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Gig Review: Alcest @ Whammy Bar, Auckland 24/04/2017

25 Apr 2017 // A review by butch181

Alcest is a very recent discovery for me. Hailing all the way from Bagnols-sur-Cèzein France, I discovered their Australia/New Zealand tour by chance. Experimental rock duo Into Orbit and Instrumental post-rock group Hiboux were both announced as opening bands for the Wellington leg of the tour, and having reviewed both bands releases in the past (see Unearthing and Command the Earth to Swallow Me Up) I took a liking to the style of instrumental based post-rock, and a link to the concert popped up on my social media news feed. Looking at the opening bands, I assumed I would enjoy the headliner, and a search through music videos proved my assumption to be true.

The Auckland leg of the tour took place on K Road’s underground Whammy Bar, which due to some unknown issues ended up opening doors late. This had a knock-on effect of cutting down the opening bands set lengths, to the point where by the time everyone who had been waiting outside had been granted access to the venue, the opening band The Dark Third was finishing up their second to last track of the set.

Next up on stage were the progressive rock trio, Mothra. Their instrumental style is a beautiful collage of heavy and light in a manner that rivals the instrumental workmanship of Tool, or perhaps even exceeds it as the set requires no vocals at all, and does not suffer for the lack of them. One of the big reasons that they impress live is their drummer, James Armstrong, who unlike the bands of the mainstream world, actually uses the drum kit as an instrument and not just as a glorified metronome. Hugh Allan and Reuben Saffer on guitar and bass respectively work together building layer upon layer of riffs to uncommon time signatures that have the crowd headbanging.

Finally, Alcest take to the stage to the backing track of Onyx, before heading straight into title track from their latest album Kodama. Drums, guitar, and bass are taken up by Winterhalter, Zero, and Indria Saray respectively, all dressed in black on the left side of the stage, while lead vocalist and guitarist Neige takes position on the right, dressed in white. Four tracks into the set, Neige finally says a few words between tracks, to greet the audience and thank them for coming, before getting back into the set. A group of few words, you could see they were enjoying the cheers and applause that they were getting from the packed crowd in tiny New Zealand (ignoring the heckling from drunk Vince in the back).

Nearly half of the setlist came from the most recent release Kodama, though Écailles de Lune also took up a significant portion of the show. Their specific brand of atmospheric black metal is both heavy, and uplifting, with stunning harmonies on vocals between Neige and Zero on tracks such as Autre Temps from the 2012 album Les Voyages de L'Âme, and title track from 2007 album Souvenirs d'un autre monde. This contrasts the abrasive screaming vocals of Eclosionand Là où Naissent les Couleurs Nouvelles, and yet the songs fit together so well. With a more basic time signature to the music, heavy djents and more predictable rhythms, the audience were headbanging in unison throughout the show, rapidly heating up the venue, as they jostled to get closer to the stage. 

Alcest took full command of the crowd, whether allowing them time to rest, or commanding them to rage and mosh, all by striking a chord on their instruments. A brilliant demonstration, that was well received by all.


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