Now a days, I tend to find less and less truly 5 star albums. I've widdled my rating process from 5 stars if it's "great" to 5 stars if it's genius. I need to be wowed first time through, and continue to be wowed each other time true. Écalles de Lune, Alcest's sophomore effort, is no doubt one of these cases. Encompassed by breathtaking melody and dazzling aggression, the album shows the side of "black metal" that caters to those who don't particularly care for ice-cold ferocity and never ending riffs and blast beats. The album contains a tender innocence known to very few albums. Now, to fuse black metal and virtually any other genre is a risky business, often ending in an awkward and noise abusing experience. Alcest, however, has deftly maneuvered around this daunting prospect and pulled off by far my favorite black metal album yet to be released.
The title track (translated as Moon Scales, or something like that) blasts forth with a somber shoegaze riff not of this realm. I have never really been a huge fan of shoegaze or post-rock, but this is certainly one exception, along with Sigur Rós's Ágætis Byrjun. The 18 minute epic is an exciting journey, expertly fusing in divine transitions mellow guitar passages with thrusting black metal riffing, skipping any of the uncertainties of black fusion. Both parts contain a truly celestial aura, feeding any who thirst for that perfect blend of..... well a perfect blend of pretty much everything. As I found on maudlin of the Well's Part the Second, the music is so perfectly crafted it seems that very little could ever surpass it in it's unprecedented grandeur. Not lacking metal in any sense, this amazing two part track is, well, perfect, in virtually every way.
Percées de Lumière continues this incredible string of pure music, although with a more popularly leaning guitar melodies and shoegaze feels. However, the track still encompasses the essential things that I love about music.... all of them. The song, which has a much harder rocking feel than the previous two (or one, whatever floats your boat). It keeps a constant rockability to it with less spacing out (which isn't a bad thing at all). Overall, the track is again a masterpiece of black fusion.
Abysses is a somber atmospheric ambient piece, making a very mellow and haunting transition to the next track.
Solar Song is again much more popularly leaning, or as far popularly leaning a genre such as this could possible lean. It has very accessible melodies while at the same time retaining the amazing sense of experimentation and shoegaze mastery put into the album. Overall, this tracks is yet another fantastic track on this masterpiece of an album.
Sur l'Océan Couleur de Fer is another very somber and mellow track, with much less rockable black riffing and more melodic guitar work and great vocal melodies also. The track functions as a beautiful guitar solo by Neige. It ends the album on an uplifting and symphonic note, slowly graduating through boughs of ecstasy and bursts of joy. Overall, this is another one of the greats on the album, ending one of my new favorite albums of all time and a pure masterpiece.
ALBUM OVERALL: I don't think I can really say very much more. I've looked. I can find nothing wrong with this album, perhaps maybe popularly leaning melodies in some songs, which can easily be seen as good. The album is as some people call an "eargasm;" the first time I listened to it's pearly sounds my ears did nearly hum in a joyous celebration that another life form has in fact made a great masterpiece of modern art -- celebration to the minds of humanity! Truly, this album touches my heart and my mind in a most divine way, making this an instant classic in my log of insta-classics. 5+ stars.