French acts have always been good at making unique, wayward music. Alcest is no exception luckily. With combining (post) Black Metal and Shoegaze Alcest has, deservedly, become an unique and well acclaimed act. For me it started with the superb album Shelter (2014) where Shoegaze had an almost total grip on the band while the follow up album Kodoma (2016) excelled in combining both genres again. Now principal songwriter and frontman Neige and his confidante Winterhalter are back with Animal Instinct which is introspect, more dark and heavier than its predecessors. And wow!…. Spiritual Instinct is a real gem. Kodoma was a real solid and emotional album but this album is surpassing it in quality and atmosphere, resulting in six lengthy outer-worldly delightful compositions. This personal journey really enthrals me with its dark and beautiful riffs, melodies and atmosphere.
“We don’t need churches, we don’t need bibles. Go to nature – that’s the most beautiful temple you can find. Life can be harsh, but it’s important to stay connected with your essence. If answers exists you might be more likely to find them within you.” Neige mentions on the accompanied document before reviewing this album. With that in mind I took a walk in the woods nearby trying to discover my essence…. The Animal Instinct of this album.
And the stroll in the woods starts with opener “Les Jardins de Minuit”. With a Shoegaze riff, defining bass and drums, aided with beautiful clean vocals before bursting in Post Black Metal galore and later on settling down in a black-gaze atmosphere it really feels like walking in a wild “Jardin”. A superb start for the album which definitely will make a great addition on their live set.
“Protection” is on the same path, lyrically covering the theme of inner humanity. Raw, dark and without any shell. The effective guitar riff, aided with primal drums and melodies on “Sapphire” is very catchy and leads into the superb “L’île Des Morts” which is an absolute masterpiece. Although its duration is over nine minutes this raw, dark gem does not get boring for even a second and grasps what Alcest is all about: haunting, beautiful, introvert, melancholic black-gaze at its best.
Accompanied with subtle keyboard and the beautiful voice of Neige Le Miroir keeps you dreaming and reflecting. Especially the mesmerising guitar melody is of consistent and mesmerising beauty which never ceases to get dull. Ending and title track “Spiritual Instinct” is a justifiable and sheer enjoyable track putting all pieces of the puzzle together.
This album is a spiritual journey into the depths of mankind’s essence. Re-defining and re-discovering yourself while you try to get sense of the meaning of life and your existence. Is there any meaning? I do not know, and this album does not give you the answers. What it does offer is a journey….a compelling, haunting, melancholic yet beautiful journey with interesting lyrical themes. If you like the genre and/or Alcest this album just will not disappoint. If you are not a fan of the genre: buy it anyway. Put your earphones on and take a stroll in the woods. This album might not answer all existential questions but it sure will give something for you to reflect upon and is of great listening value. One for the year lists!
Score: 8,9 / 10
Review made by: Erik
Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: October 25th 2019
1. Les Jardins De Minuit
4. L’Île Des Morts
5. Le Miroir
6. Spiritual Instinct