEST. And holy fuck did they impress or what. Previous live experiences of ALCEST consisted of only an alcohol fuelled haze from Dublin where they were also very good last September, but this time around Neige, Winterhalter, Indria and Zero were utterly astounding, on a completely different plane altogether. Preffering the material off their last two albums they frequently spun the audience into a trance with their huge noisy waves of pulsating distortion and effervescent picking. Neige’s vocals were hard to pick up, but apparently that’s the way he prefers them when performing live, buried beneath everything else. Among the highlights were the vibrant “Là Où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles” and the beautifully delicate “Sur L'Ocean Couleur de Fer”. “Ciel Errant” and "Percées de Lumière" closed a performance which could only be described as nothing short of spellbinding. Until you’ve witnessed them in the live environment, you haven’t experienced the full grandiose majesty and beauty of ALCEST. It’s very rare I ever walk out of a gig totally mesmerized by what I’ve just seen, but they achieved that tonight. For those who have yet to see them, you’re sorely missing out.