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Alcest is one of the original progenitors of metalgaze, that conceptually curious but practically successful hybrid of heavy metal and dreampop. Jesu, led by erstwhile Godflesh mainman Justin Broaderick may be the best-known avatar of the subgenre, but Alcest carves a distinctive path as well, combining black metal vocals and chord changes with the usual reverb-drenched guitarscapes. For its fourth record Shelter, the French duo abandons black metal aesthetics entirely and dives full-body into the shoegaze pool. Adopting both a plainspoken vocal style in place of the usual vampiric rasp and a guitar tone that jangles as often as it shimmers, bandleader Neige authors a series of soaring melodies that couldn’t be dark and evil if they’d been recorded in a serial killer’s basement. “Wings,” the title track and “La nuit marche avec moi” waft propulsively across the atmosphere, leaving jetstreams of amplifier thrum in their wake. “Away” and “Deliverance” brood more than smile, but interweave enough anthemry into their bittersweet tuneship to dispel any lingering darkness. The towering “L’éveil des muses” simply overwhelms, a storm of gigantic guitar glisten and majestic melody. Metalheads may give Shelter short shrift, and that’s a shame. But shoegazer fans will have a new favorite once they give this gorgeous record a spin.
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