"Les Voyages de L'âme" ("The Journeys of the Soul") is Alcest's third album and contains the quintessence of the group's creative work to date. While "Le Secret," the debut EP from 2005, was the key to the world of Alcest, "Les Voyages ..." unites everything that characterizes Alcest in terms of concept and music. Something that is common to all of the songs is the predominant feeling of euphoria and bliss, always subtly overshadowed by melancholia and yearning. "Les Voyages de L'âme" is a prime example of a wonderful piece of music, breaking all genre boundaries and enthusing fans of many different musical backgrounds. "Les Voyages de L'âme" is available in a regular jewel case edition, in special limited deluxe digipak format and as either black or white vinyl, gatefold LP.
French black metal has always been full of conceptual weirdness that pushes at the genre's narrow boundaries. The experimental tendencies of Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, to cite two examples, used black metal's nihilistic imagery, its buzzing attack, and screamed vocals to create different sonic palettes that bordered on the experimental -- no matter how aggressive. None have pushed the envelope as far as Alcest, however, with its meld of black metal's buzz, shoegaze's gorgeous melodies, ambient soundscapes, and feedback. Les Voyages de l'Âme, Alcest's third full-length, arrives with great expectations based -- rightfully -- on the shock-of-the-new that greeted their debut, Souvenirs d'un Autre Monde, and its more compelling follow-up Ecailles de Lune. Alcest stands in its own "blackgaze" space at the crossroads of Burzum's Filosofem and My Bloody Valentine's Loveless. But one wonders how black that space can actually be with melodies that are so consciously attractive and lyrics that reject negativity. Founder, songwriter, and guitarist Neige was a one-man show until recently when Winterhalter was added on drums, and two more musicians for performances. Which brings us to Les Voyages de l'Âme (translation: Journeys of the Soul). Since the concept of Alcest's sound is no longer new or novel, the music has to be judged on its own merit. Their sound is essentially unchanged, though its production values have improved. In its harmonic sophistication and layered sonic wash, its ability to create something approaching bliss has increased. Neige's vocals, decipherable at times, are all in French. They're meant to be another layer of that atmospheric palette; when they can be understood in the mix they celebrate something spiritually positive, distancing their music from that of black metal even further. Multi-tracked electric and acoustic guitars and tension-tuned basses meet washes of synth and Winterhalter's tom-tom-heavy drum attack (no blastbeats) in songs that stay far from the nihilism and embrace the experience of beauty found in the indefinable space between spiritual, human, and natural worlds. The sense of "heaviness" in the mix is pronounced, it uses aggression in a celebratory manner as evidenced by opener "Autre Temps" and closer "Summer Glory." Even at its harshest, when Neige is screaming, as on Là où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles and Faiseurs de Mondes," the melodic beauty of the guitars seems to open further, ensuring balance. This is not music created to accuse or express violence of any kind; its invitation to the listener to enter into their soundworld is a cornerstone in Alcest's aesthetic. Les Voyages de l'Âme is a conscious synthesis of the music from their two previous albums, rather than a move forward. And that's fine: assessment and integration and perfecting previous ideas and forms are important aspects of any serious attempt at making art. And make no mistake, Les Voyages de l'Âme attempts just that. Whether it's their finest recorded moment is a debate listeners will have to have internally. That said, Les Voyages de l'Âme is a great record; self- defining and alluringly elusive. --Thom Jurek - All Music Guide