Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alcest - Les Voyages De L'Ame

Upon first listen this, the third full-length from the Stephane "Neige" Paut fronted project, appeared to me as soft and weak. Boring even. But then I read an article about the album which included a discussion with Neige himself. After that, I decided I owed the album another shot. This time, with open ears and an open mind. That openness is the key. The key to unlocking the experience of Les Voyages De L'Ame. This works reciprocally as well. Experiencing the album will open your mind. If you allow it, the expansiveness will permeate your senses take you to a state of relaxation. Much like the way Wolves In The Throne Room conjure images of thick, moss-drenched red wood forests, or the icy, wind-swept peaks envisioned by any number of Nordic Black Metal bands, Alcest feels like an auditory representation of meadows, rolling hills and sunny willow trees swaying in the wind. A far cry from Paut's frosty moniker. The connection to the band's Black Metal roots are subtle. Some screamed vocals and more thunderous drums make appearances in some songs such as "La Ou Naissent Les Colours Nouvelles" and "Faiseurs De Mondes". Those moments may dissuade listeners not as familiar with music's more extreme factions, but in the overall scheme, they balance out against the more delicate ones. Intricate guitar lines and a general wash of atmosphere warm the listener as Neige croons. (About what, I don't know. It's mostly in French) While the soothing vocals and tinkly guitar (like sunlight sparkling on a softly flowing stream) dominate the album, the "black"-er moments serve as a reminder that life isn't all butterflies and rainbows. There is still pain in the world. But you can't hold on to that. You need to embrace the beautiful things in life and channel them. Create something beautiful. The soaring melodies, lush soundscape and soul-baring vocals may not endear themselves to hardcore tough guys or die-hard death-heads but all you need to do is open your mind and let Alcest take your soul on a journey.
Les Voyages De L'Ame is available now from Prophecy Productions.
N.B. I cannot stress enough the importance of listening to this with quality equipment. Lackluster gear will do the album absolutely no justice.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

GIGANTOUR (Megadeth, Motorhead, Volbeat, Lacuna Coil) @ the KRC, Kingston, ON Feb 5, 2012

Kingston has certainly had bigger concerts than this, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the biggest METAL concert to come to town. And it would have to be on Super Bowl Sunday too. No matter. Metal trumps football every time. The turnout at the K-Rock Centre was about what I expected (i.e. not sold out) but from what I understand, the crowd wasn't as rowdy as they should have been. I was 2-5 people deep front and center. Things were plenty rowdy down there. I had seen Megadeth play an acoustic set over 10 years ago but I'd never seen them play a real show. I've been listening to Megadeth for almost 20 years so I've waited a long time. Back in high school I couldn't get enough Megadeth. So needless to say, I was pretty excited. For this version of Gigantour, MegaDave chose a diverse mix of bands in Lacuna Coil, Volbeat and the legendary Motorhead.
Lacuna Coil opened the show to a somewhat sparse but relatively enthusiastic crowd. Some derisive comments were thrown about but the younger group seemed to really embrace them. I'm considering reviewing Dark Adrenaline so I won't go into too much detail. But the band did what they do to an effective degree. They belted out their radio-ready metal in an entertaining show. I will say I enjoyed them live more than on record. However, the male compliment to vocalist Christina Scabbia, Andrea Ferro, sounded a little flat. Maybe he was having an off night. All in all, they did a good job warming the crowd up. They were a lot better than most of the opening bands I see around town. They promised to come back as headliners but I bet they say that everywhere. I spoke with Lacuna Coil's manager (Adam "Doom" Sewell. You know him.) for an hour or so before the show and he was going to take me back to meet the bands but by the time Megadeth was done, Christina was already prepped for bed and everyone else booked it as well. Maybe next time.
Before Sunday night, I'd had zero exposure to Volbeat. So anything that didn't suck would be a pleasant surprise. Well, they didn't suck. They played a sort of metalized punkabilly. Lots of energy, great presence. As much as I wanted to be that "It's not fuckin' Megadeth. Fuck this." guy, I still found my toes tappin' or head noddin' for most of their set. It wasn't necessarily something I would seek out on my own but I was definitely not disappointed. Quite and interesting blend of influences. The sometimes Elvis-like and most times Load-era Hetfield vocal style (without some of the more annoying mannerisms) lends itself very well to singing along. I wouldn't be surprised at all if I found out these guys have a dedicated fan base. I did see quite a few Volbeat shirts making there way back in to the arena during the break. Thanks to them, I saw something I never expected to see before though. People moshing to a Johnny Cash cover. First time for everything. Speaking of covers, they teased us with the beginning of Slayer's "Raining Blood". Don't DO that! You get a guy all excited and then nothin'. I think the most interesting bit of info I learned was that Hank Shermann of Mercyful Fate fame was filling in on guitar for the tour. I'm not a huge MF fan, but that's still pretty cool.
I know Motorhead but I don't KNOW Motorhead. (I think the band itself is older than I am.) So I wasn't as outwardly excited as a large contingent of the older crowd. I do know enough that I recognize the worth in seeing them live. What metal fan doesn't want to see Motorhead? Lemmy is a legend. From the spot I was, I couldn't hear the vocals very well but even if I had, how much of it could I have understood anyway, right? I'm not sure what else I can say here. It was Motorhead playing Motorhead songs. They aren't flashy or anything. Well, except drummer Mikkey Dee. Dude is like Animal! He's a beast! Adam told me he was going to do a drum solo and it was un-fucking-real. Lemmy said he was the "best drummer in the world" and he played like it. It was pretty special. And I tell ya, if I didn't already have permanent hearing damage (tinnitus), I would after that set. It was so loud!  Maybe not Jucifer loud, but louder than anyone else that night. Another legendary band to check off on my list of "have seen live". I can't die happy yet though.
The Megadeth lineup of Mustaine, Ellefson, Broderick and Drover is as good as any lineup they've had. Yes, as good as the Rust In Peace lineup. And it's great to see Ellefson back in the band. Back when I started playing bass, "the other Dave" was someone I really looked up to. In fact, "Trust" was one of the first songs I learned to play. Coincidentally, "Trust" was the set opener! I hear the entire set list is available on the Cyber Army forums but I'll give some highlights. I missed a lot of the between songs banter because a) I wasn't in a good spot to hear the vocals to begin with. Good thing I knew pretty much all the words anyway; b) Some drunk fucker was basically just yelling the whole time in my vicinity; and c) some other ass requesting "Bite the Hand" between every song. Right behind me. So apparently. MegaDave asked if everyone was sleeping because the crowd was so tame. At the edge of the pit, where I was, it wasn't that tame. You would think you were at a hardcore show the way people were moshing. Megadeth isn't mosh music. Maybe I'm just getting old. I will tell you this, the crowd got some energy when Dave said this next one is about "little green men" and launched into "Hanger 18". I got nostalgic when they played the song that got me into Megadeth with "Symphony of Destruction". I believe they played 3 songs off the new album, TH1RT3EN, including "Public Enemy No. 1"and "Who's Life (Is It Anyway)". As expected/hoped for, Christina Scabbia joined them on stage for the updated version of "A Tout Le Monde". I lost my shit when Vic Rattlehead made an appearance for "Peace Sells". My constantly sleep deprived brain is having trouble with the details but I know they played "Wake Up Dead", "In My Darkest Hour" and "Sweating Bullets". Did that one ever bring back high school memories! I fully intended to keep track of the setlist but for a good majority of the set I couldn't move my arms enough to get my phone out. The "sleeping" crowd had me pinned between a fat guy, a drunk chick, and Decibel Reader of the Month, Gabe Hugh. Of course, what Megadeth show would be complete without set closer, "Holy Wars...The Punishment Due." By playing a collection of songs covering almost the entire spectrum of their career, Megadeth has emphasized how consistent they've been. I can say that I walked away from my first real Megadeth show fully satisfied. Walking away uninjured was a bonus too. I just hope I don't have to wait another 10 years to see them again.