Monday, December 20, 2010

Gay or Not Gay*?--Alcest

Welcome back and happy Monday, party people.  This gloriously drab day has inspired me to provide you with another installment of Gay or Not Gay*?, where I investigate the most divisive metal bands in the pantheon of extreme music and give you the lowdown on whether the band in question is totally righteous or unequivocally lame.  Today, let's take a look at Alcest, the fanciest "black metal" band France has to offer.

I remember earlier this year when I was working at the hospice medical supply company (you want to talk about a grim and br00tal job) and Alcest was dominating the Interbung with glowing reviews of how amazing their brand of black metal was.  Since I spent so much time on the road and had recently dug up my iPod radio transmitter, I decided that the time was ripe to check out some new tuneage, and since Alcest was everywhere, I picked myself up a copy and made haste to my van.  I was on call and had to go to beautiful Spicewood, TX, home of one gas station, a barbeque place that never seems to open, and a thousand backwoods hillbilly types who were apparently all about to die.  Some grim jamz seemed perfectly in order for such a horrifying excursion, and Alcest was first on the list.
Alcest seems to be one of the most hotly contested bands in extreme music, and I'll tell you why.  Critics freaked out over the ambient and "beautiful" atmospheres churned out by Alcest, claiming them to be one of the best new metal bands out there.  Others protest, claiming that Alcest are most false and ungrim, and should therefore be treated with scorn appropriate to something that doesn't sound like Mayhem or Funeral Mist.  And I have to tell you, though I am about as in to black metal as the average 8-year-old rodeo star, I had to agree with the latter camp.  Alcest are FALSE and UNGRIM (capitalized for maximum impact).

Let's examine the music for a moment: Alcest are one of those bands like Kvelertak who have been lauded as being so great and amazing that we should all bow to them and acknowlege their superiority to mere mortals.  Like Kvelertak, however, Alcest are NOT a metal band.  They likewise exude certain characteristics of a black metal band (two or so parts with washing-machine blast beats and pterodactyl shrieks), but lack the generally agreed upon execution for anything resembling metal.  No, Alcest exhibit the stylistic characteristics of the average Indie Rock outfit; where there should be frowns and corpsepaint, you instead find poorly executed, chorus-drenched melody and melancholic clean singing that would be at home in one of the sadder songs Spoon has ever written.  Alcest are the worst offenders of being NOT METAL in that they have bamboozled the critics into thinking that this is acceptable for any metal band.

For people like me, who were expecting some original sounding black metal (for once), this jarring reality is akin to travelling to get a Swedish massage.  Upon arrival, you find that the spa's take on the Swedish massage is to put you in a room in the nude and forcing you do submit to a cat licking your anus with its sandpapery tongue.  In other words, it is not an acceptable take.

I can still taste the disappointment I felt driving down 71 West out of Austin.
Like Kvelertak, this is what makes Alcest so divisive in the Metalsphere.  That their connection to the extreme metal that we have collectively devoted our lives to is at best oblique and loose makes them the most odious offenders that I have come across yet.  Like climbing into a car with a fish hidden under the passenger's seat, Alcest take what you might normally expect from an experience and make it super, super lame.  And when this experience refers to black metal, which is commonly disappointing and poorly-conceived, this is the "getting a dog that died in the box overnight for Christmas" of music.

So to Alcest, I suggest that you move over to Indie Rock where you belong and leave us alone.  I'm disappointed in the many critics and writers around who have lauded their attempts to infiltrate our ranks with music lame and unheavy, and hope that they will at least resemble heavy metal with any newer material they choose to write.

Q: Alcest, Gay or Not Gay*?

A: So, so gay.  Ohhhh....gaaayyyy....

*The term "Gay or Not Gay?" is not a libelous statement against homosexuals.  It is a colloquial term that describes something that is sub-par, unfortunate, or generally annoying.  So please don't be gay by denouncing my use of the word.

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