Since 2005, French black metal outfit Alcest have been drawing connections between black metal and shoegaze in their music, and are essentially responsible for the formation of the "blackgaze" style. On their newest record, Shelter, the band have left all traces of black metal far behind them in favour of sweeping, shimmering melodies. While a strong sense of melodicism has always been key to the project, Alcest's songs would in the past counter such saccharine qualities with sobering abrasion. However, primary songwriter Neige is still baffled that some fans have already rejected the "lighter" sound of Shelter.
"This record is definitely a break from what we've done before, but only in terms of its shape," he tells Exclaim! in a recent interview. "For me, the style doesn't hold that much importance. I am really into the essence of music. So the melodies and feelings are what's important, not whether or not you use more or less gain on the guitars, or are more or less heavy on the snare. For me, I see the Alcest discography as one whole thing, I don't consider what we're doing to be that different now."
Focusing on the core of Alcest's music means that Neige feels no sense of obligation to make a metal-sounding record in order to please his critics. "I've read a few things I shouldn't have, because it makes me feel really depressed. [For some people] once you are metal, you have to stay metal forever. It's crazy. I didn't sign any contract. It's so strange. People are expecting something from the band, and when it's not what they wanted to get, they're mad."
He added that "people say [Shelter] sounds too mainstream. If I wanted to be mainstream, I'd just make the same album again and again."
Though Neige may feel as though he's at odds with what his fanbase or the larger metal community expect of Alcest, he sees Shelter as ultimately a positive record, intended to evoke and encourage happiness rather than melancholy.
"For once I wanted to make a record with a lot of fun and a lot of pleasure, both in the music and the composition. I think that's something that people really don't like: that [Shelter] is a lighter album, that it feels good. I think people are really looking for deep and sad things in Alcest. I think when they listen to Alcest they want to get their dose of melancholy. But everything about the record is in the name: it's supposed to make you feel good and comfortable. It's not supposed to make you feel down."
Shelter is out now courtesy of Prophecy Productions.