Le Secret (Reissue)
posted on 4/2011 By:
This right here, folks – this is where it all began. If you’re one of the people who shudders at the notion of words like “delicate,” “nostalgia,” and “childhood” being associated with black metal, you can direct your disdain right towards this little two song EP. And if you count yourself as one of the ever-growing legions of people who embrace this new and unusual perspective on metal music, than Le Secret should be raised up on an altar in your house somewhere. Frenchman Neige's solo-project Alcest threw the metal world for a humongous loop with this EP’s original release in 2005, and many listeners are still deciding whether to embrace or reject what this style denotes. But whether or not you’re a fan of this new movement or not, there’s no doubt that this is some of the most influential twenty-seven minutes of music we’ve seen unleashed on the metal scene in the new millennium, as the explosion of similarly minded bands the world over can attest. And when listening to Le Secret, its hardly difficult to imagine why it had such a profound impact. In addition to the groundbreaking aesthetic formulated on these songs, the music itself is of exceptional quality, and to this day it remains Alcest’s strongest release by a mile.
The notion of black metal conveying an atmosphere of wistfulness and serene nostalgia rubs some people the wrong way for a good reason, but these people are also missing the point of Le Secret entirely. Approaching this music as black metal isn’t just inaccurate, its ultimately an unnecessary hindrance to one’s enjoyment of the material at hand. Alcest hasn’t been a proper black metal project since its first demo, and while that genre is undeniably a huge influence on this release, structurally and sonically, its obvious that Neige was operating on an entirely separate conceptual wavelength, one that I wouldn’t even place in the metal spectrum despite the presence of blast beats, tremolo riffs, and harsh vocals. The fact that music can feature these elements so prominently while still not coming off as metal is impressive enough, but even more noteworthy is how Neige is able to propel the results of his vision beyond the realm of simple novelty into a truly memorable, moving piece of art.
There are only tracks songs here, but each is over ten minutes in length and takes the listener through a variety of movements. Both songs are generally speedier and more “metallic” than the band’s first album, Souvenirs d'un Autre Mond, but Alcest’s trademark sense of shimmering beauty and heartfelt frailty is still fully established. The title track is an immediately engrossing piece with its mix of expansive tremolo melodies and lilting, ethereal vocals, but “Elevation” is where this EP really soars to incredible heights. Beginning with an utterly gorgeous instrumental keyboard intro before transitioning into a lengthy exchange of accessible, melodically strong riffage and distant, cavernous screams, this song resonates with an emotional intensity that is unquestionably reminiscent of traditional black metal while engaging an entirely different area of the imagination. It’s a bold proposition, to be sure, but the boldness isn’t the real selling point; its how successful Neige is in conjuring the kind of atmosphere he’s so often related to the concept of Alcest. You don’t have to appreciate or enjoy the sentiments that fuel this music, but its hard to criticize the strength of their realization on this release.
The re-recorded versions of the two songs the band has added for this Prophecy re-issue are, of course, highly enjoyable, but neither adds anything significant to the original recordings beyond some slightly more nimble drum and bass playing. Combined with the lesser cover-art, there’s little reason for those who already own this EP to take the plunge a second time. But if you’re someone who has enjoyed the rise of this musical style in the last few years and somehow hasn’t heard this groundbreaking work, this re-release should be put at the top of your shopping list without question. Its one of the more daring and innovative releases the underground has seen in the last decade, and while it's disappointing to see the sub-genre it inspired begin to succumb to some of the same staleness and redundancy that tends to plague most of these sudden musical movements, Le Secret remains a stunning example of the potential this interpretation of metal possesses.
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Les Voyages De L'Ame
Écailles De Lune
Souvenirs D'un Autre Monde